Upper Johnnies Creek 5/4/2002


If you look at AW's description of upper Johnnies Creek in Little River Canyon in AL, it describes it as a 6 mile, 2-3 run that starts off at Hwy 176. This description is very innacurate! The class 2-3 section is from the first bridge upstream to the regular put-in for the canyon run. If you put-in on HWY 176 you'll find a very different run then is described in AW's web site.

Last Saturday, I took a group to run "something" in AL. We finally ended up at LRC @ 3.5'. I decided to check the creeks. Johnnies was at -2", so I decided to check out the upper section, since the group wasn't as strong as I'd like to run regular Johnnies. We put in on the first crossing of Johnnies Creek's headwaters on HWY 176. (I now refer to this as the Upper Upper Put-In) The creek, very quickly, drops into a class 3 - 4 gorge that was very continuous and nicely technical. A little tougher then "Teddy" Bear Creek. One rapid of note, we named "In Memory Of #3" -- for all you race fans.

The rapid was a creek wide boulder pile/ledge drop that dropped about 5 feet. 6 feet from the base of the drop was a semi-truck size lab wall of a boulder that was almost river wide - starting from river right. The right side of this boulder had a sieve, similar to Fist on the Russell Fork. The only way to run it was hard left, with a strong boof then an immediate correction to the left, in order to avoid pitoning into the boulder. The boulder didn't appear to be undercut, other then the sieve on the right. A few who ran it had to brace off the wall and the current pushed them out to the pool below.

At a certain point the gradient eased and we -- believe it or not -- found a lake in the middle of Johnnies creek!!! Yes it is an honest lake. It's Lake Lick Skillet and has been there for 20 years. I think it's a private lake, and all roads leading to the lake are private. The owners didn't seem to mind us paddling across the lake and didn't seem to have a problem knowing we were going to portage and/or run the dam. Lick Skillet lake has yet to be put on any topos [not true -ed.]. Its about a two mile paddle from the creek to the dam.

The dam is 1/2 earthen levey and 1/2 slide to keep the lake level consistent. Its about 30 feet high and the slide is about 50 feet long. You'd assume it would have an "Oceana" effect when running it, but the concrete was rough, so you don't go any faster then about 3 miles per hour.

After that Johnnies is the class 2-3 that AW mentions and we came to the first bridge upstream of the regular put-in. From there, it continues to be mostly class 2 with one or two class 3's. Most of the stuff below the dam is small wave train and rock avoidance. The few class III's are actually II+ or III-. The creek is very narrow and I'm sure would pick up the occasional stainer from time to time.

We did this when Johnnies was -2", I'd consiter this to be a bare minimum. Remember, the gauge on Johnnies is marked in 2 inch increments! I'd suggest a +2" would be a good low. So, when Johnnies is getting high, this would be a great alternate run!!!