East Fork Of The Little River
?? March 1998
by: Murray Carroll

As many of you know, Huntsville Canoe Club swaps newsletters with several neighboring canoe clubs. I have made a habit of reading these newsletters whenever I can obtain them. Some really good pieces appear in other club's newsletters and we reprint them in our newsletter when they are of interest to us here in Huntsville. One of my favorite newsletters is from the Tennessee Valley Canoe Club, based in Chattanooga. Through the years, one name kept appearing as the trip leader for overnighters, John Alden. I called John three years ago and got his advice on water levels on the Toccoa River before our HCC overnighter on that small river. In February of this year I obtained the TVCC newsletter and saw that John was planning to lead a canoe camping trip on the East Fork of the Little River (Al); I waited until a few weeks before the trip and called John and asked if Kay and I could accompany him down the river. John said that he would be happy to have us on the trip.

The East Fork of the Little River is one of the two major tributaries to the Little River on Lookout Mountain. Many of us in the club have paddled the canyon and Mark D' led a trip down the West Fork this spring, but no one in the club had paddled the East Fork. John paddled the East Fork the preceeding Thursday, more than a week prior to the trip at around 900 cfs (Little River at Blue Hole; a long way and a lot of tributaries downstream) and reported the river low but runnable. In the days prior to our trip the river fell, rose slightly again and then began another fall to around 750 cfs on Thursday; things weren't looking too good. Just like clockwork, the heavy thunderstorms poured into the area on Friday and the river was running around 1700 cfs by Saturday morning. We met John Alden and Lois Newton (TVCC's newsletter editor) at Valley Head and were joined by Don and Judy Bodley along with their friend Carter at the put-in near Mentone. Our group was made up of two tandem crews and three solo boats.

The put-in is below the dam at Lake Lahusage, a rustic dam with a partial road across the top. The action begins immediately and doesn't let up until the East Fork joins the West Fork 8.3 miles downstream. It is a drop/ pool river, but the current moves nicely through the short pools. Most of the shoals and rapids are Class II, but at least two would rate a mild Class III rating. Foshee's guidebook notes 48 shoals and rapids in the section from Lake Lahusage to the confluence and I would say that is fairly accurate. This first day of the overnight trip is as much as most anyone would want to run with a boat loaded with camping gear. We had no swims on this section, unlike TVCC's 1997 trip when three out of six boats swam (the water was much higher last year). We camped at a really nice site at the confluence of the East and West Forks; ate a leisurely dinner and then indulged in a TVCC tradition; playing Trivial Pursuit, men vs. women. Naturally the men soundly thrashed the gals at the game.

Day two of the trip was a float down the remaining 6.3 miles of river to the takeout on Highway 35. The float was on the clear waters of Little River; this section is only Class I, with one Class II drop, but it flows swiftly and you're back in civilization entirely too fast. After camping on some of the top overnighter rivers in the Southeast, I would rate this at the top for really interesting whitewater. Not nearly as beautiful as some such as Big South Fork Canyon, this has them all beat when it comes to a challange.