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Big South Fork 

[ 29.9/2: B 48/3 


May 1 










Floating the streams of the Big South 
Fork will give you entry to a land that time 
and events have visited, impacted and 
left. Although you can still see the results 
of previous agricultural, mining and log- 
ging practices, the land today has a 
quality of wildness with limited access 
and sparse development. At no time is 
this more apparent than when floating the 
streams or camping on a river bank as 
the sun sinks behind the gorge rim. 
Where the stream flows slow and smooth, 
you are able to look closely at the banks 
and cliffs. Where the stream speeds up 
and twists and drops between and around 
boulders and over ledges, you become 
one with your paddle. Rapids that you 
thought you would shoot through in sec- 
onds seem to take minutes as you lunge 
and thrust yourway to calmer waters. 
Then the adventures ends abruptly and 
the pace again changes. 


The Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and 
its main tributaries, the Clear Foric, North White 
Oak and New River offer a variety of Whitewater 
paddling experiences. Some stretches are ideal 
for beginners, while other sections should be 
attempted only by highly skilled paddlers. Some 
streams can be floated during any season of the 
year while others have enough water for boating 
only during seasons with sufficient rainfall. 

Floating can be a dangerous sport in certain 
stretches of the streams in the Big South Fork 
and at times of rising water. The river is a 
dynamic system which changes constantly. 
Expect the unexpected. Conditions change 

This guide is intended to help you plan a safe and 
enjoyable adventure paddling in the Big South 
Fork National River and Recreation Area. Pad- 
dling guides for both Tennessee and Kentucky 
may be purchased at the Bandy Creek and Blue 
Heron Bookstores. These publications provide 
additional information on paddling in the Big 
South Fork National River and Recreation Area. 

Additional information such as current river 
conditions, flow rates and available commercial 
outfitters may be obtained by calling the Bandy 
Creek Visitor Center at (61 5) 879-3625 during 
normal hours of operation. 

Be prepared for self-rescue. Sections of the river 
are very remote and help from others could take 
several hours. Do not over estimate your skill 

Beginner: A person without knowledge of basic 
strokes and maneuvers. 

Novice: A person with knowledge of basic strokes 
and maneuvers such as eddy turns, peel offs, and 

Intermediate: A person able to execute all 
basic maneuvers and strokes confidently in 
continuous Class III water. 

Advanced: Takes Class III in stride and seeks 
challenge in Class IV. Can maneuver in Class IV 

In the event of an emergency park 
rangers may be contacted during the 
day by calling the Bandy Creek Visitor 
Center at (615) 879-3625 or after hours 
by calling any County Sheriff Office. 
Telephones are located at the Leath- 
erwood Ford river access and the 
Blue Heron Mining Community. 



The Blue Heron site may be reached by taking 
Kentucky Route 742 west from Revelo, Kentucky. 
Coming from Steams, take IHighway 1651 south 
to Revelo and turn right onto Highway 742. From 
the south, take U.S. Highway 27 N to Highway 
1 651 , tum left and follow Route 1 651 through Pine 
Knot for 3 miles to Revelo. Blue Heron is located 
9.5 miles down Kentucky Route 742. 


Yamacraw Bridge is on Kentucky Highway 92 
north of Steams, Kentucky, or 92 south from 
Monticel, Kentucky. 


Alum Ford area may be reached by taking 
Kentucky Route 700 west from U.S. 27 at 
Marshes Siding. Follow Kentucky Route 700 
approximately 5 miles to the ford. 



From Bandy Creek Road, tum east (left) onto 
Route 297 and continue to Oneida and U.S. 27 
south. Follow Route 27 south to Route 52 in 
Elgin. Tum right onto Route 52 east and drive 
toward Rugby approximately 5 miles to White 
Oak Creek Bridge. 


Continue as for New River Bridge. After crossing 
bridge at New Riverdrive 0.5 miles farther on 
Route 27 south to Mountain View Road on the 
right. Drive 2.0 miles to Mountain View and tum 
right at Shoemaker's store, then left on Black 
Creek Road at Mountain View Baptist Church. 
Follow Black Creek Road 2.3 miles to Crossroads 
Community. At Crossroads tum right onto Burnt 
Mill Ford Road (gravel road). Continue .5 miles to 
fork in road. Take left fork and continue .5 miles 
to Burnt Mill Bridge. 


