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Walden Ridge

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Stretching from Chattanooga to Rockwood, Walden Ridge is an elongate, 10 mile wide ridge that sits an average of 800-1000 feet higher than the Tennessee Valley to the east. Water collecting on the top of this mostly flat escarpment gains strength and begins cutting through resistant sandstone layers into the softer strata underneath. In this process, it creates a series of gulches that flow east into the valley below. On the portion of Walden Ridge that's north of Dayton, there are three main drainages packed with steep creeks dropping precipitously to the flatlands along Highway 27. A handful of these creeks contain some of the hardest whitewater in the Knoxville area.

The furthest south of these drainages is the Richland Creek watershed. The takeout for all the creeks in this area, is the parking lot for Laurel Snow Pocket Wilderness, a well-known hiking destination. The main stem of Richland Creek is a popular class IV creek run accessed by hiking up the trail with your boat. For serious adventure and extreme whitewater, Henderson Creek and Morgan Creek are tributaries of Richland Creek that involve a shuttle to the top of the mountain. Both of these creeks lose around 800 feet of gradient on their way down to the parking area and are only to be attempted by the hardiest of creek boaters. Waterfalls, large portages, and dangerous rock formations are only a few of the hazards to be found on these extreme runs.

The next drainage north, the Piney River, empties into Spring City. The main stem of the Piney River has one of the best wilderness river runs in the state. Ten miles of remote canyons serve up continuous class III-IV+ whitewater before turning east and flowing into Spring City. Duskin Creek, a tributary that comes into the Piney roughly halfway down the canyon, is a great class IV creek with large ledges and bedrock slides that provide great fun when the Piney River runs high. When the water is really cranking, crazies are known to occasionally kayak over Stinging Fork Falls, a long 50-foot cascade on Stinging Fork, which after joining Soak Creek, meets the Piney River just upstream of Spring City.

The northern most drainage on Walden Ridge is Whites Creek. Whether putting on at Whites Creek itself, off Possum Trot road, or trying the more difficult Piney Creek off Highway 70, be ready for a beautiful and exciting ride through cryptic corridors replete with surf waves and fun rapids. Fall Creek and Mammys Creek are additional paddling options in the Whites Creek watershed.

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