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Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association

   Protecting clean water and free-flowing rivers in TN since 1966.

1st Saturday River Clean-up? Clear Creek Gorge

Monday, November 07, 2022 7:52 AM | Operations TSRA (Administrator)

No water no problem. This past Saturday we decided to do a hike along Clear Creek Gorge and do some trash pick-up. Turned out to be a fabulous day. Below are a couple write ups from a couple participants. Enjoy!


Clear Creek Lily to the Confluence: The Dry Line By David Cole

For the first time (ever?), there wasn’t enough water for a first-Saturday whitewater trip. So, James Parnell dreamt up a different kind of river trip. We hiked the trail above Clear Creek from Lily bridge to its confluence with the Obed (2 ¼ miles), descended the steep and slippery gorge down to the creek, and then hiked back up the riverbed to the bridge. The trail hike was a breeze. The hike back up the riverbed was punctuated by slippery rocks and bushwhacking through mountain laurel and greenbriar (aka “blasphemy vines”). But as challenging as it was, I think everyone agreed that it was amazing. Seeing the old familiar rapids without water was fascinating and beautiful. We had lunch at Wooten’s Folly, found a startling undercut at Camel Rock, and stood atop Jack’s Rock while marveling at two little waterfalls left and right.

We also cleaned up the river – well, as much as 7 people could. We built a trash pile up on the bank of debris too large to carry out: 3-4 tires, an 8’ long piece of PVC pipe, and an oar. Still, we emerged with 6 bags of trash and a rusty bar stool. Go figure.

Kudos to James Parnell, the trip leader. Besides keeping everyone up to date (and being surprisingly well organized for a paddler ;-), he did the hike solo the day before to be sure he knew what we were getting into. Wow. Thanks also to Austin Chamberlain, Ben Drury, Jim Ledbetter, Katie Larue, and Morris Blanton for helping to keep Clear Creek clear.


Saturday turned out to be a very nice fall day. It was overcast and warm for early November. Although we got a few sprinkles here and there, the rain that was forecasted earlier in the week didn’t materialize.
The hike from Lilly bridge up to Lilly overlook was a good warm up. Not as steep, tough, or long as I expected. After a few minutes enjoying the view from the top, we headed towards the confluence overlook. I had never been past this part on the trail or the river, and I was excited to see some new scenery and gather up some trash.

This part of the hike was pretty flat and easy with some nice overlooks along the way. As we kept going, it was really cool to be on the ridge with Clear Creek canyon on the left and Obed canyon on the right. Once we reached the point overlook, the views were amazing, especially with some classic fall colors hanging around and contrasting with the evergreens. I had never seen this before and was blown away at how deep the canyons were. Definitely a highlight of the day for me here.

The real challenge started as we descended down from here to the confluence on a steep bushwhack. Once we made it to the bottom, and after taking some time to soak in the beauty of this place, we bushwhacked up the Clear Creek banks looking for sections that would be easier to navigate. We had groups spread out on both sides, and after a while, we started coming across some trash. Katie found a mother lode of old plastic bottles and other random items that looked to be fairly old. We cleaned that spot out and filled up about half a bag before continuing up the creek.

We regrouped on a large boulder for a bit of a snack and discussion about some of the main rapids in this section. It was good to hear stories and tips from several of the group. I’ve done Barnett to Lilly a couple of times and feel confident on those sections, but I would like to eventually progress to be able to run all the way down to Nemo. I’ve had some great instruction this year and made some good strides with my roll and general river running skills, so I’m hoping for this section sometime in 2023! If we ever get some rain…

For the final push of the day, Ben and I were out front and came across some old tires. I was able to pull the lower ones up to a higher level where they can hopefully be rafted out once we get enough water again. I must’ve gotten into a hornets nest though, and they lit me up pretty good. So be aware of that if you ever go to raft out these three tires on river right! After several minutes of some of the best and most creative cuss word phrases I’ve had in a while, it was time to head river left to catch the climber’s trails out.

On the way up to the trails, Ben and I came across another load of trash and cleared that spot, topping off both of our bags. Mostly plastic bottles and the like, but also an old cooler. On the day, the group was also able to carry out an old, broken oar and a couple of pieces of old, broken paddles.

We finished the trip off at Lillypad with some well deserved cold beers and good food. Much thanks to Katie who had some soothing cortisone cream and a Benadryl pill handy when she arrived and saw my hornet stings!!!

We capped the night at Clear Creek campground with a solid campfire and one of the best sunsets I’ve seen in a while!

By Austin Chamberlain

Please take a minute a view the photos here

Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, #58-1746179.

P.O. Box 159041 Nashville, Tennessee 37215-9041

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