Green, North Carolina, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV-V+ (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||178 fpm|
|Max Gradient||342 fpm|
The Green Narrows is the southeast's most famous steep creek. It epitomizes a low-volume, boulder congested, pool-drop character, with a couple of slides thrown in for good measure. Unique in the fact it is dam released and runs roughly 300 days per year, it still retains the feel of a wilderness creek due to the depth and inaccessibility of the gorge, the decent water quality and fabulous landscaping, and the .6 mile walk downhill with your boat to get to the put-in.
First run in it's entirety in 1988, and long after remaining a holy grail for whitewater enthusiasts, the Narrows has been eclipsed by a few other commonly run creeks of greater difficulty. Nonetheless, it remains the bread-and-butter of the Asheville area Class V paddling scene, and is still a mighty big sandwich to bite into. Most of the rapids are tight and technical, requiring precise boat control to run smoothly. Many of the boofs are not just fun, they are mandatory. Boaters with strong Class IV skills who walk the Big Three have been shown down successfully countless times now, and yet boaters with strong Class V skills still get hammered here on a regular basis. Sadly, the river is the site of now three fatalities and countless other minor and major injuries. It is not to be taken lightly. The 100% release level, with minor differences between 7-9 inches on the stick gauge, is "the standard". While a couple rapids get easier at 200%, and there's nice padding at higher water, most rapids get harder. The time between rapids also gets much shorter, and the penalty points can add up quick.
Although running the Green is staple food ---a happy meal--- for regulars just trying to shut out the noise and stay safe, it is also the daily training ground for many of the country's elite creekboaters, and the annual Green Race is a most revered and hotly contested affair. Held at high noon on the first Saturday in November since 1996, it draws huge crowds and even a grilled cheese sandwich and/or hot burrito sales program. Another fabulous event, Jerry's Baddle, a paddling & bicycling biathlon fundraiser held each Spring, is now in its tenth year and hugely successful as well. And, September 2013 was the first edition of the Green River Games --- featuring the "Silverback", a triathlon gruel-fest of 8, 8, and 8 miles throughout the Gamelands. The Summer of 2014 brings Rodeo back as an exhibition Green River Games competition in June. Not surprisingly, these events have a homegrown, homemade kind of feeling, and reflect the strong and diverse community that has built up around the Narrows. Seriously, you hear it or feel it all the time: "...man, I LOVE the Green."
The Narrows is wholly located within the Green River Gamelands, a rugged tract of more than 14,000 acres along the Green River in Henderson and Polk Counties. Owned by the people of the State of North Carolina and managed by the NCWRC, the primary purpose of the Gamelands remains wildlife conservation and management. The 16 miles of trails (best map here) are for foot and bicycle traffic only. River otters, bears, deer, snakes, turtles, fish, and all manner of birds share this beautiful place. Take note that camping is not allowed on state Gamelands save for in one gravel turnaround near the far end of Big Hungry Road. The nearest campground is Wilderness Cove, a mile or so past Fishtop, and is a fine place.
Arguably, the Green's water quality has been going down over time thanks to the increase in development upstream in the watershed. Following heavy rains the creek runs browner now and carries more sediment from poor erosion control measures. See this picture of Toilet Bowl to learn more. Even without recent rains, sediment left in the creek-bed is churned up every time Tuxedo is turned on, which means that early in a standard 5-hour release the water is much cloudier than just a couple hours later.
Those interested in the early nomenclature used on the Green ---such as the "Brain Mirror", for example--- will enjoy reading Tom Visnius' 1991 notes. Visnius, along with John Kennedy, is normally considered as having the first full descent of the Green in 1988. On the Facebook, hook-ups are made and other information exchanged here Finally, not every river has a holiday that's cause for true celebration, but the Green does and it's called Ladshaw Day.
