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Unknown Alabama – Part I: Hurricane Creek

The winter is always a great time to be a paddler in Alabama and so far, the winter of 2011-2012 has delivered! Saturday morning January 21st, at the end of rainy week, another band of thunderstorms rolled across Lookout Mountain at just the right time. Everything in the area was already primed from the rain earlier in the week and this final band of storms brought locally heavy rainfall on top of already saturated soil. With so much water on the mountain, it was the perfect time for some local exploring!

Just after the rain stopped, Matt Jones, Eric Allsup, Chuck Holbrook, and I met at Blue Hole, just upstream of Little River Falls. They all seemed a little skeptical of my idea to explore Hurricane Creek (a small tributary of Little River), but they also shared my attitude that any creek is worth doing once, so away we went. Upon reaching the put-in on Oak Hill Road near Fischer AL the water was nice and brown and the level looked acceptable. We quickly launched on the upstream side of the bridge and one by one ran the four-foot ledge on the downstream side of the bridge. There were smiles all around and I couldn’t help, but feeling that giddy excitement that I feel every time I am about to paddle a new run. I feel it every time I paddle a run for the first time, but especially in a situation when we have no idea what is downstream!

We knew that this run was not extremely steep and we also knew the majority of the gradient was concentrated in middle of the run. As expected, after the initial bedrock ledge, the first part of the run was mostly battling strainers in class II. We pulled ourselves over, ducked under, and beat our way though a multitude of brush and trees that blocked our path. Eventually we could see a horizon line and an abrupt increase in gradient. We had found what we came for… it was time for a scout!

As the topo map foretold, the majority of the gradient was concentrated in the middle of the run and started out with a stack of five large rapids. The first of the set was a low-angle slide which led into a fun, nine-foot boof. We took our turns one by one off the first drop, but unfortunately we had to leave the next three drops unrun due to unavoidable hazards. The second and fourth of set were blocked with large logs and the third drop clearly needed a higher water level to avoid a bad sieve on the left.

The final of the set of five was really a three stage affair with a large, but avoidable, sieve on the left after the first part of the rapid. Eric and I portaged the first two-thirds of the rapid, putting in below the second drop to run the last ledge. Matt and Chuck elected to slide into the second drop below the sieve and off a low volume boof. With our group reunited at the bottom we made good time was we finished the run out to the confluence with the Little River and on downstream to our vehicles parked at Blue Hole.

Hurricane Creek is only a small line on the map, but one I had wondered about for a few years. It was great to finally check it out and we all came away presently surprised with what we found. It will never be a classic run in an area with so many high quality runs, but when there is an abundance of water on Lookout Mountain it does provide another option for those looking to get off the beaten path. Its proximity alone makes me sure that I will return for another descent. The put-in is a mere five-minute drive from my house and after all, there are still three more rapids that are yet to be fully run!

Until Next Time…

-adam goshorn