From Alf Van Hoose:
We put in on a cold day at about noon. The West Fork gauge downstream (now defunct - editor) had peaked several hours earlier at 2000 cfs and was reading 1700 cfs Sunday at noon. The North Branch of the West Fork was running bank full at a level that was uncomfortable for this run. The pipes under the bridge were about 1/2 full and a footbridge about 1/4 mile downstream was mostly less than 1/2 foot above the current. If you try this run at this level (or higher!) get nervous!! Branches across the water constantly block your vision and the logs are usually stuck in fast current or in the channels around the few boulders during the first two miles. During the fourth (fifth?, sixth?) portage mostly thru a jungle of plants on the shore I asked myself "Why are you doing this?". Good question. I will let you know when I have a good answer!
About two miles downstream shortly after passing a house visible on river right the river drops out of sight between boulders on the right center. Whoever runs this boulder choked rapid that drops about 12 vertical feet in a twisty channel gets to name it. Until then I call it Not Today. After all it was a cold day, I was tired from portaging strainers, it was my first run this year, etc, etc, etc. Note that there is a trail on river right that leads to the shore below Not Today. This would be a very good put-in for this run if it is OK with the landowners there. I am not sure what state we were in there. If that rapid were on the state line we could name it Welcome to Alabama.
The next 1 1/2 miles were more enjoyable with only two logs that required a portage. Then the 1/2 mile above the confluence with the East Branch of the West Fork was fun. Fairly continuous Class III at our level that was mostly easy to see from upstream. It is not clear whether those rapids should be rated Class II or III at normal levels
The East Branch doubled the volume of the river. The channel became much wider but the gradient became much flatter. It would have been a pleasant float to Taylor Ford except for 3 more portages. This time the problem was man made. Damn dams! The hydraulic below the first dam was the worst keeper I have seen in years. About 1000 cfs smoothly poured over a river wide horizon line causing a back suck from 10 to 15 feet downstream. The second dam could probably be run far right down a slide but we portaged on general principles. I was too tired to scout the third dam closely. We carried all dams on river right.
In general this run was not very scenic. But perhaps the gray overcast weather was partly responsible for my lack of interest in the riverbank scenery. I only recommend this run for those who want to run something new and are willing to portage numerous logs mostly stuck in the first two miles. If the North Branch was clear of wood then I would rate this run class II+ with one class IV+ rapid. But it is risky to run the upper part of the North Branch at any level because the logs are bad and the visibility is often very short range like about 20 feet!
Shuttle: From Mentone AL drive east on AL 117. Turn left (north) on Dekalb CR 631 (Cove Rd) after crossing the narrow bridge over the West Fork Drive about 1 1/4 miles then turn left on the dirt road (CR 517) that winds about 100 yards to the river left side of Taylor Ford. Drive back to Mentone then turn right at the CR 89 intersection. Drive about 9 miles northeast along the rim of Lookout Mountain then turn right at the Sulphur Springs Gap intersection. Drive about 3/4 mile on Sulphur Springs Road to the river bridge. Note that this road is named "Sulphur Springs" on the west and "Yankee" on the east of that intersection.