Regional Runs

Some of the stouts around Central Alabama.

This is one of the best rivers in the area and offers experienced boaters an exciting time.  It has the best playspot ( sticky hole)  in the area when the release is over 10000cfs, but at 5000cfs has a great park and play at the take-out.  This information is out of the Run Index.

Run: Tallapoosa River

Section: Below Thurlow Dam       Tallassee, AL

Class: II-III (IV)   Put-In: Thurlow Dam

Gradient:     Take-Out: Boat ramp off Rt. 229

Length: 1.5

Water Q:   Primary Gage: 1 800 LAKES11, #3, #4 Release Info

TRIP REPORT Required Level:


A comprehensive description from Bill Patterson:

This is a remarkable big water run in central Alabama. The water is powerful, clear and relatively cold. The only catch is that it is hard to catch. It usually runs in short intervals often right around dusk. To complicate matters, Alabama Power Company has a habit of changing the schedule at the last minute. It seems to run consistently at early nightfall in early spring (makes for some real interesting moonlight follies), after good spring/summer rains, and at fall lake drawdowns. There is a special black art to figuring out which lake levels and upstream dam releases are conducive to probable releases. For the locals who have figured out the release patterns, it proves to be a great after work run. For those who get it wrong and drive great distances it can let you down as you miss the water.

The run rates class II-III with a nice powerful class IV that rates V+ in areas. While the run is fairly easy, it is no place for beginners to blunder down. If you do not posses strong ferrying skills and good water reading ability stay away at higher levels. If you get stuck in one of the large holes above the falls and swim it would be very bad indeed. The water levels are as follows: min = 1,200 cfs, low = 5,000 cfs, good = 10,500 cfs, great = 11,500 – 13,000 cfs. You may be able to walk/scrape at min. At 5,000cfs you can get down pretty well but use extra caution at the falls. You will probably want to scout it from the island. At the 10,500 – 12,500 cfs levels Sticky Hole provides some great play and the falls are awesome. At 13,000 cfs Sticky Hole is usually good, you can find some huge surfing waves on the river right and the falls start to wash out. At 18,000 cfs Sticky Hole may be good, you will find some big one shot waves and the falls will be gone. At 50,000 cfs there is some action around what was formally Sticky Hole and the rest of the river is washed out.

The run is just over a mile long and is quite wide (about 200′). After putting in below the dam outflow look upstream and imagine what may have been the Great Falls of the South must have looked like before the dam. Portions of the Class V+ at the base of the dam (as well as the dam) have been run. The authorities are still looking for the villain. About ¼ mile down stream the action starts. After running two class I shoals look for Sticky Hole on the left 1/3 of the river. You will find it next to the rock which makes a nice eddy. After Sticky Hole ferry over to the river right and catch some of the great breaking wave holes on the fly. Be wary of some huge holes at high water. At certain water levels you can surf several boats on the bigger waves. After the waves let up for about 200 yards look for Big O. It will be a nice breaking wave/hole toward the river right. It will have a nice recirculating eddy on the right. Catch the eddy but don’t let it catch you as it circulates into a bad pourover. (This pourover has been known to haze moonlight boaters by windowshading them a while and separating them from their leaders. They are then left to try to find the line down the falls in the dark.) After a ride or two at Big O work left around the first island or ferry right and get ready for the falls. There are good lines at the falls on the right of the second island and at the river right. Avoid the middle at all costs unless you really know where you are going. If you run the falls on the right, carry plenty of speed. Below the falls at 12,500 cfs and up you may find the Bionic Wave. It is a nice pulsing wave on the right. Stay out of the huge hole at the bottom.

Warning: While the falls is technically easy, it is chock full of potholes, caves, pinning spots and other hazards. Those unfamiliar with the lines should scout well. The lower the water the worse the hazards. You may see a nice looking boof next to a tree towards the middle. The rock is rough and does not boof well. It is doable but one wrong move will leads to a nice spanking! If you get comfortable with the falls at higher water, you may want to scout it again at 5,000 cfs. It changes a great deal.

