Information on Bear Creek (Middle Big Piney Tributary)

Bear Creek (Middle Big Piney Tributary)

	Rating: III-V *
	TDCR: ????
	Location: Go 4 miles West on Hwy 123 from Pelsor (Sand Gap) and take
		Forest Service Road 1802 South at Bertha. The road runs the
		ridge on the West Side of Indian Creek. Drive about 1.3
		miles and look for a deer camp on the left. Park at the
		camp and carry down the trail directly across the road. The
		trail immediately passes by a small pond. Follow the trail
		North to the end of the knob and follow the trail 3/4 down
		the mountain. The trail continues North and crosses a small
		creek. Bushwhack to the left on the North side of the creek
		to the main creek. This is where the 3 upper forks come
		together at the beginning of a long slide. (Elevation 1490)
		Reach the take-out by going East from the Hwy 123 bridge
		over the Piney for 1/4 mile. The Hwy crosses over Sugar
		Creek in a right hand turn then curves left up the hill.
		Look for the first road to the left (South). Another deer
		camp is located here. A 4WD trail leads 1/4 mile to the
		creek just above the confluence with the Big Piney.
		(Elevation 720) 
	Topo Quad(s): Fort Douglas
	Gradient: 185 fpm
	Length: 4 mi
	Season: FLOOD
	Gauge: Gage at Richland Campground should to be above 6 or headed
		that way. Look for 1.5" or more rain at the Deer and Ben
		Hur rain gages, at the BNR Data Page. Rain must have fallen
		within the last 6 to 12 hours. If the Sugar Creek just East
		of the Hwy 123 bridge over the Piney is flowing good, it's
		a definite run! 
	Hazards:  Undercut ledges and rocks, overhanging branches,
		strainers, waterfalls. Very tight in places (pinning
		hazards). Don't broach in "Mama Bear Falls" and beware of
		"Papa Bear Falls". The "Bear Trap" is a nasty undercut 3/4
		of the way down the creek after section of class II water.
		The first 1.25 miles drops at 300 ft/mile. 
	Description: First known descent was December 12, 1999 by Lance Jones,
		Cowper Chadbourn, Greg Churan, Shelby Johnson, Mitchell
		Ford, Graham Henry and Jeff Riley. The creek starts out fast
		and narrow with a 50-60 yard long stair stepping slide
		ending in a steep funnel dropping 10-12 feet. The creek is
		very narrow as is starts to cut into the gorge, several
		long slides and boulder fields are encountered in the
		first 1/2 miles. At this point be on the lookout for a
		small creek crashing in on the left. Immediately below the
		confluence is the "Bear Pin". A cluttered approach makes
		the left side boof difficult. A vertical pin is very
		likely with a missed boof. A few hundred yards downstream
		the creek turns 90 degrees to the left as a small
		tributary enters on the right. Get out on the river left
		and portage the inside of the corner around the multiple
		logjams. This is the end of the warm-up. The creek drops
		200 feet in the next 2/3 mile! Maximum gradient tops out
		over 550 ft/mile in this section. After a couple of nice
		drops the creek sweeps to the right and cuts back to the
		left around a steep right bank. Eddy out and scout the
		next boulder jumble, "Bear Claw". There are multiple
		routes through the jumble and pinning is very possible.
		Low water runs through here are tight and bumpy. Only a
		couple smaller drops separate the end of "Bear Claw" and
		the entrance slide to "Baby Bear Falls". This is a very
		clean and very beautiful 15+ drop. A gentle slide
		transitions into a 45 degree slope then empties into a
		fantastic grotto pool over a 8-10 ft waterfall. Enjoy the
		view and be ready to scout the next big drop less than 100
		yards downstream. "Mama Bear Falls" starts with a 20 yard
		gentle slide 20 feet wide then drops 15+ feet at a very
		steep angle as it funnels into a 4 foot wide notch. After
		leaving the notch the water fans out over bedrock as it
		pushes toward the left overhanging wall. Eddy out above
		the next horizon line. Scout and/or portage on the left
		for the big boy, "Papa Bear Falls". The creek splits into
		two narrow slots around a large boulder in the middle of
		the 15-foot wide creek. The water drops 12+ feet from each
		slot into a 8-10 ft wide cauldron. The exit from the
		cauldron is through a 3-5 ft wide 15 ft deep sluice that
		is 50-60 feet long and makes a jog to the left in the
		middle. The sluice looked nasty at the low water level, a
		flip or pin in there will be disastrous. The water exits
		the sluice over a 10 foot drop out of a wall into another
		picture perfect grotto pool. This was the only drop not
		run on the first descent. This is truly a unique drop. The
		creek calms down a little for half-mile before entering a
		mini gorge recognized by the return of large boulders to
		the creek. Pick you way through the slots. The creek
		returns to calm fast class II, but don't get lulled just
		yet. A small tributary will enter on the left as the creek
		takes a hard right turn. Again boulders reappear in the
		creek. After a slot to the left cuts back to the right
		along a steep shale bank, look for a very large boulder on
		the left followed by another very large on the right bank.
		Cut to the left immediately behind the first boulder and
		scrape down the boat-wide channel. The main channel stays
		to the right toward and UNDER the second Boulder. It is
		very difficult to recognize until you are right on it or
		know it is there. This one is apply named "Bear Trap".
		Fast class II water takes you the last mile to just above
		the confluence with the Piney. Look for the 4WD trail on
		the right just as a field comes into view. Like other
		micro-volume creeks, meaningful ratings are difficult to
		establish on the accepted International scale. At lower
		levels, the creek will seem like a very technical Class
		III, with much rock bashing, scraping, and some portages.
		At higher levels, several rapids are expected to become
		solid Class V.  A tip o' the hat to Lance Jones for a
		write-up of this great Ozark steepie!
		See Lance Jones' Pages for more info on Bear Cr.

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