Noteworthy Paddle in TAG: Battle Creek
Marion County, Tennessee
Activities: Paddling, Swimming, Nature Appreciation, Fishing
Battle Creek is located in the northern portion of the Guntersville Lake section of the Tennessee River Basin in Marion County, Tennessee. It was so named because of the many bloody Indian battles on the creek banks in the early 1800’s. From its headwaters in Ladds Cove, it tumbles down the southern side of the Cumberland Plateau and officially begins as Battle Creek near the Jumpoff Cove Branch. The creek travels for just over 18 miles and loses over 200 feet of elevation in the first eleven miles before it empties into the Tennessee River near the South Pittsburg Municipal Park. The water levels in the creek are generally regulated by the Guntersville Dam, however in periods of high rainfall it can flood and is not recommended paddling during that time. In it's lower section near the Tennessee River, the creek averages 20-30 feet wide or more and over 5 feet deep. In it's upper free flowing section it is only about 20 feet wide and only about 2 feet deep.
Battle Creek drains a long narrow valley with over ten major coves along its route and is fed by two major tributaries; Sweeten’s Cove entering from the west at mile 6, which is 5.5 miles long itself and Big Fiery Gizzard which enters from the east at mile 10 and is just over 4 miles long. Battle creek is a typical mountain stream, small and narrow and is bordered by steep cliffs in some areas and has bubbling and clear water in pools in others. It twists and turns its way thru the cove while the loose sand, quartz and mica fragments in the bottom shine light making the water appear clear. The water can be cold but feels great during the warmer months.
The Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation has rated Battle Creek with exceptional biological diversity. It contains rainbow and brown trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass, black perch, yellow perch, sunfish, and many kinds of minnows. The streambed is also rich in crustaceans and there is almost always a hatch of stoneflies, caddisflies or mayflies rising from the stream. There is also abundant wildlife that use the creek such as deer, beavers, minks, squirrels, rabbits, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, hawks and even snakes. The dense brush along the banks of the creek even offer shelter for dozens of species of birds. Also along the banks of the creek you will find an abundance of wild flowers and trees such as walnut, hickory, oak, maple, and dogwoods just to name a few.
There are two public put ins/take outs for Battle Creek, however the creek is gentle enough that you do not have to shuttle vehicles and can simply paddle up and down the creek and put in and take out at the same area with ease. The easiest of the two is at the South Pittsburg Municipal Park. It provides a boat ramp and there is a short distance paddle up the Tennessee River to the mouth of Battle Creek. Here at the mouth of the creek you will pass a few barge tie ups and remains of a railroad bridge that was constructed just over 100 years ago. The second put in/take out is a 145 acre TVA tract which contains bottomland forest and wetlands. However, this put in/take out does not have a boat ramp but instead you have to carry your boat a short distance thru the woods into the creek. It is located on Hwy 72 near the Interstate 24 on ramp. From the South Pittsburg Municipal Park to the TVA land it is an approximate 2 ¼ miles. Total you can float about 7 miles upstream on a good day before the water gets too low. Battle Creek flows alongside Interstate 24 so while it’s abundant with wildlife and gorgeous scenery, you still have the noise pollution of a nearby interstate.