Stunningly tucked into the side of Walden's Ridge, concealing over 75 class III-V rapids in 12 glorious isolated miles, North Chick is the classic benchmark and staple of Chattanooga's best quality whitewater. A few of the bottom rapids (III-IV+) bordering a trail at the canyon mouth are easily accessed, and frequently boated by locals for afternoon amusement.
What Makes It Great
The North Chick flows within a very isolated gorge. It's a rare opportunity to penetrate natural, untouched wilderness in such close proximity to downtown. Paddling at the bottom of the canyon leaves most people with a strong yearning to further explore. Once you are IN the North Chick, you cover a lot of distance from a perspective that isn't available to many people. You find yourself sharing space with elusive soaring eagles and paddling beneath deep canyon walls dotted with flinging waterfalls. This is a spectacular gift, not soon to be forgotten.
The Bowling Alley is a wonderful and appropriate introduction to Chattanooga creek boating. If you're comfortable on the Ocoee, looking for challenging moves and playing your way down it, this is the next logical step for those on a personal quest to become a creek boater. The top rapid, called Bowling Pin, doubles as the most difficult and the most fun! Scout the entire section before dropping in, as there are several obvious and easily avoidable sieves that are hazardous at many levels. Most are on the far right, but always eddy out and look carefully at each rapid. A solid roll is mandatory here! For experts who get bored with the basic lines, there are many challenging slots, attainments, and rock splatting opportunities.
Heads up... Sieves are frequent throughout the run, and as the tributaries converge, the North Chick becomes progressively more pushy and exciting. The gradient continues at a challenging level throughout the entire 10+ miles, leaving very little time to float, relax, or recover. The rapids are almost all class IV, and many are blind with class V hazards. There is almost always a good clean line or a nice boof that will leave a paddler smiling, but scouting your way down will be a very long day. Keep in mind that hiking out of this canyon is extremely difficult.
Just a reminder: Tubing and swimming when the creek has flow is not safe!
Who is Going to Love It
For those prepared and outfitted, the full day at North Chick is Chattanooga's uncontested whitewater classic experience, and its diverse character is highly regarded by local creek boaters. From the top tributaries, the stream is small, full of bedrock slides, blind drops, and boulder slots. Paddlers with the skills to negotiate these rapids will view some of the most impressive overhanging rocks in the region.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Highway 27 North from downtown is a quick and straight shot to bottom of the North Chick gorge at Soddy Daisy. Following Signal Mountain, it's a pretty drive that follows the base of the ridge on a fast, divided highway. Turning left off the Dayton Pike or Thrasher Pike exits will both get you close to the take out. From Thrasher, it's a right turn onto Dayton Pike. Next, you'll want to turn left off Dayton Pike onto Montlake Road, and then turn left into the Pocket Wilderness, which is part of the Cumberland Trail Tennessee State Natural Area.
The short section, called the 'Bowling Alley' is accessible from this streamside parking area, which also doubles as a take-out for the 12 mile wilderness run.
Parking at the Cumberland Trail North Chickamauga Creek State Natural Area is free. The gate is closed daily at dark. There are several picnic tables along the stream side trail.