South Chickamauga Creek - Kayak Trip / Canoe Trip
Day Trip Report
July 5, 2007
Submitted by: eebemt
Chickamauga Creek between Shallowford Rd and Elsie Chapin Bird Sanctuary
This was a 8 hour trip upstream (7 miles one way) and then downstream trip back to the point of origin to the put in point for a total of about 14 miles. The put in point was underneath the Shallowford Road Bridge, just 1000 feet or so west from the intersection of Airport Rd and Shallowford Road in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The upstream portion of the trip book about 5 hours to complete about 6 miles of creek. The downstream section back to my put in point took about 3 hours. The creek is currently experiencing low flow conditions due to low rainfall. This trip starts before and goes beyond the creek section written about on this website under the same heading (read it here
Paddling upstream was a big challenge because there were several shallows that had to be negotiated by pulling my kayak. The downstream direction was much easier because I had seen better channels on my way upstream (mostly to the left bank). The current helped me back through the shallows without getting out. The phrase “paddling upstream” now evokes a vivid memory because of this trip.
This section of creek offers several challenges. Keep in mind though that I was using a 17 foot sea kayak. Something smaller would have made it easier to negotiate the trees blown down across the creek and to portage around obstacles.
This was a day of hard work.
A length of the creek parallels the Brainerd Levee. This is a very enjoyable, and wide section of the creek because of the widening of the channel during the construction of the Brainerd Levee.
The Brainerd Levee was built in the late 70’s to handle creek flooding. In 1973 the creek swelled beyond its banks and engulfed part of the business section along Brainerd Rd and many houses in between. As a result of the levee construction, the creek is wide (maybe 80 to 100 feet) and slow moving. This is also the area in which the Brainerd Indian Mission existed between 1817 and 1838 to convert and educate the Cherokee Indian Tribe that lived in this area.
As I paddled this section it was hard to imagine that it was the site of a Cherokee Indian village but it was fun to imagine what it would have looked like then. This was also a section that I used to frequent as a teenager as I fished, swam and canoed. This area along the levee is a premier bird watching pedestrian pathway in urban Chattanooga.
Once you get past the levee, the greenway continues on to Camp Jordan Park in East Ridge Tennessee. Here the creek branches into a smaller channel. I chose the deeper water to the left as I continued to paddle upstream. This is the area that has already been written about by another writer on this website (see report here).
My trip started downstream from this paddler by about 4 miles and went past this point by about 3 miles on the main channel. He mentions rapids, but during my trip the water was lower and these areas had to be walked. The main rapid he mentions is caused by a rock outcropping forming a dam in low water conditions I think. There is a side channel that goes around this section but there are many trees in the water. The pay off was that there were huge schools of carp that rocked my kayak as I paddled over them.
Under higher water flow conditions, the pipe, mentioned by both of us, causes a very dangerous condition. There would be danger if one fell into the water here because the current might take you under the pipe and into a lot of under water branches that have piled up.
All in all though there is much to be enjoyed on this section all the way to the Bird Sanctuary. There is as much wildlife, and even deer as on the other section. Bird watchers should have an even greater time.
Note that creek paddling, whether it be through urban, suburban, or farm land areas can expose the paddler to varying levels of bacteria so take precautions.
There are no rest rooms. A paddler could exit to the levee or the greenway and enjoy a lot of amenities, but it would be a hike.
To get to the Shallowford Road bridge over Chickamauga Creek you can come in from several ways. On the west side of the bridge look for the Brainerd Levee. On the east side of the bridge look for a cemetery and the intersection of Shallowford Road and Airport Road.
The City of Chattanooga's GIS website or a standard USGS map (which may not show the levee system unless it has been updated recently)
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