Saturday, April 01, 2006


I must have read the AW Tallulah page a hundred times. From the first time i saw any pictures or description of the river i had determined that i would absolutely certainly walk both Oceana and Bridal Veil.

As we started planning our trip this spring i once again went back to studying it, watching all the videos on AW, talking to people on BT and asking questions. I didn't really know what to expect as most people i've been paddling with lately haven't run it and those who have don't know me well enough to give me advice. But after doing some research and talking to various people it seemed like it would be reasonable to go for it. I would certainly be walking Oceana and BV after all.

I continued talking to people and got a couple of "Bridal Veil isn't that hard" comments. "you'll run it once you look at it". So i would definitely be walking Oceana, and probably BV.

As the date of the release approached, more Tallulah posts started popping up on BT. Lot's of "what's the hardest rapid", "am i ready for..." etc. A few people called BV a class III rapid with class V consequence if you get into that hole. But most said they would run it on the Saturday release (which is 500 cfs vs. 700 on sunday). We were going to be there Saturday. After reading the posts i decided i wanted to watch the AW Tallulah video. It's very nicely done overall although it does mainly showcase Oceana (including Alecia's run where she broke both legs). The videos of Last Step, Tanner's, Tom's, and Bridal Veil were also nice to see though and it gave me confidence that they didn't look all that terrifying. I would probably run Bridal Veil. Most of the Oceana runs shown on the video didn't seem too bad either.

Okay now for the actual trip report...

The drive down to Tallulah Falls, Georgia wasn't bad. We made it down in under 10 hours including a brief detour to see Cullasaja Falls. We met Jim (whom i'd met thru BT) and proceeded to a nice remote campground by the lake.

Camping spot at Lake Tugaloo

Along the drive i had started feeling a little off but just assumed it was a little car sickness from all the windey roads. But as soon as we got to camp it turned out to be more that just car sickness. I felt so sick i was sure it was food poisoning (no more Wendy's for me!!)... great way to start off a trip. I crashed as soon as we got camp set up and hoped that i would have the energy to run the river the next day.

The next morning we got up and headed to the gorge rim to take a peak at the river. I was feeling better and was gaining confidence that i could paddle. The depth of the gorge was impressive. We could see the put in, Last Step, Tanner's and Oceana from the overlook.

Tallulah Gorge

Oceana from above

Last Step and Tanner's from above

At boater parking we met up with more people, a who's who of Boatertalk. It was nice to put some faces to the screen names we were so used to seeing. It was also a nice surprise to see that it wasn't too crowded (a lot of people had headed to the Cheoah instead). We had decided to stay at the Tallulah for both days since it was guaranteed water.

To put on the Tallulah you must first cross under the road (Boater parking is on the opposite side), walk down a set of stairs (past the dam) and then right back up, then walk a ways along the rim, and down approximately 500 stairs. Doesn't seem like a big deal but try doing that with 50 lbs of boat and gear on your shoulder....

The dam

Screw that!! Boat on my shoulder... yeah right!!!! I wouldnt' have been able to walk much less paddle after that!! We dragged our boats instead. I had grabbed my tow tether just in case and found the best use for it ever. I put it around my waist and attached it to the boat so that i could easily drag it over the flat part. It was kind of like having a large yellow dog on a leash. Once we got to the main stairs we held on to the handles and dragged the boats along. It was much easier this way and nothing hurt after two trips down the stairs (sat and sun).

Me dragging my boat towards the put in

Mark on the stairs

Mark on the stairs

The hike down went without a hitch with the exception of the 2nd day when i nearly sent my paddle flying over a 100ft cliff and over Hurricane Falls. I put my boat down to rest at one of the overlooks, and stupidly put my paddle on top of it. As i turned around it started sliding off and was most of the way over the edge of the stairs and about to fall into the river when i dove for it and just barely managed to grab one of the blades. Doh!

On the way down to the river we got to see gorgeous views of the waterfalls above the put in.

Falls above put in

Me at Hurricane Falls

The put in scene was is quite the sight. The stairs lead down to small platform from which you can view Hurricane Falls just upstream and the first rapid, Last Step, just downstream. After a quick rest and putting on the rest of your grear you head on down the stairs which end at the water.

From the put in there is no warmup before the first rapid (one of the toughest of the entire run). On the first day i was still feeling pretty weak and the walk down the stairs tired me out too (temps reached low 80's that weekend so the walk was pretty hot). There was certainly no turning back now as there was no way i'd ever carry my boat back up those stairs. It was time to find out what all the hype was about...

