Socapatoy Trip Report Ė High Water on September 21, 2009

After spending countless days on the Tallapoosa Eric Olds & I were up for something a little less familiar. Eric had been down Socapatoy before at normal levels & this was my first time. It had been raining like crazy & we knew we were in for some fun.

Normally Socapatoy is a pretty boring ride leaving you anxiously paddling towards the Devilís Canyon stretch, which is over all too soon. When we pulled up to the put-in bridge (after bottoming out in my little Dodge Neon & smashing the front end up), we knew we were in for a ride. Hatchet Creek was showing 3,750cfs on the gauge & Socapatoy itself looked to be at least 1,000cfs. The bridge was washed out. Only the first third of the wooden surface remained. The water was 1Ē below the bottom of the heavy steel beams still spanning the swollen creek.

With more than a bit of apprehension, we finally slid off the remains of the bridge & into the orange/brown water. About ½ mile downstream we found the first ½ of the missing bridge washed up on a large pile right in the middle of the creek. Around the first corner there were many trees in play, but none completely blocking the way. In this normally boring & never ending stretch there were lots of good reactionary waves & a few nasty holes. While it normally takes an hour plus of hard paddling to reach Devilís Canyon, we were there in just a few quick minutes.

Iíd read on the AlabamaWhitewater guide that Socapatoy had Class IV potential at high water. It was anything but a disappointment. We eddied out left well above the horizon line, knowing very well that once you start the decent, Its On Like Donkey Kong. After a difficult scout along the left bank we determined that by keeping far left we could slightly skirt the truly massive keeper hole that went 2/3 the way across the swollen creek. This would not be a fun one to be in.

After a hairy fairy, we made our way to the river right bank & scouted the normally easy slide that is the Frozen Rope. The Frozen Rope was completely washed out. Below it was a nasty hole that started 20í from the river right bank & seemed to release the majority of its water all the way on river left & had serious beatdown potential. It was similar to a classic pipeline wave funneling all the water towards the left side, with a shallow rock ledge supporting it the whole way.

We finally determined the best line (besides walking, which would also be very difficult) to be the far river right. While this is normally dry, on this day the 10í ledge was flowing very well. Eric lead out & punched his way through & on down, getting only mildly surfed at the bottom. I followed right behind & got slightly off to the left after the first slight drop. I managed to get up close & personal with the nice big eddy circulating right under the massively undercut boulder. I managed to get pointed downstream again & had to paddle up, out of the eddy hole & over the pillow between me the 10í ledge. At this point I could only hope that Eric Olds Man was doing better than I down below. I came over the edge, not sure what to expect below. After a pretty clean drop I found myself in a small hole, only feet away from feeding into the long ledge wave/hole we so wanted to avoid. I was able to surf safely into the eddy.

From there, was a great, but very pushy boulder garden. It kind of reminded me of the Minefields on S. Sauty at higher levels, but brown. Around the next bend is Hatchet Creek & the takeout @ the Hwy 231 bridge.

All-in-all, it was a fun trip! Iíve been back a few times since, but always at more reasonable levels. At the lower levels the Devilís Canyon stretch is fun, but itís a long paddle up to it. Iíd be anxious to hit it again at higher levels, preferably with a larger crew. Let me finish with a word of caution. Paddling anything in flood stage is dangerous. The walls of Devilís Canyon are steep & thereís really no place where you can setup safety rope. Youíre either in the swift current, or youíre too far up the tree covered cliff walls to be able to assist.

- John Owen (grayw0lf on the forums)