Take Highway 92, 1 .8 miles west from Steams, 
Kentucky to Highway 791 . Take Highway 791 for 
approximately 1 .4 miles. The road to Wortey is a 
gravel road that drops off sharply to the right. 
Continue down this road approximately 0.9 miles 
to Worley. The road to Worley is often in poor 
condition and may not be suitable for some 2 
wheel drive vehicles. Caution is advised. 


From Bandy Creek Road, tum east (left) onto 
Route 297. Drive 1 2 miles to Oneida and U.S. 
27. Tum south (right) onto Route 27 and drive 10 
miles to New River Bridge. River access immedi- 
ately south of the bridge. 

From Bandy Creek Road, tum east (left) onto 
Route 297. Drive 12 miles to Oneida and U.S. 
27. Tum south (right) onto Route 27 and drive 
2.5 miles to Highpoint. Tum right, cross over the 
train tracks and then tum left. Continue on 1 mile 
and tum right on the Airport Road. Drive 2.1 
miles and bear left on to the gravel road. Con- 
tinue on this gravel road for 4 miles to the parking 
lot above the confluence. You may reach the river 
by walking .4 miles down the old road (now 
closed to motorized traffic). 


Follow above directions for White Oak Bridge. 
After crossing bridge continue east on Route 52 
through Rugby to Brewster Bridge on the Clear 
Fork River. 


The Peter's Ford Road leaves Highway 52 at 
Pleasant View Church of the Nazarene 3 miles 
east of Allardt and 8 miles east of Jamestown, 
Tennessee. It can also be reached via Rugby by 
the above directions for Brewster Bridge. After 
crossing the bridge, continue west on Route 52 
for approximately 7 more miles to the church on 
the left. 


Access is possible by continuing 5.2 miles from 
Bumt Mill Bridge to Mt. Helen Road. Take the 
right fork of Mt. Helen Road, then drive 3.3 miles 
to Zenith Road on the right. From Allardt, take 
Highway 52 east for 5.5 miles to Mt. Helen Road. 
Turn left onto Mt. Helen and drive 4.9 miles to fork 
in the road at Garrett's Grocery. Take the paved 
road to the left and drive .2 miles to Zenith Road 
to the left. 


From Bandy Creek Road turn (left) east onto 
Route 297, drive 1 mile to Leatherwood Ford. 
From Highway 27 in Oneida take TN Route 297 
west ten miles to Leatherwood Ford 
(TN middle section) 


From Bandy Creek Road turn (left) east onto 
Route 297 for approximately 8.5 miles to junction 
of 297 and Station Camp Road. Tum left onto 
Station Camp Road at Terry & Terry Store and 
drive 8.1 miles to river. From Highway 27 in 
Oneida take TN Route 297 west six miles to the 
Terry & Terry Store. Continue straight onto 
Station Camp Road at Terry & Terry Store and 
drive8.1 milesto river. 

(Approximately 4 miles of this road is gravel and 
becomes steep before reaching river). 


From Bandy Creek Road tum (left) east onto 
Route 297 for approximately 8.5 milesto junction 
of 297 and Station Camp Road. Tum right and 
continue for .7 miles. Tum right onto the gravel 
road and continue for 2.3 miles (use cautionn as 
you drive down the hill) till the road Ts". Tum 
right (this is the O&W Road) and continue for 2.8 
miles till you pass through a cut in the rock. Just 
beyond this on the left is an old road down to the 
mouth of Pine Creek. Continue on for 1 .4 miles 
to the O&W Bridge. 