Last Step

Set up eddy before Last Step

Heading down the final stairs

I flipped at the first drop and scrapped up one knuckle pretty good. Yeah i'm a dumbass, i remembered to put my gloves on afterwards. on the second day i had a better run on Last Step but still managed to flip at the hole at the bottom. Jim had described the run as a lot of right braces, which is of course my weak side!

Tanner's Boof is a super fun and easy rapid.

Looking up from Oceana

Channel below Tanner's

We spent a good bit of time at Oceana checking it out. It was incredible to look down at the Thing. The line looked so straight forward but i had so little energy from being sick that i just couldn't bring myself to run it. I wanted to but i felt that i'd rather regret not doing it than doing it (of course now i wish i had run it, next time for sure!). The carry around Oceana was pretty brutal too. Especially on the second day when the extra water was making the right side rather muddy. When i got to the final decent i waited for the people in front of me to get out of the way and just let my boat and paddle drop to the pool below (it was well guarded by rocks so no worries about loosing gear). We ran into Joe, Bryon, and Steve who stopped at the Tallulah on their way to the TVF awards and got to watch their lines.

Oceana horizon line

Mark and Maggie at Oceana (day 1)

Mark and Jim checking out Oceana (day 1)

Bryon at Oceana (day 1)

Joe at Oceana (day 1)

Joe at Oceana (day 1)

Mark putting in below Oceana (day 1)

Margaret, Mark, and Jim (day 2)

The Thing (day 2)


Margaret at Oceana (day 2)

Mark scouting Oceana (day 2)

Mark getting a final look (day 2)

Me at Oceana (day 2)

Me walking around Oceana (yellow boat at top of pic)

On day two Mark decided to fire it up and ran the left line at Oceana (after extensive scouting).

You can view Mark's run here: Mark at Oceana

Here's Mark's description of his line:

I picked the left line because it had good indicators for if you were off or on line and it would give me a chance to recover if I ended up off line. I actually ended up perfectly on line going exactly where I intended to go. My other decision had been that I wasn't going to touch my paddle to the rock at all because I didn't want to snag anything on the way down and wrench my shoulder as a result. So I just held my paddle up in the air and enjoyed the ride! The end was kinda a chance thing, everyone says that ending up right is pure chance and I can see how especially with me purposely holding my paddle up and not choosing to brace but at least I hit the bottom with enough speed and angle to skip over the hole and miss the trashing it would hand out! Overall a fun but dangerous rapid good if you can go exactly where you intend to go though I did see some (painful looking) off line runs. -Mark

The rest of the run was clean both days and i had no problems otherwise. As usual i found most of the rapids to be overrated. It was a lot of fun but certainly no where near as difficult as it has always been made out to be. Bridal Veil certainly looked good to go. One guy in our group did get caught in the hole. We didn't get to see his run just him getting worked and eventually swimming and getting roped out. But the line looked pretty straight forward: punch a small hole at the top, keep left, don't get sideways and hit the launch pad at the bottom and you're golden. It was also comforting to know that there was someone standing at the bottom holding a rope! After looking at it briefly i saw no reason to walk around it (and boy was i glad i didn't. I tried walking up on the rocks afterwards and they were slick as snot! i felt safer running it than walking for sure. On the 2nd day i didnt even bother getting out to look. The line is so straight forward that it wasn't worth the effort to get out again.

Me at Bridal Veil (day 1)

Me at Bridal Veil (day 2)

Mark at Bridal Veil (day 2)

The rest of the run was fun and beautiful. I enjoyed the big slide at Road to Aintry and the gorgeous scenery of the high cliff walls. Zoom Flume is a super fun and easy rapid. Had their been an easy way to walk back up i would have liked to run it again. I had decent lines at Tom's Brainbuster both days (one of the rapids i'd been somewhat worried about). The first day i ended up getting pushed to the left at the bottom but had no problems running it all upright. On the second day i hit my line perfectly. Not a good place to flip for sure but overall not too difficult. The lake paddle out wasn't even all that bad. The Tallulah is an incredible river and i look forward to returning again.

Mark at Tom's Brainbuser

Margaret runs Tat as Jim watches

Jim at Tom's Brainbuster

Me at top of Zoom Flume

Me at Zoom Flume

Me at Tallulah Powerhouse

See my complete Tallulah Photo Gallery for more pictures.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool, now I know the names of the major rapids. Judging by the photo I believe it was Tat where Jeremy and I pulled an open boat out of the river right pourover. Later I led everyone but Bryon into a huge hole on the river right at the powerhouse rapid. Steve had us scrambling to set a rope but as usual he eventually worked his way out. Gotta love those playboating skills!!

Joe S.

10:09 PM  

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