Big South Fork

Posted by Spalding Hurst

April 7, 2006

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This was our big three day adventure. A bachelor party for Jay and a homecoming for John from Hawaii. The trip morphed many times from a week long river trip to a Chattooga overnighter to 3 days in the Big South Fork area. The last hurdle was the weather. As the weekend approached we knew we would have to deal with heavy rains and colder Saturday temperatures. But we quickly reshuffled our run of the gorge to Friday and we were all set.

Zack, Joe and I went down on Thursday to get a prime camping spot at O&W bridge. We camped just past the bridge on the right with a good view of the river and enough space to build a tarp city and sleep 15 people. Some climbers had taken the camp spot just at the bridge on the right. There was also another camping spot just down from us a little ways in case we need that in the future.

John Albright and his sons came in on Thursday night too. I hooked up with them on the Viking boards which proved to be very valuable in helping down the BSF for the first time. On Friday morning the rest of the crew came in. Toby and Tim. The Thomas’ and the Mathews’. We dropped their gear at camp and immediately headed for Burnt Mill Bridge.

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The plan was to do Clear Fork on Friday then the Gorge on Saturday. But with heavy rains moving in on Friday night we knew Friday would be our only chance at the gorge. We put on with 2 rafts one open boater and 5 kayakers.

At 1950cfs for our run the rafts bombed through everything, Zack tore it up all day, I rolled my way down double drop and John swam the El, the only swim of the day. I remember running on the Clear Fork, Rocky Top and the Funnel. Everything else on the Clear Fork was easy class II stuff. Then came the Confluence and the start of the gorge. American Whitewater tells the tell on the rest of the run.

The rain moved in heavy on Friday night. It poured from 10pm to 5am. But we were high and dry up in Tarp City. Hail hit the county, but not us. Tornados hit eastern Tennessee, but not us. The next morning the Big South Fork was huge. Cresting at around 27,000cfs. We spent the day checking out the area, but not paddling since it was high water everywhere and a cold front moving in that day. We got to see the put-ins for all the tributaries of the BSF. White Oak Creek, Clear Fork, Pine Creek, New River and North White Oak Creek.

Sunday we debated on doing North White Oak Creek. The scenery through it was spectacular. But the shuttle to Zenith is a bitch. Supposedly O&W road crosses the creek and goes to Zenith along the waters edge. But is the creek is low enough to cross then the shuttle wouldn’t do any good in running it. So on Sunday we rested and headed home.



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