-- Last Updated: Jan-21-14 2:14 PM EST --
If alcohol is prohibited in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area it is news to me, and all I can say is that if this rule exists, in my experience it is not enforced at all.
Alcohol is prohibited in all Tennessee State Parks (although this rule is widely disregarded) including national wildlife refuges in Tennessee, and is prohibited in the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky. But the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area is managed by the National Park Service, much like the Current River in Missouri.
I do not see anything on the National Park Service website for the BSF NRRA about a global prohibition on alcohol. If you look at the "horse regulations" for the Bandy Creek campground within the BSF NRRA you will see that "drinking alcohol while on horseback is prohibited". It would seem silly and redundant to state this if alcohol was globally prohibited in the BSF NRRA.
If you go to an outfitter's site that runs trips on the Big South Fork, such as Sheltowee Trace Outfitters, yes, they will tell you that alcohol is prohibited on the river, but that may be specific for their trips:
As for portages on the Big South Fork from Leatherwood Ford to Blue Heron or beyond, the only two rapids you would consider portaging would be Angel Falls (a couple of miles below Leatherwood Ford) and Devil's Jump (a short distance above the Blue Heron take-out, and you would not be doing those the same day. Everything else is generally nothing more than some wave trains with possibly a few big haystacks which can usually be avoided. What I would typically do is portage the gear, or some of it, around these two rapids and then run the unloaded boat through.
It has been a few years for me, but as I recall the portage at Angel (on river right) is not all that bad. The main part of the rapid is where the river necks down to a pretty juicy chute partially blasting against an undercut rock on the left, as shown in this video of someone who did not run it too well:
If you have decent boat control and balance it really is not that hard to run in an empty boat at normal water levels.
Devil's Jump is again basically another place where the river necks down to a chute that drops several feet. Although it can get quite frisky at higher water levels, it is not that tough at more moderate levels. Here is a video of a 75 year old guy running it in an open boat with no flotation, with a good view of the approach. He does pretty well with the exception of a little "oopsy" at the end when he lets the eddy goblin grab the bow of his boat:
Here is another Devil's Jump video showing several heavily laden tandems paddled by what appear to be duffers, the first tandem team demonstrating some classical gunwale-grabbing technique:
I think the videos give you some impression of the natural beauty of this river gorge.
The portage at Devil's Jump is a bit tougher, but the trick there is to get out on on river left well above the drop, leave your boat and scout for the best place to portage your gear. At normal flows, you can paddle quite close to the drop at Devil's Jump and get out (on the left) just above it which makes the portage shorter and less steep. If you are taking out at Blue Heron you don't need to repack the boat that well because the take-out is just a short distance downstream.
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