Rapids: Keep scrolling down past all this intro stuff for the rapids description section. In that section, several alternate pictures are shown and different lines are described, yet no attempt has been made to describe everything. There are "race lines", "200% lines", several hazards left unmentioned, and a myriad of little cul de sacs made for good or ill. More detail and better pictures will come along. Feel free, if you're in it for the money, to find me and pass on any suggestions you care to....it's a work in progress. --- John Pilson (12/6/07)
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.5||Bride of Frankenstein||IV|
|0.7||Boof or Consequences||IV+|
|0.7||Go Left and Die||5.1|
|0.8||Reverse Seven Foot||IV|
About the links found throughout the Rapids Section below... Right now, because of AW's new Wiki formatting, if you click on a link and then later hit "back" (browser dependent) you'll get taken back to the main front page for the Green and NOT where you are this section. Until I get 'em all changed to "Open in a New Tab" then I recommend you do that yourself. That's the habit I've gotten into when in this section ---- same goes for clicking on a picture, many of which have further information described in the text.
After putting in 100 yards above the confluence with Big Hungry Creek, there's an easy half-mile plus of class II-III warm-up. The gauge is located 200 yards downstream from Big Hungry, to your right at the top of a long pool. It was installed in the Fall of 2005, following the loss of the "gauge rock" back at the confluence.
Then the walls close in......the bottom drops out......and the fun begins. Check out a gradient chart of the Narrows for an idea of where this gravity sport is about to take you.
Enter Bride by going either between the two flake rocks at the beginning, or to the left of them. After the first drop of about three feet, there's a smaller pourover below which can make for a good playspot. Use caution after the top drop so you don't end up in the undercut on the right.
(1) Traditional Line -------- Seems to be rarely done now-a-days, but this used to be how everyone was taught. Catch a set-up eddy on the right, not washing out the bottom of it to the trees and undercuts of the "lobster trap" below. From this set-up eddy, ferry into the entrance slot with some good upstream angle, catch the eddy straight ahead on the left.....turn and boof into the eddy below on the right....then ferrying out in front of the drop and around the undercut.
(2) Race Line ------- This has a smallish double-boof/hump program then a squeezey entrance. Stay right and slow down after that to feed back left into the race line boof finisher (shown in both photos here). Super fun to run clean!
A nice perspetive from over Frankenstein's shoulder and some other chatter about the rapid is found here.
Johnson Branch -- Below Frankenstein, there are multiple lines through a six foot drop and then some boogie water on the way to Pincushion. Immediately below this drop there's a tiny feeder creek called Johnson Branch that comes in from the right. You can see it on the topo map.
After the short stretch of boogie water with multiple routes, you come to Pincushion, a four foot drop with a blind entrance flowing into a pointy rock below and left of center. Enter the top slot on the left, line up and go right around the rock at the bottom. An alternate line is to take the bottom entrance and run to the left around the pincushion rock, but this requires more a bit more water than a low summer release to run clean.
Below Pincushion is a two-drop Class III+ rapid with multiple routes available.
Whale Tail begins with three different entrance slots and is a beautiful little slide with a two-foot drop at the bottom. Do not go over on the far river left side. A couple of small holes later and you're in the set-up eddy for Boof or Consequences.
At 10 p.m. in near pitch darkness and paddling boats loaded with the infidel's favorite beverage, the committee has recently determined this becomes Class III-plus rapid.
After Whale Tail things get pretty steep for a while.....this is the beginning of the goods. .
Starting about here Mama Green straightens out a bit and drops head-long into the heart of the gorge.....the next five hundred yards drop at over 400' per mile.
The main line at Boofers is to stay with the flow leading in, wiggle through some squiggles, then bank right for the first drop (shown in the background of the above photo). Turn left for the bottom drop without getting pushed too far left or right (into an undercut or pin potential, respectively). There is a "back door" entrance to the main line that is sometimes done by people to get a better handle on the main drop if they haven't run it much, and it requires a little wheel-chair move to get it started.
For Boofer's sneak on the right, eddy out at the top and look for the slot just to the right of the midstream boulder. The line involves sliding through the narrow slot, catching just enough of a little flake rock, dropping about six feet and turning left in a hurry -- to avoid a personal introduction to a modestly undercut wall. Eddy out or re-enter the main flow for the bottom drop. While the sneak can be done all clean and fluffy-like, pinning/broaching dangers from getting too far left when dropping in are real -- and are briefly documented at the end of this fine dawn patrol clip from October 2010.
