Sunday dawn arrived with sunshine promising a better day. Members of the Cumberland County Rescue Squad still combed both sides of Daddy’s Creek in hopes of a good outcome that at the moment appeared elusive.
Saturday night around 8:30 p.m. volunteers with the rescue squad converged on the popular Devil’s Breakfast Table located off Potter’s Rd. near the Cumberland/Morgan county line after receiving a report that two kayakers were overdue.
The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office deputies joined the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency in the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area but only found the men’s vehicle. No sign was found of the missing men.
With lightning popping around them and rain of torrential measures at times, there was little the searchers could do but establish a command center and conduct a cursory search for the pair.
The two kayakers — believed to be from outside Cumberland County — were last heard from around 12:30 p.m. Saturday. When family members had not heard from them that night as wave after wave of storms swept across the the scene, they became worried and contacted authorities.
Daddy’s Creek is a popular destination for whitewater paddlers, who travel from across the region when conditions are right. The stream depends on rainfall to provide the class III-IV rapids along the 6.7-mile stretch from Antioch Bridge to Devil’s Breakfast Table.
With as much as six inches of rain dumped on the area over the weekend, Daddy’s Creek was transformed into angry, churning and potentially dangerous waters. The area — and all of Cumberland County — was placed under a flash flood watch that evolved into a warning.
The hearty band of searchers worked through the night, as weather and lightning permitted, without success. They were joined by the Crossville/Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency and on Sunday morning, the Christian Aid Ministries and Morgan County Rescue Squad.
While the frantic search continued, the kayakers took refuge in a cave to wait out the night, unable to return to safety because of the raging waters. Around 9 a.m. the two were found, wet, tired but otherwise in surprisingly good health.
A rescue squad spokesperson declined identify the two and no mention of why they would enter the waters during a flood watch and warning was given.
The two were eventually reunited with their families, a lesson learned from the experience.