Dam release. Put in at the base of the dam. The daily release information can be acquired from 1 800 Lakes11 at Alabama Power or from the website selecting Lake Information – Tallpoosa River – Thurlow. This will give you the release info. Also Yates is an indicator. If the dam is running something other than continuous minimal flow (1 generator or 1277 cfs or so) you are able to make the run. One large rapid call “The Falls” is the only thing that really requires attention. This drop has a sneak though the racecourse on river left. We had some great squirt boat action below the falls at the proper water levels. by Will Reeves

It can be run at 1277cfs or so, but it is a scrape with almost no play. The Falls are still fun at this level, though. We ran far right off the boof with the rest of the options undercut and/or pin-friendly. Cheap thrills if you are in the area. The take-out is at a boat ramp near mile marker 6 and behind AES plant. The put-in is at the base of the dam off Outer Drive past the school. (Mark D’)


River Description:

This is a good park and play with many features to play in depending on the flow, but flows daily.

Gauge Description:

The scale located 1 Mile downstream. The dam release is controlled by Bartlett’s Ferry Dam upstream. The schedule can be obtained by calling 706-317-6000. This number’s information is so vague that usefulness is questionable. It usually says something to the effect of water being released from Lake Highlands will be from 9-5 with subject to change depending on power needs. I recommend getting there about 4:30 in afternoon with about a 2 hour window of good release.

Fun – This is a beautiful old mill with most of the buildings intact. Paddle up to the old grist house, it is really interesting. The whitewater is located on the Alabama wall on the dam. As the water level rises this play spot tends to be unreachable from downstream. The dam has been run on the far river-right at the wall mentioned above. Dangers – This is a serious low-head dam, just a warning for ignorant, do not get between boil line and dam.

Eagle Phenix Dam (big dam)

Access – Easiest way to Columbus WW from Atlanta. If heading south into Columbus on I-185 take exit ten (J.R. Allen Parkway) West (towards Alabama). Then exit on exit one. This is the last exit before crossing the river into Alabama. This will place you on 2nd Avenue. Continue for about two miles make a right on 13th street. Go two blocks. Take a Left on Broadway. If you cross the river you have gone too far. Go one block. Take a right on 12th street. Continue straight through the light. The road bends to the left then becomes Front Ave. At this point you are on a small bluff over the river. If you look just upstream you can see the Play section. Sectioned parking spots are up ahead on the right. Enjoy!

Level – Unfortunately the level is difficult to predict. It has been noticed if that the gauge height plus the stream velocity correlate to give an indication of what the water is doing. It seems that the basins downstream can backfill the waves effectively washing tout the “great wave”. The means it is best to catch it rising – usually 4:30 in afternoon it starts to rise to playable levels.

Fun – At around 4-6 feet the Good Wave develops. For visual level reference, water will be completely coming over the dam and a nice curtain developed. This is a diagonal breaking wave/hole. This is located on river left, to the right of the powerhouse discharge chute. As the rapid washes out a bigger wave develops downstream. The “Great Wave” is really sweet and offers a lot of big moves.

On the river right at less than 15 feet is “Cut-bait” Rapid. This is nice big chute that has been run at many levels. The HOLE at the bottom is mean though not retentive.though can deliver a nice thrashing. At higher levels the islands that funnel the water start be inundated. On the far river right at 6 feet to 10 feet is a small waterfall (4 feet). The higher the water level the more the river pool backs up on the drop.

Dangers – This is twenty-something feet high dam with some nice rollers in spots. Fortunately you are already below it. A swim in some spots causes a long downstream trip with an excellent recovery on the big steps of the Columbus River Walk a ¼ mile downstream. The Alabama bank is usually in use by the local fisherman. It is difficult to not get fishing lines crossed up with your boat and person on this bank due to the massive eddy for Cut-bait hole. In the past there have been some tensions between hardboaters and fisherman. Let’s do what we can to improve this.

The Long Detouring Portage

When done with some good boating – treat yourself to some good craft beer and a pizza at Cannon Brew Pub on the corner of 11th and Broadway. You did bring a change of clothes didn’t you?


August 2007 – work continues on the Columbus Riverwalk. This improvement has created what is probably the most hazardous rapid – known as climbing the green steel fence and descending the concrete wall into the river. This remains the quickest way to the “Great Wave” and “Good Wave”. If the water is at maitaince leve it is possible to attain from the riverboat steps three-hundred yards downstream. If the water is rising or up do not try to attain.

