Yesterday I went kayaking with cavers. Kinda ironic. But the cavers seem to be more inclined than my whitewater brethren to paddling flatwater and class I creeks, so I was was glad to be invited to join the cavers on a trip down Brushy Creek in the Bankhead National Forest, in Northwest-central Alabama. The Bankhead is home to the much more famous Sipsey River, which is a wonderful canoe-camping river that Brushy Creek flows parallel to; both empty into Smith Lake.
The original plan of most of the cavers was to do an overnighter on Brushy for a total of 18 miles. I signed up for a 7.5 mile day float of the first section, and the entire group opted to make it a daytrip instead, due to a big storm predicted for the next day. We met at the put-in which is Brushy Lake, a very nice forest service maintained fishing spot with fee parking and clean bathrooms.
I paddled my Sevylor inflatable K1, a $99 purchase on closeout from Academy Sports. For this trip, its maiden voyage, the Sevlor K1 was perfect. It is light; I could carry it by myself over portages. It also has plenty of space for storage in case I did want to do an overnighter in it. It doesn't take a lot of muscle to inflate with a decent size hand air pump. It stores in a zipped plastic fabric case that I can pack in the back seat of my car. It comes with a sea yak style spray skirt. No thigh hooks or straps so rolling it would be... challenging... but for the light class I-II shoals we encountered it was great.
After crossing Brushy Lake, a few hundred yards paddle, there is a portage over the dam.
I guesstimate the dam to be around 11-15 feet high. There is a rugged little trail around the river right of the dam.
Brushy has many downed trees in it, and one of the first ones has a well-worn portage trail on river right. All of the others had a decent way around or under the trees at the level we were at, which was 500ish on the Sipsey gauge.
Brushy Creek has several nice shoals/rapids and the water is a beautiful blue color.
One of the rapids consists of a boulder garden that is a pretty fun zig-zag.
There are no roads nearby, especially once you're below Beech Creek, an optional put-in at high water that joins Brushy a couple of miles downstream of the 'normal' Brushy put-in.
The scenery is gorgeous; sandstone and limestone bluffs, some of them huge undercut shelters with dripping water...
High walls at times, ,
and countless secret coves with waterfalls.
We had lunch just downstream of a long set of class I shoals:
While we had lunch one other group of three boaters in rec boats came through. I was very surprised to see anyone else besides us on the creek. It's that 'under the radar'. I imagine the Sipsey had quite a crowd on it.
The finale of the trip was at a tributary to Brushy called Sougahoagdee Creek. It comes in about a mile above the take-out on river right. Stop and walk a couple hundred yards upstream to Sougahoagdee Falls. It's worth the trip!
There is supposed to be a primitive trail to Sougahoagdee Falls from a Forest Service road, and we talked about backpacking to it once the water is too low to paddle, which it almost always is - catching Brushy Creek on a good weather and water day is reportedly a rare treat.
I took some video with my new Panasonic camera in my pfd pocket going down one rapid, and then took some video at Sougahoagdee Falls. I put the clips together and posted them here:
The take-out is a low water bridge, but I didn't have any more space on my SD card to take any photos of it. When we shuttled cars the water was close to the bottom of the bridge. The water had dropped so much that by the time we got to the bridge we could safely paddle under it. We were on the water from 11 am to 4:30 pm.
It was a wonderful, and exhausting day.
Forgot this extra detail - at the take-out Jeff handed us each our own fake moustache:
More Brushy Creek pics at: