So we are all back on the road, and so happy about it. It was a long winter without a lot of snow, which will make the kayaking season back in Colorado interesting. But we are so ready to start kayaking and climbing and hiking and biking again, that we all eagerly packed up the RV and sprinted out of the West toward the East. Our East trip is one month of non-stop kayaking. One of the most fun rivers to run, for everyone, is the Ocoee river. But, we like to try new rivers too. One of the new rivers we ran while in Tennessee was Richland Creek. Whitewater Kayaking Richland Creek was super fun!
We are hanging out in TN before we head down to Columbus, GA for the Paddle South Freestyle Kayaking National Championships. None of us have been in a kayak in about 6 months, so our expectations are low for winning, but high on the stoke for fun! Columbus is a great spot for everyone to get in the water and play and learn.
But, while we are here in TN, we have been running rivers. We have run the Ocoee, the Tellico, Cheoah and now, we have decided to kayak Richland Creek in Dayton with some friends. No-one in my family has ever done Richland Creek before, so we thought it would be fun. And, oh my gosh, it was.
Scouting Richland Creek
We drove about 30 minutes from where we were camping, near the Ocoee. And since the weather has been freezing, we layered up under our drytops. I was so thankful for my Kokatat Fleece because it is really soft and so warm. My Kokatat drytop was awesome too, keeping me completely dry and warm, as long as I stayed in my boat!! But, I have now decided that I really really need a Kokatat drysuit since I’m running harder creeks that have the potential to make me swim!
So, anyway, we met up with our friend Grady Flynn who was already there doing laps. We had perfect timing, because as soon as we arrived, he was at the take-out. We quickly got dressed and were ready to go.
Now, Richland Creek is alongside a trail that you can walk and scout the entire run . We all walked it together and Grady pointed out the three rapids that could potentially cause problems. One was at the bottom, Weirdo. And the other two were Class V’s at the very beginning.
Rowdy and I both decided to wait until the second run because the river is so short it is easy to do two runs. We both also like to have our dad, Kenny, Dally & Kady know the river and the lines before they lead us down so they can lead us the right way. Our friend, Jacob McConell was with us too and he and my brother, Cardy, decided to wait with us until the second run because they were cold already. Plus, all our gear was soaking wet from running the Ocoee three days in a row and nothing dries out here in the East because of the humidity!
So, me, Rowdy, Cardy, Jacob, and my Mom walked up the hike with everyone who was running the first lap – my siblings Kenny, Dally, Kady and my Dad, and then our friends, Grady, Max Haworth, and Jeremy Adkins. They were all going to the top to run the two Class V’s. We were just going to follow them down the river, watching and filming.
Pins are Possible on Richland Creek
But on the way up, we saw a guy piton off the second Class V, Left Down Hut, and get vertically pinned on a rock! He pulled his skirt fast and was out, but his boat was stuck there even when our crew did their first run! We watched them all kill the entire river. I was really happy when they all did awesome. Once we got to the end and back to the rv the rest of us got dressed fast because everyone was cold and we didn’t want to keep them waiting .
Now it was our turn. I was excited, I love new rivers and creeks. When we all were ready we walked up the mile and half hike again. Don’t worry, it’s an easy hike without much of an incline. The only hard part is walking in all your gear carrying a boat, like my JK SideKick.
Two Class V’s on Richland Creek
But anyways when we got there Rowdy and I, after taking one look at the class 5’s earlier, knew we are not ready for any class 5 yet. So we got ready to put-in right below the second Class V rapid, Left Down Hut. Sure, maybe we could do it, in fact, we probably could because really they didn’t look that hard, but I practically just started doing class 4’s. It’s much better to progress slowly than to just jump right in and do a difficult and technical rapid like a Class V. Cardy, on the other hand, is already doing some Class V’s because he has been doing class 4’s longer than us. Plus, Cardy is a really good kayaker, he makes everything look really easy like my other older siblings.