Squeeze is the name for the sneak line at Go Left. From the eddy below Boof, hit the first drop going right, squeeze through the narrow slot and then pencil down four feet into a little pool. Cruise down the final slide of about ten feet where you'll need to head left to hit most of the flow and avoid a glorified seal launch --- especially at low summer flows (not a problem at this spooky level).
After the pool below Squeeze and Go Left, there is a sweet little left-hand boof on the right-hand side of the main flow out. I used to think that this boof was about where you entered Polk County. But not any longer...
The County Line: A Welcome Center Just for You?
This next tidbit is pretty remarkable..... Looking at the Polk County GIS aerial photo reveals that the Henderson County/Polk County boundary line, shown in this picture, crosses the river perhaps only 15-20' below the exit slot to Go Left And Die --- thus making the hole there at the base of the drop perhaps best called the "Polk County Welcome Center". Props to GIS sleuth Paul Bartholic for this one.
Go Left is the first of the Green's "Big Three" (the others being Gorilla and Sunshine). Here, proceed down the same as Squeeze but head left instead of right. You then boof over a log, skim merrily across a foamy plateau, and drop six feet towards a narrow slot at the bottom. Nice pic here from the pool below. During the Green's first full descent in 1988, John Kennedy called this one Orange Juice Squeezer.
Overall, Go Left is as good a place as any to pretty much have your shit together. Missing your line and hitting the right slot at the bottom is a fine way to piton before being worked, but passage is allowed over there too, depending. Plenty of Green Race carnage has been filmed here over the years by the folks at LVM and others. For example, a visit to the Polk County Welcome Center can be dynamic. Here's another video clip. The rapid is normally scouted from the right. Tragically, Go Left had its first fatality, and the river's third, on May 5th, 2018, with the loss of Matt Ray, who pitoned and flat-pinned in the center area of the drop.
At the end of the next little pool is Reverse Seven --- named (without inspiration) because it is vaguely similar to the Chattooga's Seven Foot Falls, though a bit smaller and, of course, reversed. If not running direct you can catch the eddy on the left below Reverse Seven to get ready for Zwick's, immediately downstream. Running direct has the advantage of placing you in the flow towards Zwick's already moving, and sets up well for success. It's also more fun.
If you are going to scout Zwick's, most get out on the right before Reverse Seven Foot to do so, but you can also sneak into the back of the Reverse Seven Foot eddy and get out easily to scout Zwick's on the left. Worth doing if you haven't.
For many people, this is the first place to get worried. Zwick's consists of two real features: the top hole, as seen in the photo on the right, and the drop into the bottom hole shown here. Enter the top center-ish with a little right angle and a big left stroke to power over and beyond the hole. Bank left and ride down the shelf following the main tongue of green water, taking a left-to-right boof at the launch pad over the bottom hole. If you get blown left at the top hole, stay left and run the bottom hole on the far left, not in the seam.
Don't underestimate Zwick's. Lots of good boaters have been hammered here --- as well as this author, who spent considerable time "back in under", which a zero release picture shows the potential for. What can compound a bad time at Zwick's is the fact that Chief lies in wait just 30 feet downstream and is in the outflow from the bottom drop.
If you want, it's possible to sneak the top hole --- ducking in to the right just before the rock to Andria's right, above. The exit drops you out immediately below the hole, where you can then finish "race line style" or with the regular bottom boof.
Chief is one of the most dangerous rapids on the Green and is the location of the Narrows' first kayaking fatality. There have also been a number of near misses here, so it's a good idea to exercise extreme caution in this straightforward looking two-drop rapid.
The main line is center-ish off the top drop, pointing right and then heading down the main drop on the right side of it with a bit of right angle. Underneath the outflow of the main drop lies the infamous pin rock -- with a deep pocket to its right. This series of pictures at "no release" gives you a good handle on the bad program at Chief. Penciling in on the bottom drop while running the normal line can be highly suboptimal because you might pin in the deep pocket, with escape being something of a coin toss. A January 2011 incident during a low water run details the potential here.
Also, do not go off the drop sideways or angled left. Running left at the bottom (at juicier flows) might engage you in a "not what you came for" undercut cave-like situation, followed directly by an out-of-boat experience and then beer and television.
At levels higher than ~8", a mid-river sneak is available. However, almost all Green paddlers agree that the sneak is much riskier than the main line since it involves banging off a shallow shelf onto the rock that seperates the sneak from the main line. Hitting this rock the wrong way could send you backwards toward the pinning potential, which is exactly what happened during the drowning. If portaging Gorilla, catch the eddy on the left just above Pencil Sharpener.
For kicks, here's a photo from upstream at a high water 25" on the stick gauge.....don't try this at home.
Pencil Sharpener is the top drop of Gorilla. Many people run far right here, down a small slot that drops about eight feet. Others run a race line off the center or the double-drop "Flying Squirrel" on river left. Eddy out right or left to get ready for the next drop...The Notch! You can see the "Birthday Eddy" in the left foreground of this picture.
Like many rapids, Pencil Sharpener can be sobering to look at with no water.
The Notch is is the tricksiest part of Gorilla. Although the flume is photogenic, The Notch is the crux move of the rapid. Here, the entire river drops through a 196cm wide slot with a big undercut ("the garage") on the right, a boiling eddyline and the main drop of Gorilla twenty feet downstream. One can catch the river right eddy below The Notch ("The Notch Eddy") to set up for the main drop, or go direct. For some perspective, check out this view of The Notch from above, this sub-out, this higher water sub-out, this one of a hand paddler, and these historic photos..
Just before The Notch on river right is the "birthday eddy", named for the much-loved and highly respected Daniel Delavergne. He caught the eddy on his birthday in 2006, just days before his death. A little memorial service was held a year later, and examples of people catching the eddy from that day can be found here.
Talked about, dreamt about, feared, respected, loved, and well-known the world over, Gorilla is a signature rapid like perhaps no other. And this Monkey raises the bar.
Many great pictures from interesting angles (including this one, and this one) can be found in the photos tab of the main page and all across the interwebs. The main drop of Gorilla is sometimes called "the flume." From the river right eddy in the Notch, peel out and a couple of strokes later you're ramping down to the pad and off the main drop of 16-18', headed towards the Speed Trap. Aim to be about two or three feet away from the river left wall for best results at Gorilla. Although the flume itself isn't a 5.2, the entire rapid, from Pencil Sharpener through Speed Trap certainly merits it. Over about 10", watch out for the Speed Trap as the flume gets easier and the Speed Trap gets tougher. Of course, at 19" the whole thing is just a walk in the park.
After landing Gorilla, it's not all fun and games until you get to the speed trap, as (1) you can't see, and (2) the "face breaker" protruding rock is 3/4 of the way through the run-out on your left if you're upside down. People huck themselves off the Monkey all the time, but the chances of something going wrong here are very real.
If you're walking the Monkey, you can re-enter our beautiful Rio Verde via the well-known seal launch (also seen here), sliding at a good clip down 30 feet of bedrock and dropping 6 feet back to the water-world just below the Speed Trap. Don't forget a boof stroke at the lip.....you're landing in about 6 inches of water, with Scream Machine immediately to your left. Above about 12" on the gauge it becomes increasingly difficult to get right enough to avoid the hole in Scream Machine, so some people will pass on the seal launch and continue walking to the bottom of Nies' Pieces.
The first of four slides, Scream Machine is a ten-foot drop below Gorilla. You'll want to ferry to the right at the top, but the current will blow you left, and you can end up right in the sweet spot in the middle-left. At levels above 11-12", the hole at the bottom left gets pretty beefy --- witness this photograph of a would-be screamer taking his licking at 19".
If you catch the little eddy at the bottom right, look up and see a great hemlock growing right out of the rock wall. But you wouldn't have time at this level.
Here's a great shot from behind the paddler during the 2007 Green Race.
At the top left of Scream Machine is a tricky little pot hole called the "Rock Star Eddy".
For a minor discussion about the trees in the picture above, go here.