All Clear Go 


Peters Bridge to Brewster Bridge 

Burnt Mill Bridge to Leatherwood Ford 


6 Miles 



Average Drop 


Use Season 


MIn Flow Rate (K&C) 

600 cfs 

MIn Flow Rate (Raft) 



11 Miles 



Average Drop 


Use Season 


Min Flow Rate (K&C) 

600 cfs 

Min Flow Rate (Raft) 

1100 cfs 

When there is enough water, this section makes 
a very nice half-day trip, the valley walls are 
close together and quite steep as the Clear Fork 
begins to cut into the Cumberiand Plateau. 
Laurel thickets are common in this heavily 
wooded valley. The river is characterized by long 
pools and short, quick, easy drops. 

This is the run usually made by paddlers wishing 
to float the gorge. The trip t>egins deceptively 
easily, but quickly develops into serious, powerful 
Whitewater which is challenging to even expert 
and advanced paddlers. Shortertripsmaybe 
started at the Confluence (7 mi). Pine Creek (3.5 
mi) ortheO&W Bridge (2mi). Emergency 
access exists at these points and by a steep 
footpath at the Honey Creek Pocket Wilderness. 
Numerous sheer, massive sandstone cliffs are 
visible on the run. The scenic values of the gorge 
are of the highest order. 

Brewester Bridge to Burnt Mill Bridge 

Whiteoak Bridge to Burnt Mill Bridge 


10.5 Miles 


1 1 Miles 





Average Drop 


Average Drop 


Use Season 


Use Season 


Min Flow Rate (K&C) 

600 cfs 

Min Flow Rate (K&C) 

1000 cfs 

Min Flow Rate (Raft) 

1200 cfs 

Min Flow Rate (Raft) 

2000 cfs 

This is a very beautiful section featuring numer- 
ous boulders in the streambed, precipitous 
bluffs, and moderate rapids. The only named 
rapid in Decapitation Fork, fornied where the 
stream goes under an undercut rock.Though not 
particulariy dangerous, it is rather striking and 
requires some maneuvering skill to negotiate. 

Whiteoak Creek is a scenic 5.5 mile run past 
numerous rockhouses and bluffs as it heads for 
the Clear Fork River. The last half-mile of 
Whiteoak Creek has some nice Class II rapids. 
The 5.5 miles of Clear Fork river to the takeout 
are likewise t>eautiful and have no major rapids. 

New River Bridge to Leatherwood Ford 

Leatherwood Ford Bridge to Station 
Camp or Blue Heron Mine 


15.5 Miles 

Average Drop 
Use Season 
Min Flow Rate (K&C) 
Min Flow Rate (Raft) 


600 cfs 
1200 cfs 


Average Drop 
Use Season 

8 or 27 Miles 

l-ll (Angle Fails 

& Devils Jump IV) 


F-W-Sp-Early Summer 

New River, for its first six miles is a placid 
stream, the drop in the last two miles picks up 
considerably and some Class I l-l 1 1 ledges appear. 
The last 7.5 miles are run on the Big South Fork 
Riverwhich contains several Class iil-IVdrops. 
The trip will require a long day of paddling. 

Min Flow Rate (K&C) 1 50 cfs 
Min Flow Rate (Raft) 400 cfs 

The stretch from Leathen/vood to the Blue Heron 
Mine is a two day run combining moderate 
paddling difficulty with spectacular scenery.. It 
is often run as a fall color trip, usually during 
October. There are two major drops, the first 
Angel Falls is two miles below Leatherwood Ford 
which should be portaged on river right at any 
level. The second. Devils Jump is located just 
above the take-out and may be portaged on river 

Zenith Mine to Leatherwood Ford Bridge 


8.5 Miles 



Average Drop 


Use Season 


Min Flow Rate (K&C) 

2000 cfs 

Min Flow Rate (Raft) 

To Narrow 

North Whiteoak Creek in an enjoyable seven mile 
run of moderate difficulty down a 400 foot, 
strikingly beautiful gorge. Boulders of assorted 
shapes and sizes are strewn along the way. 
Rapids are short and may be rather tricky, so 
good maneuvering ability is necessary. 

-i - ~ - ^ - 

,g0^- -^-Q^^: 

Help- Emergency 


The following are descriptions at various water 
levels of the Clear Fork and Big South Foric Rivers 
from Brewster Bridge (Highway 52) to Leather- 
wood Ford Bridge (State Route 297). Gauge 
readings are from the Leatherwood Ford gauge. 
These descriptions were provided by four 
Whitewater clubs in 1 989 and are generalized 
statements about conditions that may be experi- 
enced while running the gorge. 

