Wed. March 25, 1998
Big South Fork of the Cumberland River
Confluence to Leatherwood Ford.
Level:8'3" on Leatherwood Gauge, 2600 cfs.
Gradient: 40 fpm max., 20 fpm ave.
Water Quality: Good
Difficulty: Class III/IV
Weather: Clear, Sunny , Temp. in upper 60's(F) :)
Well, my last day of paddling! We quickly folded down the camper that morning
and Gary and I headed for the Big South. Cecil and Ann, our new friends from
Canada and Ranger Dave would met us at the takeout at Leatherwood Ford. We
quickly changed in the heated changing room at Leatherwood(how plush!) and
headed for the top. We had decided to miss the Clear Fork section from the
Burnt Bridge Putin and put in at the Confluence of the New(not the West
New) and Clear Fork , the actual start of the Big South Fork.
The road down to the put in had been cleared after the big snow storm, no
getting to the parking lot at the top of the gorge( this road has never been in
shape,just one step up from a jeep trail).A short 1/4 mile carry down to the
and off we go.
Big South Fork is one of my favorite Rivers. Like the New (in WV), the gradient
really doesn't foretell the size and power of the rapids. A classic pool and
river, it has large, powerful rapids in a deep, remote gorge without any real
river hazards to avoid. It's probably the safest big rapid river in the US(
undercuts, but they really don't come into play on most of the river).Add the
absolutely outstanding scenery and you have one of the real special rivers in
After the put in there are several class II+ rapids to warm up on before you
to the Big 3, Double Falls, Washing Machine ,and the infamous Ell. We got to
Double Falls and I jumped out to scout and set a line at the top drop. The
drop washes out at this level, just reationary waves off the rocks on both
The top drop looked ***, with a big hole, a ***ly surging eddy on the
and swirlly water everywhere else.Frank, one of the Canadians, tried to boff
the rock on the left with only limited success(he did end up at the
tried the same move and missed, endered out of the hole, rolled and ran the
of the drop.Norm tried it off the right side of the green water, immediately
trashed, rolled and ran the rest of it( I could have told him that would
there, did that and have the T-shirt).A comment for you Hammer owners, the
Hammer doesn't like steep drops into highly aereated holes(IMHO).I tried it
choosing to punch the hole at the end of the tongue of green water. I hit it
came through the hole and down the slot. What a rush. Gary followed in his
Whitesell and Cecil and Ann in their Dimension.
The next rapid was Washing Machine.It really isn't significate at this river
then came the Ell. I love this rapid! It has a fairly long approach, big waves,
most of the river going left into a large rock, defleting of the rock into a
with a long wave train at the bottom.I grabbed the eddy on river right, saw my
and when for it. At high water, the best route in just off to center right over
huge wave at the top of the big drop at the bottom. I was right on line(
have run this route many times, I always get this moment of doubt as I hit the
bottom of the big wave. It never looks like it will work from there), over the
and through the hole, into the big eddy on river right.I usually scream loadly
The rest of the group followed me down, the two canoes choosing to ride the
diagonal wave of the left bank.We continued on through Asskicker and Honey
Creek(this is a fun rapid when the water is this high) down to Rion's Eddy. I
off, entering from right center going left for the first diagonal wave. I
punched through it hit the second wave parallel to the current.Since it was a
I thought that this would be a good place to practice a combat roll, flipped,
rolled and into the eddy on river left(that's my story and I'm sticking to
Cecil and Ann also decided to swim here. After a quick recovery we continued
Next came the Narrows.This section is almost a mile long,with closely spaced
rapids and some of the most magnificent cliffs in the gorge( if you have time
sight see). The steepest section of the run, it has hundreds of play spots and
fun rapids by the dozen. The afternoon sun on the rapids and cliffs looking
back upstream from the bottom is awesome! A couple of eazy rapids, including
O&W and we were down to the flat water at the bottom.
Leaving the young guys to play at O&W, the rest of us continued down to the
Takeout. I guess somewhere along the line Norm realized that I had the keys to
the Shuttle car, and more importantly, that he had left a 12 pack of St.Pauli
Beer in my cooler( honest, I would have left a least one for everbody). Back up
to the top to recover the cars and then home.
What a beatiful day, great river and great companions to top the end of my
Well, it's back to work now :((.