The final drop in the Gorilla sequence, run it either to the left side or right side of the big and slanted mid-stream boulder below Scream Machine. It consists of a double drop/slide on the left, or a big single drop on the right with a tricky boof (and a grabby hole at higher water). Probably more than half the people run left at Nies', with a bit of right angle to avoid the wall at the bottom -- and it would into mayhem during the now defunct Head-to-Head portion of the Green Race. If you run right, you "can't get far enough" up against the right hand wall for the Super Boof.
Power Slide is a fun 30-foot slide with a beefy hole at the bottom. The standard line is to run center to center-right here at normal flows, breaking through a curler before turning left and down -- avoiding the meat of the hole. Some people plug the hole for fun-and-happiness, and sometimes they are worked-over as a result. Running left of the hole is an option, and/but swimmers on that side can have a difficult time of things. Don't assume someone in trouble there will be quickly delivered free of recirculation.
Get a bit further right on Powerslide at higher water (as shown in the photo above), and at even higher water, YOU make the call...
Also, there's a nice hero eddy at the top left of Power Slide. It's easier to get into smoothly than out of smoothly.
A couple of short pools later comes Rapid Transit. Rapid Transit is the final and largest slide, but consists of broken ledges, a wall on the right, and a large undercut on the left if you drop off early over there. Enter the ride center-ish down a shallow tongue of green water, engage the diagonal curler, avoid the crack along the wall on the right, and be-bop yourself on down what was originally known as the "New Speedway Boogie". A great high water (25") photo can be found here. There was a large tree in the entrance for a year or so.
The left line: dropping off the left side of the mid-slide fist rock pointing about 10 o'clock left, facing nearly square-on the overhanging boulder before boofing right, can lead to a super-smooth line called "Subprime Loan", but it is a little tricksy and not without the hazards of possible foreclosure or rate adjustment. Right here is some fine dawn patrol footage that has a little Subprime in it at 1:08.
Higher water provides an alternate entrance to Rapid Transit --entering another slot at the top left-- feeding you back in just below the diagonal curler. It can be seen in the middle of this wicked nice clip from the LVM boys: Do Not Feed To Cattle.
A revealing photograph from the Pulliam Creek Trail found here shows Rapid Transit from 100's of feet above the river.
This is a big rock jumble and is usually portaged, unless one of the left side sneak routes are open for business. Portage Nutcracker on the left, but if carrrying both Groove Tube and Sunshine, then portage on the right from the pool below Rapid Transit.
At high water, a super-sweet boof on the right is available, removing some of the portage, and is pictured above. To see a video of this line.....at a piping-hot 26"......clickety-click here and look 3 minutes in. This boof, being called The Spout(?), is getting run down to around 10" now, but normally is done with a bit more flow. The lead-in to it requires a serious lack-of-failure. Click on the picture for more information.
Groovy clean fun here, and it sure is common to look forward to this one.
(1) Main Line: enter left as in photo above and slide down the entrance into a fabulous 10' boof -- with piton potential depending on where and how you land. Don't wipe your face on the rocks along the left wall going down. Check out this picture of the left line from behind the boater. And this one.
(2) Center-right Line: this line delivers a pretty swell auto-boof right onto your plate, and lands you in the current heading towards Sunshine.
If you're not running Sunshine, take your seat in the second eddy below Groove Tube on the right to portage or scout. Sunshine is directly below and pretty easy to wash into. Be sure you know where that eddy is!
Sunshine is the Green's most difficult rapid and one of its most consequential due to the river pounding over a 12-15 foot drop onto a broken rock shelf. Here's a nice angle on the drop, taken from the portage route on river right. Late in 2010 the entrance (getting into and out of the set-up eddy) changed for the worse, making the standard line a fair bit tricksier. And check this head-cam angle from the top.
Poor lines through Sunshine have caused countless injuries, including paralysis. Bring your A-game, recognizing fully the consequences of a bad line, or walk this one. Start your run of Sunshine in the river left setup eddy. From here, you will want to ferry across and with a great boof stroke, power yourself into the river right eddy below. Depending on how things go, you'll either catch this bottom eddy, with possible cave time, or feed back left into the bottom drop.
