|Class:||III/IV, 6" to 18"||Put-In:||Bridge near 1201 Martling Road, Albertville, AL or AL75 (Upper)|
|IV (IV+), 18" to 3'|
|Gradient:||90, 80, 15||Take-Out:||King Hollow (Boat ramp on AL 227, Albertville, AL)|
|Length:||4 miles + 3 mile lake paddle||Precip. Gages:||Albertville (TVA) Boaz (Real Time)|
|Shuttle:||CR 409 / CR414 / Rt. 227||Delorme Gazeteer:||P. 26 B1/B2|
|Water Q:||Primary Gage:||Rt. 75 Bridge|
|PICTURES||Indicator Gage:||Short Creek (StreamBeam)|
|TRIP REPORT||Required Level:||1.5'|
Short Creek has a squeaky-clean 18-foot waterfall, a thick stack of quality rapids and relatively straightforward (though strenuous) access logistics. Some people find fault with the water quality, a few manky sections, and the non-trivial lake paddle but despite this Short remains a favorite Alabama run and deserves strong consideration in any weekend of boating. In addition to the whitewater, the wildlife can also be interesting. A friendly goat, a pack of fluffy dogs, deer, coyotes, herons, and even eagles have been spotted at various points. Upper Short affords a nice 1 hour warm-up before the steep section and is a better parking option considering the rash of break-ins that have occurred on the other bridges. At the Martling Road bridge, the run begins with mellow class II warmup with a few III's at higher water. Downed trees are the main obstacle here; river wide log jams are common and some small slot rapids sometimes harbor wood. After two miles of easy water, another bridge comes into sight, signaling the approach of the main event: Short Creek Falls. Eddy out on the left downstream of the bridge, before the river left wall becomes a bluff blocking your exit.
The falls are very friendly and can be run just about anywhere that has water going over. Depending on where you go it's an 18 or 20 foot drop. The traditional line is about 10 feet off the left bank. Just don't go too far left, because if you land on the wrong side of the boil at the bottom, it will shove you into the mildly undercut shelf on the bottom left, where an amusing display of carping will likely ensue. Set safety from on top of this shelf. Eddy out behind it, hike back up and run it again. You can paddle behind the falls on the river right side, and watch your friends go over from behind the curtain. Pretty neat. After you get bored of the falls, a few class II-III boogie rapids follow. Keep an eye on the scenery ahead; when you see a sheer cliff face ahead on the right as the river bends left, Grotto Falls is coming up. Following a small slide and ledge combo, beach yourself on the large rock outcropping that divides the flow to scout Grotto. The main line is just a couple feet to the left of the rock you landed on, an easy 8- footer with big boof potential. At low water, keep your boat angled right to miss a piton rock on the left side of this drop. This can also be run further river left as a double drop, just stay away from the undercut bank.
Immediately following Grotto Falls is the infamous Tornado Sluice, which has caused many swims over the years. The line is down the turbulent left channel, entering from either side of a rock which divides the flow. You want to be on the right side of the chute as you finish off, angling downriver, to avoid the recirculating eddy and rock wall at the bottom left. If you get pushed into the wall, just ride it out and roll up before the creek gets too shallow.
Another short pool separates Tornado Sluice from Divided Highway, named for a large fin rock which serves as a median separating two potential routes. Most take the right lane, entering just right of center and merging with oncoming traffic to stay afloat. The left line is navigable at medium flow and above, but has potential to cause traffic jams due to a sneaky pin rock. After the triple stack of Grotto, Tornado Sluice, and Divided Highway, some easy class II-III rapids follow until you reach Rock Cruncher, where two lines are possible. If it isn't an ELF day you can sneak down the left side, bouncing off a few rocks and into the pool below the rapid. The normal line is to work from center to river right, above a narrow slot against the right bank. From the eddy above the slot, shoot down and through a series of small holes. No doubt you'll spot a juicy mushroom of water at the bottom ripe for a boof but watch out! A nasty flake rock is right in the center below the mushroom. Skim the left or right side to avoid getting crunched.
More easy stuff follows Rock Cruncher, including an island rapid where you start right and cross to river left. The next significant rapid starts after a long pool, where the river doglegs right and the left and center are obscured by large rocks. Take the right side here, following the main tongue of current over a few small shoals, then work back left when possible to find a fun boof against the left bank. Get your guard up now, because a dangerously sticky hole known as Little Woodall is coming up soon. After the aforementioned boof, work back to center and then right around a few boulders, and then bolt for a big eddy on the left bank beside a tall rectangular boulder. Most of the current goes river right over a 3-foot, boxed in hole, which I have personally spent time recirculating in and do not recommend that experience to anyone. The conservative line is to bang down the wet rocks at the bottom of the eddy, but if you have the soft goods you can boof the hole. Make sure you have some buddies ready to rope you out from the right.
After Little Woodall, a long boogie rapid leads to the confluence with Scarham Creek. Hike up and take a look at the last rapid on this tributary, known as Terminator (class IV or V), and run it if it looks good to go. Below here the creek widens significantly, and with the added flow from Scarham, presents some good play opportunities to celebrate finishing the hard stuff. Surf waves and fun boofs abound. In the old write-up Mark D. mentioned a good ender hole in the 2nd rapid past the confluence on river right, best at low water. On the last rapid before the lake, you can find a fun boof in a ditch on far river right if you look hard enough. The last eddy line on river left (or is it lake left?) is also good for stern squirts. Once you reach the flatwater, celebrate the fact that you made it down the notorious Short Crick, and prepare yourself for the 45-minute, 3-mile paddle out. Just follow the channel all the way to the boat ramp. When the lake doglegs to the left for the first time, don't get too close to the island or you'll run aground. On the right shore of the dogleg, Dry Creek comes in. It's easy to hike up and get a look at the last few rapids, if you're interested in running it.
There is a physical painted gauge on the river-right, downstream side of the upstream span (there are 2 spans) of the AL 75 bridge. Wow that was a mouthful. It reads roughly 1 foot lower than the StreamBeam gauge. If you get a visual of this, send the date/time and level to team at streambeam.net or post it on the North Alabama Paddlesports Facebook page and tag either Brian Bartlett or Gaylon Partain to help develop the correlation.
For what it's worth, we've run it at 4-5" on the AL 75 gauge and it was still doable and fun. A few rapids downstream of the falls required some creative maneuvering to run, but we didn't have to get out of our boats.
- write-up provided by Kellis Kincaid (with edits by Gaylon Partain, Mark D.)