Myself and a party consisting of my wife, son (6 yrs old as of 4/12/02) and two of my nieces (ages 14 & 16 and first time paddlers) paddled Big Wills on 4/20/02 from Stephen's Gap Rd to US Hwy 431.
The put in was a very easy 50 yard portage with a nice sandy/muddy launch area safely out of the fairly slow current. There were three fairly large log jams within the first 2 miles one which requires about a 200 yd portage (around a barbed wire fence on a very small ledge the first 15 yds or so). The most disappointing part of the trip comes early. The best rapid on the creek (class I/II narrow slide approx. 6 ft @ a 45 degree slant with standing waves at the bottom) is completely blocked by several log jams the largest being a 3ft in diameter fallen oak tree and involves the above mentioned difficult portage. There are a few widely spaced shoals and two more easy to cross (which we did even with a six year old) or portage log jams. It took us about 4 hours to complete the upper section of the run which is approx. 9 miles. This could have been done in 3.5 hr. with constant strong paddling.
The second section starts at Bruton Bridge Rd. I would recommend this section to anyone. Three very easy to portage or cross log jams are the only obstruction in a 3 hour approx. 6 mile float. This section has less flatwater between the shoals, there is however no serious whitewater. Only one that approaches class I (at 507.8 ft on the Henry Dam via 1-800-LAKES-11). Wild life was abundant as were wading cows. We saw several Wood Ducks, one hen with ducklings, which feigned injury to bait us away from her babies. One trickling waterfall could be spotted on river left falling from one of many high bluffs in this section. The take out is between the South bound bridge and the railroad bridge on river right. Take out is easy but requires either a vehicle other than a passenger car (due to ground clearance), or a 75 yard portage through some mud. This section is a great float for any one of any level of experience looking for a fairly short, fun, relaxing run with excellent scenery.
- Jerry Jones