The alternate line here is "Sunshine Left". It's very tight, scary to look at, and not done by a whole lot of people. Here are two excellent shots of the left line, from the top. At 200% and up, Sunshine gets run more or less right down the middle.....check this 29" Richter-high photo to see it.
A careful observer will notice why Sunshine is named Sunshine, but this topographic map also explains it.
The Lower Section: After maybe taking a little break at Sunshine, there are no major rapids until the Toilet Bowl/Hammer Factor combination at the end --- well over a mile downstream. It's just fun Class III and IV, with a couple of long shallow stretches, and you'll be sure to enjoy all the tricky eddies, fun boofs, and alternate lines on this stretch of easier rapids. Some have names, and in order those are sometimes called:
On Any Other River This Rapid Would Have A Name
Colonel Dick's ...or... West Prong Rapid (picture)The Boof That Hurts ...or... Stupid Boof --- (including a secret sieve of pure evil, on the left, midway)
After the long pool following Baby Sunshine, there's a nice Class III lead-in with multiple lines and a couple different ways to run Toilet Bowl, which sports a decent-sized hole. Some people run top left and boof back right through it, but most probably boof right after angling down the main tongue feeding the bowl. With more water a far right line with a double rock bounce or one big boof works wonders. If you're not linking Toilet Bowl and Hammer Factor together, eddies await you on the left and right.
For those of you prone to a little bit of potty talk, some eddies here are surely pleasant diversions on a Summer day. One is a tight little eddy directly above the drop called the "Saluda Stuffer", which normally requires the stern of one's boat to hang out over the hole. It's seen this this video showing a couple different lines.
Sometimes the Toilet Bowl gets dirty.
Hammer Factor has an intimidating look to it with the huge looming undercut boulder on the right side, but is pretty harmless at normal release levels. There's a small set-up eddy that gives you a chance to look at most of it, and the eddy can be entered a couple ways, including a fun boof (levels above 9") when using the left-most slot. From that left-hand set-up eddy, the standard deal is to drop in, ride the curler to your left and get up on the shelf. The more shelf-life the better, as it skirts you around the worst of the hole. Here's a nice shot from the bottom of the rapid at 11", another at 8.5" , and yet another one from above at a guesstimated 30".
At higher water it becomes more important to square-up to the hole once dropping off the shelf. Many people are spooked by Hammer Factor at high water, as stories of swims, and tandem swims, abound. Check this head-cam photo of Mr. Benedict dropping in at 16".
An alternate line -- which looks harder than it is -- is the "right line", and starts from the river right and rattlesnake infested pool directly above the drop. Enter by boofing over or just left of a finger rock and aiming straight for the left wall, then continuing with the same shelf-life program as before. At the end of this video clip there are a few examples of the right line. Another alternate is briefly catching an eddy halfway through the rapid....called Fear Factor.
Danger: In late December 2011, a new sieve opened up at the bottom of the pool where that snake was (mentioned above). It's about 6-8' to the left of the beach where one might take out there, and sucks empty-ish the bottom 1/4 of the pool/eddy. Do not stumble yourself too close for inspection, but boat inspections and regular right-side lines are easily enough done. It's big enough for a boat and feeds itself out under the main huge boulder overhanging the regular line. The "shower room" (accessed from the pool below Hammer Factor) is now curiously dry as a result of this change. Heads up.
This is The End
After the nice Toilet Bowl & Hammer Factor back-to-back combo-platter of goodness, your party is about over. There's a couple hundred yards of Class II, including one sweet little thing called Bitch Slap, and you arrive back at Fishtop. Take out on the small rock beach there, or run another stupid little rapid and enter another world. Alternately, and normally only done at higher water, go left around the island after Hammer Factor, passing the green wall, and arriving at the Fishtop Beach proper. Good for an occasional passing amusement.
For those interested in hiking up the 1/4 mile or so from Fishtop parking to Hammer Factor, there is an easy trail on river right that isn't too hard to find --- and then with some modest clamboring about one can wind up on the boulder overlooking the drop (above right).
Be careful with your sports beverages at Fishtop --- they are kinda-sorta illegal in the parking lot, depending. Truth be told, they are illegal anywhere in Polk County within 50 ft. of the river.