BSA Troop 328

Oak Ridge, Tennessee

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Big South Fork Canoe Outing

On the weekend of September 21-22 our troop went on an overnight canoe trip on the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. We canoed 20 miles the lower section from the Blue Heron mine to the Hwy 927 river access. 16 scouts and 8 adults participated. We met at 7:30AM on Saturday morning and it was pouring rain but the forecast was for the rain to move out around lunch time. We drove to the Hwy 927 river access and parked there. The outfitter (Sheltowee Trace Outfitters) picked us up there and shuttled us and the canoes to the Blue Heron Mine river access. The shuttle ride took about an hour. After we got there we unloaded the canoes and distributed the life jackets and paddles it was ~11:30AM, but it was still raining so we decided to go ahead and eat lunch under the picnic shelter. We finally got on the water around 12:30PM but there was still a heavy drizzle. After about half an hour on the river it became clear that we did not do a very good job pairing up scouts in the canoes. Even though they were all frantically paddling, some canoes spent half the time pointed in the wrong direction paddling upstream, some were going in a never ending circle, and some were constantly running aground on the bank. After a few strategic swaps, be began to make progress down the river. The rain/drizzle held on until about 2:30 in the afternoon, but then the sun came out and we had a beautiful afternoon. Several canoes tipped over in the rapids but we made it to the Alum Ford boat ramp where we planned to camp at around 6:15PM. There is a campground with 6 campsites at the boat ramp but all of the sites were occupied by the time we got there so we camped in teh grass next to the boat ramp. We setup camp (most of our gear was dry but so of the dry bags had leaked) and had a pleasant dinner. After dinner, we packed up our food and cooking gear to bear proof our camp. Because our group was so large we had about 200lbs of food/cooking gear distributed between 11 bags. The load was so heavy the scouts were only able to hoist it up about 6 or 7 feet up and we didn't have another rope long enough to make a second line. I think we would have only been safe against a short handicapped bear, but the food far enough from our tents to achieve the main goal of keeping bears away from our camp. Sunday morning was very foggy but not as cold as forecast. We had breakfast, packed up camp, and loaded the canoes by around 10:30AM and by then we had bright sunshine. We stopped for lunch around 12:30 and got to the Hwy 927 river access around 2:30PM. Along the river we saw a beaver lodge, a couple of bald eagles, and some hawks, blue herons, and river otters. We loaded the canoes and were on the road home by about 3:30PM and were back at the church around 5:45PM.

Map of the Big South Fork River from Blue Heron to the Hwy 927 River Access.

Packing checklist

How to pack your gear so it will stay dry.

Here we are at the church loading our gear into the vehicles. It is raining.



Here we are at the Hwy 927 River Access. This is the the take-out point at the end of our trip so we are taking a good look so we can recognize it when we get there. We will leave the vehicles here for a quick get away when we are done.



Here we are at the Blue Heron River Access where we will start our trip. The outfitter shuttled us here in the yellow bus.




It was still raining at 11:30AM so we decided to have lunch before heading out.


We loaded our gear into the canoes and then carried them ~50 yards down to the river. The loaded canoes were pretty heavy for the younger scouts but with a littl;e help we all made it down to the water.



We were finally on the river at about 12:30PM. The rain was now just a heavy drizzle.






We passed under an old train trestle.


Heading on down the river.











The canoe I was in was the first to tip over in the rapids below the Yamacraw bridge. It was awesome!


Several of the other canoes tipped over here as well. But some made it through.




Becasue so many canoes were getting swamped, we deicided to portage the rest.


There were also a few rocky shoals where the water was fast and shallow, so we had to get out and push.

Here we are at one of the larger rapids that trys to send you under an overhanging rock at the bottom.































Taking a break from all that paddling.


Here we are camped by the boat ramp becasue the campground was full.



On Sunday moring the river was covered by fog, but it was not as cold as expected.


Here we are packing up and loading the canoes.





Back on the river at around 10:30AM Sunday morning.



We stopped for lunch around 12:30PM.



Here we are back at the Hwy 927 river access. The last thing we have to do is unload the canoes and carry our gear up the hill to where we parked.