These descriptions are meant as an aid to help 
you use your own judgement in deciding if you 
should run this section of the river. Because of 
changes in the river overtime, these descriptions 
may not be accurate. Use them as a guide, but 
scout each rapid before you try it. . 

500 (CFS): 

This level is considered very low. The rapids, 
especially on Clear Fork, are extremely technical. 
Broaching on rocks due to the tight passages is 
likely. Bottoming out in the vertical drops is com- 
mon. Rapids, especially in the main gorge, are 
steep and rocky. Pinning is possible. River classi- 
fication: Class III with one or two Class IV's. 

1000 CFS: 

This level is considered optimum for open canoes. 
RapkJs remain technical and rocky. Several 
drops are still very vertical. Waves growto 2-4 
feet in height in places. Canoe swamping is 
possible. River classification: Class III with a 
few Class IVs. 

1800 CFS: 

Clear Fork becomes much less technical and 
sports several Class III rapids. The main gorge 
begins to have big water at this level, with several 
waves topping out at 4-5 feet. Vertical drops still 
exist at Double Falls, Washing Machine, and The 
Ell (The Big Three), as well as two drops in the 
canyon. The Big Three section is solid Class IV. 
Rescue between drops becomes problematic at 
this level, and some rapids, e.g., Krekels (Honey 
Creek Rapid), are continuous for over 1/4 mile. 
River classification: Class IINV. 

2500 CFS: 

The river maintains a similar character at this 
level, with waves reaching 6 feet in heights. 
Some holes become very tenacious at this level, 
particulariy those at The Ell, Rion's Eddy, and the 
Canyon. Overall difficulty is Class III - IV with 
several strong Class IV's. 

3500 CFS: 

Clear Fork rapids become neariy continuous at 
this level. Water in the Little Three rapids is 
powerful, with reactionary waves beginning to form 
in the 6 foot range. The main gorge is Class IV 
and very powerful. Waves in the 6 foot range are 
common, with several waves up to 8 feet. Swiriy 
water and whiripools begin forming at the bottoms 
of rapids at this level. Rescue t>ecomes very 
difficult because of the swiftness of the water, and 
the length and difficulty of the rapids. River 
classification: Class III - IV plus. 

5000 CFS: 

20,000 CFS: 

At this level, the river changes character. Waves 
In the 6-8 foot category are common, with a few 
attaining 1 feet in height. Some eddies are very 
unstable, and waves begin to pulse. Diagonal 
reactionary waves are common in the gorge and 
make upright boating continuously difficult. 
Equipment is frequently lost if not retrieved 
expeditiously. River classification: Class IV. 

The river has a similar characterto levels around 
1 0,000 CFS. Holes become bigger and meaner. 
Waves begin to explode irregulariy. River debris 
(logs and trees) become a factor. Most rapids in 
the gorge are over 1/4 mile long. Swims are 
likely to be life-threatening to the swimmer and 
the rescuer. Rescue of equipment is almost too 
difficult. This level is considered high fiood, and 
much of the gorge is Class V. Walk-outs are 
common at this level. Overnight stays may be 
the result. River classification: Class V. 

10,000 CFS: 

40,000 CFS: 

Clear Fork has rolling 4-5 foot waves for much of 
its length. The Little Three is a solid Class IV 
plus with large reactionary waves for 1 12 mile. 
The main gorge resembles the New River Gorge 
at medium water levels. Waves are huge, 
especially in the Big Three and the canyon 
sections. The canyon is very dangerous at this 
level because it is continuous for 1-1/2 miles with 
only a few eddies. The waves in the main current 
average 7-8 feet. The water Is up in the brush 
and trees In places, thus making rescue ex- 
tremely difficult and broaches a possibility. 
Several giant holes appear which can be ex- 
tremely dangerous, e.g., Krekels (Honey Creek 
Rapid). Above 1 0,000 CFS there is a river wide 
hole between the EL and the Honey Creek 
Rapids, caution is advised. River classification: 
Class IV- V. 

