The biggest Rapid on the Caney Fork which is just below the Falls has been unofficially named, “Sieve City” by Corey from Utah. Clay will have to decide if he wants to keep the name since he has seniority here. Well, it was at 30,000 CFS and we took a look see and I was into an adrenaline fix. My partner Tony Lunt, and two long time paddling buddies Ron Esteve and Stuart Holbrook. They went to the “Wall” which was the undercut to catch anybody who didn’t make it through the hole in their boats with ropes just in case. Tony took these shots!
The line was to put in just in front of a nasty sieve and paddle upstream along a wall as far as possible to start a big ferry. The ferry was to get as far to river right as possible to get into the main current before the action began. I was already breathing hard at this point from the exertion. Clay pealed out right behind me and we decided to do this one together. The opening move was to get just left of a 6’ wave that you could see early on to line up for the runway in between two HUGE holes (see photos). I was about 20 feet too far right at the start when I got the first glimps and had to sprint back left. Then the river cuts loose as you hit the serious gradient. I got through about 20 feet with no issues and then had to brace into a fold that would be a squirt boaters nightmare. I braced hard into it in hopes of staying above the water and kept my head clear. Then it got really busy with the more overhead waves, all pushing to the left side of the river, when the goal is to go right. Just when my head was clear enough of water to see the next feature, and the driving blind was over, there was the first BIG breaker that would try to throw you left, I cleared it too well, knowing that I was sitting in front of a wall of water that no man can paddle over. It was the entire right hand eddy that was about 6 feet above the trough of the diagonal going into it. When scouting I had already decided that I would stay away from that eddy wall and drive straight into the right side of the meat of the biggest hole, sorry, BIGGEST HOLE. Yes, that means big. I booked hard left after all of that hard right work I had been doing and hit the wall of water with my head down and paddle dug in deep. This was the commitment move. If you got typewritered across the diagonal but kept some downstream speed you would only get a piece of the main hole. If you got stopped you would drop from the second floor straight into the “BAD PLACE”. Well I got hit hard enough that my death grip failed on my left hand and was upside down under an unknown amount of water holding on with one hand to my AT2 (thank goodness for the grip on that thing) and I struggled for the other grip in a race to catch it before the beating and although it didn’t feel like I was on golden pond doing roll practice, I knew I was clear of the hole and rolled up just in time to book left. The final kicker is this: At the end of this entire rapid the majority of water goes straight into an undercut wall! I had just enough time to take a couple of breakers across to river left and eddy out while I see Clay rolling up just after his encounter with the BIG HOLE, but unfortunately he was in a creek boat instead of a playboat which didn’t allow him to straighten out in time to ferry away from the wall. A couple of big surges and he got forced into the wall. Being a very seasoned, experienced boater, Clay reacted perfectly with each surge that was trying to powerflip him upstream and force him and his kayak under by leaning in and getting a little more towards the eddy. After 10 seconds of bouncing and being pummeled by the force of the oncoming water he popped free and into the eddy. The eddy was not home free and there was no clear way out of it either without a very likely redezvous with the wall. Stuart and Ron helped Clay out of his boat in the surging eddy as I watched from the other side of the river. When he was safe and sound, I paddled down the take out and drove back the 1.2 miles to my house, cool day.
Big Water with a BIG commitment move into a BIG HOLE!