Suck Creek - White Water Paddling

Made possible by

Photos

About

Summary

Suck Creek is Chattanooga's steep creek staple. In close proximity to downtown, Suck holds water frequently throughout the rainy months of the year (usually Nov. - April). Locals consider it a gem of the Southeast, and appreciate the quality drops mixed in with some tricky moves. Following Suck Creek Road for a quick and easy shuttle, it presents an easy opportunity to hone your creeking skills without having to worry about complicated logistics.

Written by

Hunt Jennings

Distance

0.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

9.5 miles

Difficulty

5 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

1 hours

Seasonality

Spring, Fall, and Winter

November-April

Dog Friendly

No

Fees Permits

No

Review

Intro

Suck Creek is a steep, continuous boulder garden run. There are several vertical drops and slides mixed in, but for the most part, the rapids are made up of very large boulders filled in with lots of smaller, chunkier ones. There are plenty of eddies, and several slow-moving pools at normal water levels, but many of the named rapids are linked together by class III/IV boogie, and much of it is fairly continuous. 

What Makes It Great

The run starts off just below the confluence of North Suck and South Suck creek with a few class III-IV boogie rapids that serve as a great warm up to get a feel for the style of the run. Most of the boogie rapids can be done by boat scouting, but for most of the bigger rapids, it is a good idea to get out and take a look, or follow the beta from someone who knows the run very well. Suck is a fun run, and flows together nicely, however it still demands focus and respect. It is full of solid class IV/V rapids from putin to take out, and there are many spots that you want to avoid. Some people describe the run as “manky” which is true in some spots, but for the most part rapids have a deep, clean line through them, and can be run in a smooth and controlled manner. Some of the bigger named rapids include (in order): “Shitty Shitty Bang Bang," "Optimus Prime," "Road Construction," "Slow n’ Low," “Pinnacle," "Velcro Zipper," "Shit Bird Alley," "Stan’s Hole," "Knuckle Head," and “Thunderdome.” These rapids are super fun and manageable for a class 5 boater, but technical at the same time, so keep your guard up! The putin for Suck Creek is just below the confluence of North and South Suck Creek. There is a pretty clear trail going from the putin pull-off to the river. The normal take out is the last eddy on river right above Knuckle Head. Don’t miss the eddy!! Paddling down to the bridge is also an option, however in recent years, most boaters have been taking out above Knuckle Head, to allow for quicker laps on the “no portage” section of the creek. Knuckle Head is runnable, however it is a very marginal and high consequence rapid. The biggest rapid between Knuckle Head and the bottom bridge, “Thunderdome,” changed recently and has a log in it, leaving it unrunnable at normal flows. There is sometimes a possible sneak line to the right of the old line, but scouting is advised. It is so uncommon to run from Knuckle Head to the bridge now that if you decide to keep going (adventure is good), just play on the safe side, and make sure to hop out and take a look everything. Suck Creek will often be running after a good rain of 1" or more. There is a paddler's gauge bolted on the downstream side of a large boulder just below “Stan’s Hole” on river right. “Stan’s Hole” is the last rapid before “Knuckle Head.” To find the paddler's gauge, find the little trail just past the big telephone pole at the takeout, it goes straight down to “Knuckle Head,” and from there, walk upstream to the bottom of the next drop (“Stan’s Hole”) and you will see the gauge. A good flow range from low to high would be from 4" or 5" up to 1’ 5”, although it has been run much higher, and people have scraped down at -2" or -3.” 

Note: There are swimming holes in summer, but tubing and swimming when the creek has flow is NOT safe! 

Who is Going to Love It

A solid class V skill set is recommended for this run. Expect lots of read and run class IV, and be able to confidently pick lines out of class V boulder rapids. Suck is a seriously fun run, and an awesome training ground for creekers. It's a place to be focused and respectful, have fun, and push yourself. 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Suck Creek is 10 minutes from downtown Chattanooga. Take 27 North, and get off on the Signal Mountain Exit. Turn right onto Signal Mountain road (heading towards Signal Mountain), and turn left onto Suck Creek Road in about 1.6 miles. Suck Creek Road follows the Tennessee River for about 4 miles until it crosses over Suck Creek. The bridge is obvious, and immediately after crossing over the bridge the road turns and begins climbing the mountain. 

The (standard) take out is about half a mile up the road from the bridge, and is the first sizable pull off on the right. To get to the putin, continue going up Suck Creek Road from the takeout for just over a mile, and it is a narrow pull-off on the right. If you decide to paddle all the way to the bridge, there is a small parking area on river left just upstream of the bridge.

Parking along Suck Creek is free, but at your own risk. Break-ins have occurred in this area. Leave your valuables at home or take them with you on the water. 

Be careful on the road! There are lots of curves on the (very short) shuttle, and people do not have kayakers in mind. People drive very fast past the putin and takeout, so be careful pulling in and out of pull-offs, as well as walking alongside the road. 

Location

Suck Creek Kayaking

Chattanooga, TN,
35.144975, -85.388996

Get Directions