I
have such a hard time making myself go paddling on the Ocoee river.
It’s always crowded and full of rafts and lots of noise. The Ocoee
just isn’t what I took up paddling for, which was to get out of
traffic jams and away from crowds. So, for the last few weekends
I’ve been happy to do almost anything that keeps me away from that
river. My options were running thin as it hadn’t rained in a week
and I’d just paddled the Chattooga on Saturday. I thought it would
be a great day to go hike some new creeks and look for something
different. So out came the Waterfall Walks and Drives guide book. I
scoured the pages for an appropriate locale and decided to go to
Noontootla falls and check out the creek.

It
was a great day with warm sunshine and only a few people out on the
roads. I drove up to the Suches area and found Noontootla creek. It
was much larger than I had originally expected. This was a good
thing, perhaps it could be paddled in a canoe or kayak. I spent a
few hours in the area scouting and looking for the falls. I must not
have gone far enough up stream, or perhaps the falls are on one of
the smaller side creeks.

Around
noon I had found a particularly interesting stretch of the river.
There were numerous nice drops and only a few strainers that would
require portaging. The water level even looked tolerable, which was
the greatest surprise. Since I hadn’t unloaded my canoe from the day
before, and my gear lives in the back of the truck, I thought hard
about just canoeing the creek for a few miles. After a brief meeting
between me, myself and I, it was decided that I would paddle
downstream through the steepest section. So I threw my boat down to
the river and geared up.

Noontootla
Creek is very tight, seldom exceeding twenty feet in width. I found
myself running numerous rock-choked rapids and dodging trees.
Remarkably, considering the lack of rain, there was enough water to
float through every rapid in at least two places. I paddled down
stream for awhile, encountering a number of boatable strainers before
I found one that was clearly a mandatory portage. The water was
extremely cold as I portaged the drop and tried to get back in my
boat on the downstream side.

I
soon found myself in a slight predicament. My boat was drifting
downstream over a three foot ledge rapid with me partly in it and my
paddle was under the air bag. The boat just flew over the drop into
a large undercut. All the while I was wondering if this is why it
can be a dumb idea to boat alone. I pushed the rock at the last
minute and shot out of the undercut into a small eddy. Slightly
disgruntled, I carried back up the rapid in order to get a better run
the second time.

After
a much cleaner run of the ledge, I proceeded down stream and
eventually found myself above some interesting drops. The first one
was a small ledge, but the next one measured almost seven vertical
feet. They were all easy drops, but made the trip exciting.

Now
the creek continued with a few interesting rapids spaced with tiny
shoals for awhile and I eventually grew tired and decided to climb up
to the road and hike back to my truck. All said, it was a great day
and I didn’t have to go to the Ocoee.

Noontootla
creek is in Fannin County. It’s class I-III, but don’t put on too
high because of strainers. The entire run is along FS 58.
Apparently there is a waterfall somewhere in the area, but I never
found it.

by Will
Reeves
From The Eddy Line, July 1997