The Little Three has 8-9 foot waves. The Big 
Three is a mile-long Class V with continuous 10- 
1 5 foot enratic (reactionary) waves terminating in a 
river-wide hole at Honey Creek Rapid. The 
Canyon is a 1-1/2 mile CONTINUOUS series of 
12-15 foot reactionary wave trains with several 
offset holes, one of which is 2/3 of the river wkJe 
and probably a keeper. Floating river debris is 
very problematic. Walk-outs are very likely. River 
classificafion: Class V plus. 



Proper planning and common sense can keep an 
enjoyable river trip from tuming into a dangerous 
and possibly life-threatening experience. The 
following safety tips are provided by the American 
Red Cross, read them carefully and practice safe 
river paddlingtechniques. 

Travel in groups of at least three boats while on 
the river. Keep the boat behind you in sight. 
Secure all equipment in your boat. 

Be sure you know your put-in point and especially 
yourtake-out point. 

Avoid flow-through hazards {strainers). Even in 
slow water, these can trap you and be the cause 
of a fatality. 

Avoid hydraulics - you can get trapped. Swim 
down to get out. 

Capsized? Stay at the upstream end of the 
canoe. Don't take chances saving equipment. 
Leave the boat and swim if doing so will improve 
your safety, especially in cold water or very rough 
water. Keep your toes up and your feet together, 
pointed downstream. Never try to stand up in 
fast water unless it is too shallow for swimming. 

When striking an obstruction sideways is inevi- 
table, lean the canoe downstream but don't get 
caught between the canoe and the obstruction. 
With the upstream gunwale up, the canoe will be 
easierto remove from the rock. If the upstream 
gunwale is down, with the water moving at 5 mph, 
a 16-foot canoe would have hydraulic force of 
2,240 pounds exerted upon it. The canoe could 
be severely damaged. 
When you approach obstructions, set your 

course well in advance. Know how to approach. 
If in doubt, scout from shore. 

When other streams join the main stream, there 
can be strong crosscunrents, sandbars, debris, 

Remember that river current is usually faster on 
the outside of a bend. It also spirals {folds under) 

Be aware that upstream Vs indicate rocks. 
Downstream Vs with haystacks indicate gaps 
between rocks. 

Think ahead. Set your course well in advance. 
Know your approach. Use a back stroke in 
standing waves. Set stem toward desired shore. 

Emergency access to and from the river may be 
accomplished by using trails at the confluence 
and Honey Creek or by road at PineCreek and the 
O&W Bridge. 

■""""-" ""■ 

Throw Bag 


221 507 


The following rapid classifications were provided 
by the American Whitewter Affiliation. If rapids on 
a river generally fit into one of the following 
classifications, but the water temperature is 
below 50 degrees Fahrenheit or if the trip is an 
extended one into wildemess area, the river 
should be considered one class more difficult 
than nomrial. 


Moving water with a few riffles and small waves. 
Few or no obstructions. 



Easy rapids with waves up to 3 feet and wide, 
clear channels that are obvious without scouting. 
Some maneuvering is required. 


Rapidswith high, irregularwaves often capable of 
swamping an open canoe. Nanrow passages that 
often require complex maneuvering. May require 
scouting from shore. 


Long, difficult rapidswith constricted passages 
that often require precise maneuvering in very 
turbulent waters. Scouting from shore is neces- 
sary, and conditions make rescue difficult. 
Generally not possible for open canoes. Boaters 
in covered canoes and kayaks should have the 
ability to Eskimo roll. 

Extremely difficult, long , and very violent rapids 
with highly congested routes, which should 
always be scouted from shore. Rescue condi- 
tions are difficult, and there is significant hazard 
to life in the event of a mishap. Ability to Eskimo 
roll is essential for boaters in kayaks and decked 


Difficulties of Class V canied to the extreme 
navigability. Neariy impossible and very danger- 
ous. For teams of experts only, after close study 
has been made and all precautions have been 

National River and Recreation Area 

National Park Service 

U.S. Department of the Interior 

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