Yellow Creek, by Mike Leal
On September 28, 2002, the Little River Canyon was still 1500
cfs and falling. On the road trip to the river from Atlanta, we decided to run Yellow Creek after reading the
write-up on www.alabamawhitewater.com. We kicked around the idea about running Johnnie's, but that seemed a bit
bigger than we wanted to deal with on this Saturday. The website said that 1200 cfs was a minimum to run the Yellow.
At 1500 cfs, it was good, but around 2000 cfs at LRC would have been a "great" level. While the run
wasn't scrapy, that extra bit of water would have definitely changed some of the drop rapids and how we approached
them. By the way, the website photos have more water in them that the level we ran it.
After running shuttle, we walked the boats to the first rapid. It is a sliding shelf going from right to left with a large undercut/sieve on the left side of the rapid. The line looks fairly straightforward. However, as we could put in above OR below the rapid, we elected not to run it. Had someone "somehow" gotten into trouble, they would have flushed, but I guess we erred on the side of caution.
The next little bit was spent boat scouting horizon lines. Surprisingly, this section of the river had good little drops. We finally came to a drop for which we set up rope (on the website, it is the picture of Shane Hulsey on a slide). We set up rope "just in case" due to the undercut on river left. This rapid wasn't a big deal it turned out.
After this drop is a "crack". At this level, I probably should have portaged it, but as I knew that I would probably portage both falls, I elected to run it. This crack is even narrower than middle crack on the Chattooga Section IV. We sized up the boats...my Disco was just narrow enough to make the slot. Unfortunately, the crack was double-undercut at the bottom, so I had my friends set up rope on each side of the crack. To give you a width perspective, they could have given each other a high-five across the crack. I ran the crack and took one last power stroke to make sure the hole at the bottom didn't initially keep me...then I turned the paddle sideways. Evidently, I completely submerged (4 foot drop) and popped right back up. Then...the hole started to "talk" to me. I used my paddle and pulled my boat through the double undercut slot. In retrospect, at this level, I should not have run it, but everything turned out OK.
After this starts portage-from-hell #1...Vee falls. The website indicates you can boof right. I just don't see it. Actually, the move would be more like a right-banking left turn. The falls the day we ran it was very narrow, so it would have taken "perfection" to make the right move. So...we portaged. After schlepping through the underbrush...and there was a lot of it, about ONE HOUR LATER we found a way back down to the river. Our enthusiasm was obviously shot after that portage, but we ran the creeky class III rapids until we saw daylight. Now, I say that I mean, the whole run had basically been in a canopy. All of a sudden, the sky opened up and the sun was right in our faces. Obviously, this meant the world was about to fall out. We got out and, sure enough, there was the last slide above Yellow Creek falls. It's really a shame that the slide isn't about 100 yards back...it looked like a cool run. However, if you run it, you are committed to running the falls. Don't even think about the micro-eddy on river left 10 feet from the lip of Yellow Creek falls...you won't make it!
Another 45 minutes of bushwhacking brought us to the lake. A one-mile run turned into a three-hour odyssey. We paddled up to the rapids below the falls and eyeballed them...they actually looked pretty cool. But after 1 hour and 45 minutes of portages, we decided to go run the LRC Chairlift section while there was still time. In the future, the only part of Yellow Creek that I see myself running is the part BELOW Yellow Creek falls (the part we skipped). This is definitely class IV creeking...
In the winter time, I can see this run being more manageable with portages. Looking at the website photos, there was SIGNIFICANTLY more underbrush in the summer...so, depending on the LRC gauge, it may be worth it.