Doe, Tennessee, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||95 fpm|
|Max Gradient||160 fpm|
|Doe at Elizabethton|
|tva-de008||400 - 2000 cfs||III-IV||00h22m||173 cfs (too low)|
The Doe is a great class III+/IV run in the very Northeastern tip of Tennessee. It is a bit
more difficult than the Little River Sinks to Elbow in the GSMNP (but not quite as continuous).
Also comparable to the Lower Little River (TN) in difficulty (though again, not as continuous --
there is calmer water after every major rapid). That said, it is slightly more congested in some
areas. At levels above 1000 cfs the Doe is very continuous, more similar to the Cheoah at
Scenery is excellent, and water quality is pretty good, although there can be some trash due to development upstream of the gorge. Much of the Doe runs through private land, including some owned by the DRG Christian Camp. Bank scouting has never been a problem, but in the first and last miles it is recommended you stay in your boat as the river flows through backyards.
If the Doe seems too tame or if you're looking for more action, the Watauga Gorge is just a scant 25 minute drive from the take out and is almost guaranteed to be running if the Doe is. If the neither the Doe or Watauga suits you, then some serious class 4-5 micro creeking can be had on the Laurel Fork of the Doe which is about 10 minutes away. When water is plentiful, ambitious expert paddlers familiar with all the runs may attempt the Carter County Quattro which consists of the Doe Gorge, Laurel Fork of the Doe, Watauga, and Twisting Falls section of the Elk; this is definitely not for the faint of heart!
Scout all rapids you can't see the end of, as this river can be heavily laden with strainers. Two major piles of trees exist in the river, the first one as you come around the bend one mile downstream from the put-in, plugging the left half of the river. Pinning possibilites abound on the Doe, especially at water levels below 500 cfs.
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
|0.6||Old Railroad Grade Road||N/A|
|1.9||First Railroad Bridge||N/A|
|2.1||Second Railroad Bridge||N/A|
(A waymarker to judge your progress toward the first significant action.)
The first significant rapid is easily identified by a large log jam blocking most of the river. A large tree lays nearly parrallel with the flow on river-right. Limbo under this big log and immediately head left, down a fairly narrow channel.
There are a couple of small pulloffs on the road above this rapid which can be used as alternate put-in to avoid all the class 2+ early going.
The river has done a fairly tight oxbow, thus crossing the railroad twice in quick succession.
The gorge begins in earnest here. This rapid follows immediately after the first significant rapid after the second railroad trestle.
One can eddy out on river-left upstream and get a fairly clear view of the main drop, which is the right slot of two slots. There is an easier sneak on far river right.
"Toaster Slot" is generally an easy drop, but should always be scouted before running to make sure there are no logs at the bottom. Enter this rapid on river left, headed towards the middle slot. Don't make the mistake of holding your paddle horizontal when dropping in -- it can get hung up if you do!
A huge boulder blocks the middle and there is other blockage to the right. Scout Body Snatcher from the river left bank. Starting from the river left bank, immediately turn hard-right to eddy out behind the rock you just came around. From here you can ferry to far river-right to line up for a slide, but be aware there is a bad piton rock at the bottom of the drop. The cleaner line is straight over the middle of the rapid, boofing the ledge. Run down the middle, making a right turn at the bottom and head for the big eddy against the river right wall to set up for the final drop of the rapid.
A hole can develop at the base at higher flows, so ferry out high, get some speed, and angle left as you go off the drop. The right side of the final drop will also work, but going too far left can cause an intimate encounter with a submerged rock that will deflect a boat right (not recommended). This rock is just submerged and tends to be most problematic at levels around 1000cfs. The final drop does have a brief recovery pool before another 2+ rapid with a larger recovery pool. There are a couple good spots to set safety on river left above and below the final drop.
Look for an island splitting the flow to signal your imminent approach to Flagpole (named after 'Flagpole Point', the ridge causing the river to make a big oxbow). Scout/portage from this island. The right side of the island used to be the sneak, but flooding over the years changed this to a 'West Prong' style tight line, so the more common line is left of the island. Either line is shallow, definitely not a place to be upside down.
The initial drop can be run far far left, taking care not to drop off the even farther left ledge creases immediately following the first drop! The correct line should be along the right side of the first ledge, being mindful that the current tends to kick unwary boaters hard right towards a boulder that can lead to an uncomfortable broach situation. The middle line off the first ledge is only for those wanting to take a hard piton followed by a surf to the right.
After that, pinball on down and aim for the obvious boof at the end. More likely you will go to the right of the boof, as the current pushes hard left to right at that point. Take advantage of the large eddy on the right to look back and enjoy the view of what you just ran, as well to soak in a geologic moment, as this is one of the deepest parts of the gorge with an excellent view of the rock strata.
Identifiable by a large, old retaining wall on river-left as the river bends to the right. This rapid consists of several offset, diagonal ledges of varying retentiveness. At virtually any river level there is a large eddy about halfway down on river-left next to the retaining wall. To avoid the most significant ledges below this point, go for a somewhat tricky ferry towards river-right.
Located as you are nearing the Doe River Gorge Christian Camp, this rapid starts with a benign 3-4' ledge with most of the flow going left-of-center heading into a very sticky horseshoe hole (at virtually all boatable levels). It has caused many a swim by paddlers who have let their guard down. At levels around 650 and higher, the best choice may be to run the short-slide to the right of the hole at river center.