Stro Struthers, Cowbell Rapid, Nolichucky River, TN.  Click for larger image.

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Level:

Current time:   Wednesday, April 23, 2014 at 07:13 PM EDT

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Level:  Like settling into a cushy sofa from 500 to 800 cfs.  Past about 800 cfs the bottom drops out.  Most popular range is from 1,100 to 1,500 cfs.  Middle layer gets increasingly turbulent as levels rise. Survive the descent through the middle layer and you'll stay down a long time.  Has yielded 30 second mystery moves at all levels up to at least 4,000 cfs. 

Getting that good 'ole sinking feeling:  Formed by converging currents flowing over an underwater ledge adjacent to a strong eddyline.  Most enter from the very top of the river right eddy, ferrying over and sinking on the river right side of the small wave that forms just beyond the upper edge of the eddyline.  Backcut is most popular entry, but front cut can work just as well and mush moves are not unheard of.  Here's a sequence of Trip Kinney demonstrating the most common entry (taken at 2,000 cfs, a relatively high level;  yes, Trip really is in the fourth image -- click the thumbnail and examine closely!):

Trip Kinney Sequence #1, Cowbell Rapid, Nolichucky River, TN.  Click for larger image.

Trip Kinney Sequence #2, Cowbell Rapid, Nolichucky River, TN.  Click for larger image.

Trip Kinney Sequence #3, Cowbell Rapid, Nolichucky River, TN.  Click for larger image.

Trip Kinney Sequence #4, Cowbell Rapid, Nolichucky River, TN.  Click for larger image.

Directions from Asheville:  Head north out of town on US 19/23.  Take Exit 12 twelve miles into Tennessee (note that 19/23 becomes I-181 at the state line).  Turn right at the bottom of the ramp, then left at the "T"  intersection you hit almost immediately.  Just after the crest of a hill  2.4 miles from the "T" intersection you'll come to Chestoa Road.  Follow it one mile, turning right onto Unaka Springs Road just before crossing the bridge over the river.  Follow Springs Road upstream (and eventually uphill) 1.0 miles.  You'll see a pullout on your left.  The trail to Cowbell drops down the hill from the uphill end of this pullout.  Park here, or in any of the other pullouts further up the road (but NOT on the private property you passed on the way up the road).  Hike down the trail to the railroad tracks, walk about 20 feet along the railroad tracks to the fan of gravel and continuation of the trail down to the river and Cowbell.  Alternate:  Cross the bridge and turn right onto Jones Branch Road.  Follow Jones Branch Road 1.1 miles to the Nolichucky Gorge Campground.  Pay to park, then paddle 100 yards or so downstream, taking the main current between the islands to the river right eddy at the bottom of the very modest rapid between the islands.


Photos:

2002 Mystery Nationals, Gallery #1
2002 Mystery Nationals, Gallery #2
2003 Mystery Nationals, Gallery #1
2003 Mystery Nationals, Gallery #2
2003 Mystery Nationals, Gallery #3
2003 Mystery Nationals, Gallery #4
2003 Mystery Nationals, Gallery #5


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Copyright 2003 [Chris Bell].
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Revised: June 04, 2003.

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