Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau is home to a surprising amount of unspoiled wildlands. It’s a place where the space between cities is filled by forests and hills, and the main highways are not paved roads, but rivers. The Obed Wild and Scenic River is one of these highways, cutting a path from Crossville to its junction with the Emory River, offering one of the longest stretches of white water in the Southeast. Spend a few hours or a few days among the the rocks, water, and trees in this stunning river gorge.
What Makes It Great
What starts out as a modest creek in Crossville picks up volume quickly, and descends rapidly into one of the Cumberland Plateau’s major river gorges, though it remains hidden from the view of any major roadway for the entirety of its length. The Obed runs nearly 35 miles from Crossville to Nemo Bridge on the Emory, and is the Southeast’s premier overnight white water trip.
The Obed can also be broken into four quality day sections or shorter overnighters, the best of which is the final 12 miles from the confluence of Daddy’s Creek to the Emory. This section contains classic rapids with humorously overstated names like “Ohmigod!” and “Widow Maker,” as well as plenty of fun boogie water in between.
The character of the river on all its sections is textbook sandstone gorge pool drop, with intermittent boulder-strewn rapids punctuated by long section of flatwater, hemmed in by towering bluffs and seemingly boundless forest. Between the put in and take out locations, there is very little sign of human influence other than the occasional hiking trail or 4×4 road that reaches the river. Camping is allowed anywhere away from roads, and good spots are plentiful but unmarked.
Who is Going to Love It
Anyone who loves getting away from it all will enjoy a trip on the Obed. This run is suitable for kayaks and rafts with experienced paddlers or rowers. Most of the rapids are scoutable by boat, but don’t be afraid to get out and look, because the nature of rapids can change dramatically with water levels.
As one of the best multi-day runs in the Southeast, this river is perfect for getting a taste of wilderness white water, and dialing your systems for taking on bigger trips out West or elsewhere in the world.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Section 1: Highway 127 in Crossville to Adams Bridge on Genesis Rd (10 miles) Section 2: Adams Bridge to Potter’s Ford Bridge on Potter’s Ford Rd (4 miles) Section 3: Potter’s Ford to Obed Junction (Daddy’s Creek confluence) accessible via Potters Chapel Rd (12 miles) Section 4: Obed Junction to Nemo Bridge on Catoosa Rd (10 miles)
These sections can all be done together for one long multi-day trip, but Section 1 is not always done because of water level and lack of quality rapids. The “classic” multi-day is to link sections 2-4 with 1-3 nights of camping. The most popular day stretch is Section 4 because it contains the most white water and best rapids.
Originally written for BCBS of Tennessee.