Alabama Whitewater

Fagan Creek

  • Run
    Fagan Creek
  • Class
    III (IV+/V)
  • Put In
    Alms House Trail, Land Trust Parking Lot, Bankhead Parkway
  • Take Out
    End of Cleermont Rd, Wildflower trailhead **NOTE - SEE BELOW
  • Length
    0.8
  • Gradient
    190'
  • Watershed
    0.3 square miles
  • Primary Gage
    • None Visual- 6" of water at Tel-Fair Road
  • Indicator Gage

Description

Unlike Birmingham, which has several micro creeks that are best run during or immediately after big rains, Fagan may be Huntsville's only local worthwhile ditch within city limits. Bert Harris provides the following:

The stretch of Fagan Creek just below its source in the Huntsville Land Trust's beautiful Monte Sano preserve is a hidden metro Huntsville flash flood quickie. I have been looking at this stretch of local micro micro (did I say micro?) creek for years and I have been skunked many times. I finally succeeded in finding water in the streambed on November 15, 2006 after ~1.7 in of rain fell in 18 hrs. If anyone has run this before please let me know! This run is definitely dependent on very recent heavy rain. Ideally, one would put on during a thunderstorm. If you are driving near 5 points and find the streets covered with water and the drainage ditches unable to keep up, you might be in business. If you see big thunderstorms in the forecast, it might be advisable to go to work with your boat on your car. Indeed, this run could be done during a long lunch break.

The water level can be assessed where Tel-Fair road crosses the creek and at the takeout where Cleermont road dead ends into the Land Trust. I made the run when there was 6 inches of water in the city drainage just downstream of the bridge on Tel Fair (see photo). This level was low but actually not scrapy below Calcite Falls. I would not put on with any less water and much more would be advisable.

When I put on I expected this creek would resemble Big Cove Creek (on the other side of Monte Sano Mountain above Cove Creek subdivision) in its very low quality rapids, but I was pleasantly surprised with one easy quality rapid, numerous low-angle bedrock slides, and a very continuous overall character. The run was quite long too, ~ 0.8 mi. Needless to say, the access is much easier and much more legal than that at Big Cove Creek. The put in involves and [relatively] easy carry downhill, the take out is roadside and they both lie on public land! It was clean too-I only had to walk around three trees on the whole run, an amazingly low number on such a micro creek (it has subsequently been chopped out on Thanksgiving Day 2006, so should be pretty clean for a while anyway).

The run begins where the Alms House trail crosses the creek in the Land Trust. The coolest and most dangerous drop on the run, called Bama Box, is right at the put in. It involves an 8 ft drop onto limestone through a narrow box slot. At my water level this one was a definite no-go unless your spine is feeling too short. A bit more water though, would make this rapid very tempting. Just upstream of the put in is Sugar Falls, another rocky class V that would require a little more water. I actually did not inspect Sugar or the rapid at the source just upstream during my run-I checked them a few hours later after the water had dropped. If these upper three rapids become runnable with higher water, this run might be worth it for non-Huntsvillians. I feel confident that they are runnable, the trick is being able to catch this thing with water. I did not arrive as quickly as I should have-I put on about 1 hr after the rain had finished. This suggests (1) that the creek holds water better than might be expected and (2) it does sometimes get high enough to run the three upper rapids.

Below Bama Box lies Calcite Falls, a fun easy 8 ft drop that is vertical on the right and a slide on the left. Below Calcite, the string of low angle bedrock limestone slides begins just after a section laced with trees and multiple channels. Many of the slides are long and there are few eddies. There are a few easy boulder type rapids also, the best of which is located at the confluence of a large tributary that comes in from the left over half way down.

I would give this run an overall III- rating due to its continuous nature and the possibility for wood. This rating assumes the water is too low for the top three class Vs. Don't forget to use the proper take out. A mistake here could cost you big time. The problem of course is that the window is so short for this creek. I have a feeling that visually seeing the drainage ditches and streets fill up with water is the best indicator. I imagine 2.5 feet on the Adams st gauge is the minimum. Mainly the gauge needs to be spiking up.

Put In
Intersection of Alms House trail and Fagan Creek. Park at the Huntsville Land Trust parking lot on Bankhead Pky and walk down Alms House trail, across the power line clearing and down to the creek.

GPS coord:
34 deg 44.50' N
86 deg 32.57' W
~870 ft el

Take Out-DANGER-SEE NOTE BELOW**
Wildflower trail trailhead at the end of Cleermont Rd.

GPS coord:
34 deg 44.29' N
86 deg 33.18' W
~720 ft el

Directions to take out: From put-in (Land Trust parking lot on Bankhead Pky) go down hill on Bankhead and turn left on Toll Gate Rd. Go past the apartments and turn left on Mountainwood Dr. Mountainwood dead ends into Owens dr -turn right. Go less than ~ 0.25 mile on Owens and turn left on Watts Dr. After a short way on Watts you will see the bridge over the creek on Tel-Fair Dr on your left. Turn left on Tel Fair and check the level (BUT DO NOT USE THIS TAKEOUT). Tel Fair dead ends into Cleermont. Turn left on Cleermont and follow it until it dead-ends into the Land Trust. This is the take out.

**BE SURE TO TAKE OUT AT THE WILDFLOWER TRAIL TRAILHEAD AT THE END OF CLEERMONT RD. It is tempting to take out at the bridge on Tel Fair Dr. but this is a very dangerous spot. The city drainage ditch begins at the bridge and the concrete walls create an ABSOLUTELY INESCAPABLE SITUATION at higher water. You could easily flush into the flooded tree- and pipe-filled ditch downstream.

Details

  • Class
    III (IV+/V)
  • Gradient
    190'
  • Length
    0.8
  • Watershed Size
    0.3 square miles
  • Put In
    Alms House Trail, Land Trust Parking Lot, Bankhead Parkway
  • Take Out
    End of Cleermont Rd, Wildflower trailhead **NOTE - SEE BELOW
  • Shuttle
    Bankhead Pky / Toll Gate / Mountainwood / Owens / Watts / Tel-Fair
  • Water Quality
    water quality ( 2 chickens | 1 = Good, 3 = Gross)
  • Primary Gage
    • None Visual- 6" of water at Tel-Fair Road
  • Indicator Gage
  • Precip. Gage

Map

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