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The Sipsey Fork, Bankhead National Forest

     GPS Data is available begining at Cranal Road Access and terminating at Hwy 33 Access (requires a Garmin Reciever and the Waypoint+ program).

     The Sipsey River's Flow (ft³/s) and Stage (ft) can be obtained at The United States Geological Survey's web-site. The minimum Stage (ft) I currently recommend for canoeing this river is 4.0 ft. You will probably drag the bottom of your canoe if the Stage is below this point.

     The Sipsey Fork is located in Bankhead National Forest and runs from the Sipsey Wilderness into Smith Lake. The Sipsey Fork begins where Thompson Creek and Hubbard Creek merge within the Sipsey Wilderness. The Sipsey Fork is a peaceful float trip combined with the beautiful scenery and great camping that distinguishes the Bankhead from other National Forests. Canoeing the Sipsey Fork you will pass magnificent walls of rock which has been carved for thousands of years by the erosive power of water. As the Sipsey Fork begins to merge with Smith Lake the creek becomes non-turbulent and wide. This area must be paddled but offers a slow-pace if interested in fishing or just a slow-paced family trip.

Sections of the Sipsey Fork:

     Section C (Upper Sipsey Fork) makes a great day trip as well as Section D (Lower Sipsey Fork). Section C has a diverse combination of canoeing enjoyment which consists of many scenic rock formations and fauna, rapids, shoals, and deep water. Section D offers many large and scenic cliffsides but consists mostly of paddleing in contrast to Section C. Both Section C and Section D offers fishing for Stripe Bass, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Rock Bass, Bream, and Crappie.
     Section A (Borden Creek) combined with Section C (Upper Sipsey Fork) make a great overnite trip with plenty of camping on both sides of the water. Section B (Thompson Creek) combined with Section C offers a longer overnite trip as well as a some rapids and a shoot. Section C combined with Section D (Lower Sipsey Fork) offers a good 2 night trip or a swift overnite trip.

Section A (Borden Creek):

     Section A is mostly on Borden Creek and a few hundred yards on The Sipsey Fork. The put-in for Section A is at Borden Creek Access and the take-out is at the Cranal Road Access. The Borden Creek is shallow but becomes deeper as you approach the Sipey Fork. Contiue on Borden Creek until reaching the Sipsey Fork which is slightly larger than Borden Creek as they merge. The take-out is just a few hundred yards after merging with the Sipsey Fork at the Cranal Road Access.
     The scenery of the Borden Creek is very scenic, you will see large boulders in and around the creek. The large cliffs which characterize the Sipesy Wilderness and the Bankhead National Forest hang just above the floodplain's of Borden Creek. At some points these cliffs meet the edge of Borden Creek along with small water tunnels and large boulders. Borden Creek has many sandbars and small passages which may require getting out and pulling the canoe thru during the dryer months. The entire left side of the creek is paralleled by trail FS200 which offers many campsites utilized by backpackers. The right side of the creek has an unnamed trail and offers many areas for camping as well. The unnamed trail on the right is often overlooked by backpackers and offers more privacy and less traffic than FS200.

Section B (Thompson Creek):

     Section B begins on Thompson Creek at the Thompson Creek Access and ends on the Sipsey Fork at the Cranal Road Access. Thompson Creek is very scenic offering a slow and peaceful float with many areas for a lunch or camping. As you reach deeper water and take a 180 degree turn to the right you will pass a creek which is a combination of Parker Branch, Quillan, and Hubbard Creek. This junction is the headwaters of the Sipsey Fork. The first few hundred yards of the Sipsey Fork are deep water which quickly turns to rapids and a shoot but is not a problem unless unusually high or low water. There are great campsites just before and during the shallow rapids and shoals. The Sipsey Fork continues for a few miles and join with Borden Creek and shortly ends at the Cranal Road bridge and the Cranal Road Access.

Section C (Upper Sipsey Fork):

     This section begins at the Cranal Road Access and ends in 8.8 miles at the Hwy 33 Access point. This trip offers the most diverse scenery and water conditions of all sections. From the Sipsey River Recreational the river is about 35-50 feet and stays around this width the entire section. The first two miles you will see large boulders that have been carved from the bluffs above which are visible through the Poplar, Oak, and Pine Trees of the floodplain. About 8 miles from the Cranal Road Access there is a large cliff that towers vertically from the waters edge. This section has camping areas which are isolated but are grown-up and hard to spot from the water. You will notice where an old bridge used to cross the river by concrete randomly located on the sides of the river, this has been refered to as Low Water Bridge but is no-longer standing. Soon after you will come to Hwy 33 bridge and Hwy 33 Access where you will take out on the left. Just after you pass the bridge way above on the cliffs there is a small waterfall which drops about 75 feet into the river.