Now, Timber Rattler is the first rapid of the river and, like I said, it is a Class 5 that has a few bad pin spots and an insanely sticky hole and, according to American Whitewater, a gnarly sieve. It’s “a steep boulder garden ending with a five foot boulder choke with a somewhat sticky hole at the bottom. ” I watched everyone run it and while it looks really easy, the water is so much pushier than it seems, at least that is what Kady told me.
Cardy followed Kenny down it and had a perfect line the whole way until Kenny got a little messed up on his line and Cardy hit Kenny’s stern. This slowed Cardy down right before the hole. He really needed speed and a good boof to make it over clean. Kenny got a great boof but since Cardy hit him, Cardy had no speed. He tried to boof but got messed up and kinda pitoned right into the hole and disappeared for a second. Then, he got stuck in the hole and flipped over. And, he actually swam because his paddle got caught on a rock and was ripped right out of his hand.
This was a little scary to watch because his boat came out immediately, but Cardy was under for a little bit. Luckily, he came up before I could panic. It’s just that it always seems like forever when someone is under water. When he came back to the surface he grabbed the back of Kenny’s boat and Kenny paddled him to the side. Everyone cheered saying Yay Cardy “Your First Class 5 swim, Yay”, and of course Cardy had this huge smile on his face as always. He is so much fun to kayak with. After that, Cardy got back in his boat and we headed down to the next Class V rapid.
Richland Creek III/IV’s
After Timber Rattler, you paddle through some Class III rapids before coming up on the next Class V rapid, Left Hut Down. There is a sharp left turn that you have to take over a 4′ drop to avoid the waterfall to your right. The waterfall is not a place you want to end up. It is short, like maybe 6′, but the potential for a pin is near certain, which is why you take a sharp left. After the left turn, you turn back right and huck another 4′ drop.
Everyone did amazing, no swims, no pins, no bad things, just perfect lines.
Rowdy and I put in right below this second rapid. I’m pretty sure that only three rapids have names, but the rest of the river isn’t totally a piece of cake. It’s all Class III/IV. There are some technical moves on some of the rapids, but for the most part it was pretty easy and straightforward, especially because I had everyone telling me where to go! We paddled and talked, laughed, and just had fun, because kayaking is fun.
Then, we came across this pourover kinda thing. Dally told me and Rowdy to go left toward this rock that goes right by a pourover. It looked straightforward enough. Rowdy went first and did great. Then I went. I somehow managed to go up on the rock and get all messed up. I dropped into the pourover. I got flipped over and I was not holding my paddle tightly enough for the force of the pourover water, so it pulled my paddle from my hands and, despite trying a hand roll, I swam. My boat recirculated for a few minutes but finally came out, and Kenny grabbed it and brought it to the side.
Our good friend, Max (who didn’t do a second run) grabbed it and helped me drain it. When I got out of the river, I was literally freezing cold and I decided right then and there I was asking for a drysuit for my birthday. Anyways, my Mom was right there giving me hugs and high fives, and doing jumping jacks with me to keep warm. Then, I got back in my boat and continued back down the river.
Weirdo – A Rapid That Can Be Trouble
Next, is just more Class III/IV-ish water until Weirdo a class 4+. There are three drops within Weirdo. There is a hole that you boof and then you ride a curler over another hole. Cardy took a different line from everyone else and went on the left and paddled down a rock slide.
Rowdy and I were actually debating running it until Kady told me that she thought that maybe I shouldn’t run it. Then Kenny said the same thing, and when Kenny says you shouldn’t do something he means it because he usually never says it. So Rowdy and I took out above it and walked down the rapid. It is a really easy walk. Kady, Kenny and Dally are older and way better at kayaking so we trust them and listen to them. But anyways everyone else did awesome on Werido.
The rest is just boogie water until the take out. Once we got to the take out we took a picture of everyone and then got out of our gear fast because we were freezing cold. When we got into the RV, my mom was making Hot Chocolate and had warm blankets ready for us.
Kayaking is so fun, even when you have a little bit of carnage. In fact, we always tell each other that if you aren’t swimming ever, you aren’t pushing yourself. Everytime I paddle a new river, I’m learning so much. I love paddling rivers, it’s my favorite thing.