The Tallapoosa is a short, dam-release whitewater river. The put in resembles a lake and some boaters have mistaken it as the wrong river. The takeout is a public boat ramp below the Falls. The river was once similar to Great Falls of the Potomac but now most of the gradient is under a lake. Portions of the Class V+ at the base of Thurlow Dam (as well as the dam) have been run.
This is one of the few Alabama rivers that is runnable all year long. Alabama power maintains a minimum flow of 1270 cfs (1 turbine on Thurlow Dam), which makes for a technical, but doable run. If you run the Falls at this level your main option is boofing 'The Finger.' Half the art and science of catching bigger water runs on Tallapoosa can be figured out by watching for releases on Yates Dam, which is just upstream of Thurlow. A one turbine release on Yates (for more than 1 hour) = 5,000 cfs+ (or more) on Tallapoosa. Two turbines on Yates (for more than 1 hour) = 10,000 cfs+ on Tallapoosa. Alabama power changes the schedule daily, so it's best to check both Yates and Thurlow before you head out: https://apcshorelines.com/our-lakes/
1277 cfs. - Scrapy, not a lot of play. Falls are still fun, but use caution. Good, forgiving level for beginners.
5000-7000 cfs - Some play spots develop. Good for intermediate level paddlers
10000 cfs - Big holes and wave trains develop. Play spots start to get good. Having a reliable roll, good ferrying skills and the ability to read water is a must at this level and up.
11000-13000 cfs - Excellent play spots and surf waves.
The Tallapoosa starts off as flat water and quickly hits the fall line. The river has numerous good play spots that are playable at various water levels. Most of the Tallapoosa is an easy class II+ run on a big open river. About ¼ mile from the dam look for Sticky Hole on the left 1/3 of the river. If you get stuck in one of the large holes above the falls and swim it would be very bad. After the waves let up for about 200 yards look for Big O a wave/hole near the right bank.
The major point of difficulty is Tallapoosa Falls or the Falls. After a ride or two at Big O work left around the first island or ferry right and get ready for the falls. There are good lines at the falls on the right of the second island and at the river right. Avoid the middle at all costs unless you really know where you are going. If you run the falls on the right, carry plenty of speed. Below the falls at 12,500 cfs and up you may find the Bionic Wave. The Falls are technically easy but are full of potholes, caves, pinning spots and other hazards. Most boaters take the run down the left side of the island and miss the Falls.(Modified from a description by Bill Patterson and Will Reeves).
See also www.alabamawhitewater.com.
All that remains of "The Great Falls of the South." Water seldom flows over these massive rock formations.
The powerlines mark the beginning of the whitewater on the Tallapoosa. At minimum flow there are mostly shoals and broken ledges until you get to the Falls. At higher water this section is filled with wave trains and holes.
Sticky hole only comes into play at higher levels.
Look for the chute which is closer to the island than the left shore of the river. Otherwise, at minimal flow, you might find yourself falling off a four foot ledge. This is a two part drop, each drop about 2-4'. At 5000 cfs and up this is a wavetrain you would expect to see on the Ocoee.
At 5000 cfs and up there are strong hydraulics on both sides of the tongue, on both parts of the drop, so stay on line and don't end up in the hole. There were a couple of near drownings here involving some ill prepared Auburn college students in canoes back in 2001.
For those who wish to avoid the Falls, once you see the island, start heading far river left. At 1270 cfs the sneak is boney and a test of your water reading skills.
While the falls is technically easy, it is chock full of potholes, caves, pinning spots and other hazards. Those unfamiliar with the lines should scout well. The lower the water the worse the hazards. You may see a nice looking boof next to a tree towards the middle. The rock is rough and does not boof well.
At 5,000 cfs this makes a lovely surf wave. At 1,270 cfs there are a few options you can take. Far river left there is an s-turn move, most of the other option at this level are 1-2 foot drops through the last broken ledge.
There's a lovely island campsite between the falls and the end of the sneak that can be accessed from the takeout. It's a great spot for lunch or a campout if for whatever reason you want to spend a night in Tallassee. It's usually occupied by a friendly, although heavily drug influenced group of locals who are rough in demeanor but ultimately harmless.
Call 1-800-LAKES11 and push 3,4,2 for the current release and generation schedule. Or check Alabama's Shoreline website: https://apcshorelines.com/our-lakes/. There is a minimum flow of 1200 cfs, so the schedule will always indicate at least one unit. One unit, however, can also mean a full release of one unit which is around 5000 cfs. To tell when it's going to run 5000, listen to the release schedule of Yates Dam, directly upstream. Yates runs one unit@5000 cfs for one hour every 5 hours to supply water for the minimum flow at Thurlow. If Yates is running one unit for more than one hour at a time, Thurlow will release 5000 during the same period, or beginning one hour later.
A release from two units indicates flows of 10000+ cfs and is much more desirable. Releases of two units are common in the morning and late afternoon during much of the year, especially if it's real cold or real hot.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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2nd Ledge of Roller Coaster
Broken Ledge "Roller coaster" (River Left)
Running the left line at the Falls
Powerline shoals 5000 cfs
Remnants of Talisi Falls
Donald boofs the finger
End of Racecourse sneak
Left line of takeout rapid
Powerhouse near the put in
Broken Ledge Above Falls (River Right)
Ledge Hole above the Falls
Tallapoosa falls- Left line
Andre-Spino Smith doing a Tricky Woo
Flip at sticky hole
Cartwheels at Sticky Hole
Adam runs the finger
Pot hole in left line
Cartwheel spot at takeout (boatramp)
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