Section D (Lower Sipsey Fork):

     Section D begins at the Hwy 33 Access and ends 5.4 miles at the Grindstone Creek Access. This trip is the most scenic of the sections but is mostly a paddle trip rather than a float. At the put-in and just below are the most scenic cliffsides of the Sipsey Fork, there are waterfalls plunging off the top of these cliffs directly into the creek some 75-100 feet below. The Sipsey Fork begins from the Cranal Road Access at around 50 feet and widens to around 200 as it approaches its destination of Smith Lake. Expect the current to die down at around 2 miles and begin paddleing until reaching the take-out. At around 2.5 miles there is a large under-cut cliffside on your right and then as you go around a bend they are on the right. There are small waterfalls off of these cliffs during wetter months. You will soon pass Payne Creek on your left. You will pass 2 small streams just after on your left and then approach high bluffs on your right which stetch down the river for about a mile. Just past these high bluffs look for Sandy Creek on your right and just after that the take-out on the left.


Access Points:

Thompson Creek Access:

     The Thompson Creek access can be located within the Sipsey Wilderness and is widely used by hikers for 2 main trails within the wilderness area. To get to the Thompson Creek access from the Ranger Station in Rabbittown on Hwy 195 turn at the Ranger Station onto county road 23 heading north. You will pass county road 60 (Cranal Road) on your right and soon after the road will turn to dirt. Continuing north on 23 you will pass a church and then a turn to your left which seems to be a fork (Forst Service 203), continue to strait which is a right-hand direction. Next turn to the right on FS208 and follow it to the Thompson Creek bridge which is the access area for Thompson Creek. The best put-in is on the side of the bridge you will be approaching on the left. Many horseriders let their horses drink here so there is a beaten path all year around.

Borden Creek Access:

     The Borden Creek access is located within the Sipsey Wilderness and is used by hikers to accessing trail 200 and 224. To get to the Borden Creek access, continue strait past the Sipsey Fork bridge on Cranal Road (read Cranal Road Access) and turn left on FS 224. FS 224 will dead end just before Borden Creek and the bridge. Put in on the left side of the bridge.

Cranal Road Access:

     The Cranal Road access can be located within the Sipsey Wilderness and is used by hikers accessing the FS trail 200 and 209 as well as the Sipsey River Recreation Area. To get to the Cranal Road access from the Ranger Station in Rabbittown on Hwy 195 turn at the Ranger Station onto county road 23 heading north. Take the first paved right turn onto Cranal Road or county road 60. Continue on Cranal Road until you cross the Sipsey Fork bridge. Just after the bridge turn right into the parking lot and park in the first parking area. There is a smaller bridge just under the main bridge for the parking lot designed for the Recreation Area's day use. Put the canoe in on the left side of the smaller bridge.

Hwy 33 Access:

     Hwy 33 access is located within the Bankhead National Forest and is located on Highway 33. To get to the Hwy 33 access follow Hwy33 from Double Springs until you cross a bridge over the Sipsey Fork. Just after the bridge take a right onto a gravel parking area. I leave my car in the parking lot but to put-in or take-out I drive my car down the gravel trail which leads to the water. At the end of the trail you will have to walk down a water drainage area and put in on the right side of the drainage. Actually my car is a truck which is reccomended for using this road especially in wet weather. It wouldn't be far to carry the canoe if you aren't sure about the road (70m).

Grindstone Creek Access:

     Grindstone Creek access is located within the Bankhead National Forest and located on FS109-A. To get to the access area follow Hwy 33 from Double Springs past the Hwy 33 access area and turn right on Hwy 76 or FS 234. Follow Hwy 76 until it dead-ends on Hwy 63 and turn right. Look on your right side for a dirt road FS109. Take a right on FS 109 and follow it until you reach a right hand turn which is FS109-A. Follow FS 109-A to the Sipsey Fork and put-in or leave car for take-out. This is a long road and a 4wd is reccomended for wet weather.