16 open boat canoes, one C1, and one kayak-the youngest paddlers is 23, the oldest 72, and they range from local to as west as Arkansas and as North as Missouri and Canada. Yesterday, they all enjoyed the same sweet day on the Big South Fork, an 6-mile class III-IV clear section of whitewater tucked in an impressive gorge. This river is considered one of the gems of Cumberland Plateau whitewater, and by the looks on their faces, the canoeists probably agreed yesterday.
After a near hour and a half indecisiveness and option weighing, our big group finally made
it out of the Shoney’s at Lenoir City for the two hour drive north. Our route was 75 N til we took the exit to highway 27. From there, we took the new overpass/airport road toward Scott Municiple Airport (fancy rich people area where they can land their personal planes). Then we took a left at John Long Rd, which dead ends at the confluence put in. The river itself is about half a mile from the parking area on an easy to find trail.
The Big South Fork offers such fun and challenging rapids as Double Drop, Washing Machine, and the Ell as well as plenty of great surf waves. It’s also great for eddy hopping. Beyond that, though, this river is just simply beautiful. Giant boulders towered over us, some with entire trees balanced on top of them demonstrating the power and force behind the river at high flows. Sweet gum, beech, pine, and hemlocks were everywhere, and we could see little streams flowing into the river from time to time.
The river offers plenty of calm between the rapids, which was great for getting to know each other, chatting, and overall taking it easy after the big week of ALF (though not yet ended!). The boaters on the trip had childlike elation on their faces as they played at every wave, paddled or swam through rapids, and goofed off with each other. The day was as fun as it could be, and the kayaker got a little more tempted by the grace and agility of canoeing. Overall, another fantastic day of Ain’t Louie Fest.