October 2006 – the Columbus river walk is being extended through the old Eagle Phenix Mill area. The defunct mill is being converted into loft condominiums (sweet front yard).

Locus Fork of the Warrior River

The Locust is a good learning river, suitable even for first timers below 3.2′ with good balance, instincts, and friends.  Probably the most popular easy whitewater in Alabama, it should be run many times by aspiring paddlers during their first winter season. The Locust will help you learn to catch eddies, as opposed to the Mulberry, which has good play but is wide and non-technical.   Tandem canoes can run this with a clue or luck and some flotation if you want to keep your boat after you swim. Once the base builds up in a decent water year, it runs most of the winter and spring months.  2.2′ is pretty darn low, 2.4′ is much better.  Above 4.0′ things get pretty pushy for the unprepared.  Most people run from 231 to Rt. 160, but you can take out earlier at Swann Covered Bridge.  The upper run is a nice change of pace when the water is over 3′. The late great William Nealy used to live in Birmingham, so you can even find a description of it in his Whitewater Home Companion Volume I. The Locust is comparable to the Nantahala in difficulty, though nothing is as hard as lesser Wesser. Unlike the Nantahala, the Locust is very much drop/pool in nature.

The Locust really only harbors a couple II+/III- rapids, with transition to class III at levels somewhere above 3′. After a few warm-up class II’s with a wave or two, the first named rapid is House Rock. It is a straight shot that requires a modicum of right angle or momentum to avoid washing into the big undercut rock on river left. It is extremely easy but folks have washed up under the rock, especially at higher water. If you have the skill and will, there is a nice wave right in the main chute below 4′ or so. Next up is Tilt-a-Whirl, which begins as a wide shallow shoal, then hangs a 90 degree left turn with a dynamic eddy on the right and waves on the left. S-turn is just above Double Trouble. It is turns left and is split by an island. Watch for logs – they seem to collect here.

Double Trouble is the hardest rapid on the run. Safety and scouting can be accomplished via the river left island. The main drop requires a body to be able to ferry right to left, or you can just get left. The big eddy on the left is objective #1. The danger element are the rocks with logs on river right. Misguided boats tend to hit the pourover rock toward the bottom right of the first drop, which may cause a swim into said rocks and logs. The second drop is runnable almost anywhere, though a diagonal hole next to the rock on the right may get you if you let it. At high water, you can sneak the whole deal via the channel to the left of the scouting island.

After DT, there is some nice play on a wave/hole combo, then a big wave that is very hard to catch against the river left shore. Bullard Shoal is just above the Swann Bridge, generally starting center/left and working left is best.

Below Swann is not much until you get to Powell Falls (very low water – 1.6′ VIDEO here). Powell is a 7′ slide that is easier than it first looks to the wide-eyed beginner. I always run it about 5-10′ right of the center scouting island below 4′, but you can run it farther right if you wish. At high water (5-6′+) you can run over the scouting island. A fun (possible park &) play hole is just above the Rt. 160 bridge at Scirum Bluff. Cartwheels are no problem here if you have the game, and at 4.3′, loops are also in the mix. Rt. 160 is a short but steep takeout.

Year go people took out at the Nectar covered bridge, which burned down around 1990 or so. A bridge has been built there again but don’t bother going there – the section from 160 to Nectar is wide and flat, and the Nectar take-out is not much better than 160 now. It could be a mud pit if it is wet.

To find the Locust from Hunstville and the north, simply get on the Parkway (Hwy 231) and drive south until you go over the put-in bridge just south of Blountsville. From the south, Rt. 79 probably is a good bet.

Coosa River

Site of the annual rodeo at Moccasin Gap.  Whitewater with Spanish Moss in the trees. Dam controlled. This is a ‘play only’ type run. Large portions of flatwater exist no matter what the level. If you live in, or happen to be in the area, you will be amused. Normally, it will run at 4,000, 6,000, or 8,000 cfs. I had the misfortune of trying to run it at 2,000 during a dry summer. It was still better than nothing, but a tame float with very mild play for the most part. Put in either at the Coosa Paddling Club proporty off CR213, or the dam. Take out at the COC property off River Rd. just north of Hwy 170.

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June 22nd, 2018

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