Level: Medium/Low, S. Sauty=4’11” (Old gauge, ~17" on current Bucks Pocket gauge), Town ~1000 cfs after a peak of about 1400.
The government slobs were once again able to sucker out a member of the working class. We decided that Black Oak at 0’ and South Sauty at 4’11” were less and more than we wanted. Instead we fed the new water bulldog. Thanks go out to Greg Helton for telling us about these two creeks. They are tributaries of South Sauty that join together and then feed into S. Sauty a couple hundred yards above the usual put-in for the premier human (Class IV) Sand Mountain run. Kirby is the larger of the two creeks with a gradient of 40 ft/mile over 2.5 miles while Stringer drops about 30 feet in 1 mile.
We finally got started on a chilly but good water day at about 12:30. Chris’ many years of weekend warriorship finally paid dividends in the form of some excellent map navigation. We quickly found ourselves in Rock City, a tiny burb wherein lies the last bridge over Kirby Creek. Kirby starts off with about 3 bangs formed at least in part by broken down old millworks on sloping ledges. Two 10’ slides are punctuated by potential pinning rocks on their bottom right.The run continues with generally slide type rapids of a drop/pool nature. Rapids never get over class III but are surprisingly big for a creek this small. Both creeks exhibit rather non-boulder obstructed rapids, most likely due to the fact that they are on top of the Sand Mountain plateau and as such do not have cliff walls beside them from which to deposit rocks in the streambed. Once Stringer joins Kirby, the rapids continue until S. Sauty is reached. Kirby is remotely similar to upper Short because the water constricts down to form a rather turbulent stretch at a place or two. Brief but enjoyable spells of eddy hopping are encountered. Playspots are available and to top it all off you can run the 8’ put-in drop on S. Sauty. Only twice on Kirby and once on Stringer did we encounter logs that had to be avoided, another pleasant surprise for such narrow runs.
We took off Kirby at about 2:30. The others lobbied for reason but the bulldog demanded more. Specifically, an 8’ waterfall on Stringer just upstream of its confluence with Kirby. Not to be labeled weenies, safety conscious, or some other non-studly term the open boats reluctantly agreed to put on Stringer at 3:00 after a quite snack and a 12 minute round trip shuttle. Not to worry. Stringer was mostly flatwater with only one or two drops before a long slide rapid preceding the falls. The falls were on the scrapy side and Dave once again opted to experience all the water had to offer during an out-of-boat experience just after impact with the pool at the bottom. After that we surf/blitzed our way down and were at the truck by 4:00. Two new creeks in one day! The bulldog is temporarily satisfied.
What does it all mean? The creeks are class III but should not interest those unwilling or unable to cope with fairly large drops featuring potential penalties. They are an amusing option should you have pretty good water on the mountain but don’t want the Town/BlackOak take-out, the Short/Scarham flatwater paddle, or the S. Sauty commitment. It took us about 2 hrs to run Kirby with ample scouting of the first few rapids. I would guess that you would not want to run these creeks with less than 4’6” on the S. Sauty gage (12" current B.P., or Town ~800 cfs). Kirby could also serve as a run extender for S. Sauty should you want such a thing.
Quote of the run: Chris Parker: “This is about as hard as the rapids on S. Sauty, right?” Others:“Ha, ha, ha...”