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||-01h03m||137 cfs (too low)|
|Doe at Elizabethton, TN|
|tva-a4681||400 - 2000 cfs||III-IV||6y299d13h56m||160 cfs (too low)|
Lat/Longitude data are very approximate.
A great class III+/IV run that is a bit more difficult but not quite as continuous as the Little River (Sinks to Elbow) in the GSMNP. The Doe has several technical rapids requiring good boat control, especially Body Snatcher and Flagpole. Wood and debris are always a major consideration on this run, especially if it has been a while since it last ran or since your last trip. Good scenery, although there can be some trash that may wash into some areas due to development upstream of the gorge. Water quality is pretty good especially considering said upstream development. 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 a few backyards.
There are several class III+ rapids in the gorge, with Body Snatcher and Flagpole solid IV's at water levels over 500 cfs, Diagonal Ledges also reaches class 4 around 700cfs. The area around Body Snatcher is pretty congested, requiring a tight eddy turn, ferrying back across the river behind huge boulders, a class III rapid with a hard right turn at the bottom, and ends with a five-foot drop into a pool.
"Toaster Slot" should be scouted before running to make sure there are no logs at the bottom. You can scout from the river left bank easily. Enter this rapid on river left, headed towards the middle slot.
Entering the slot, John Webb disappears. If you want a front view, Rob McVie shows how it's done here. Toaster is an easy drop, just make sure it's clean before you run it. Alan Meyer-Davis gives a side view. Notice his paddle angle ... it can get hung if you hold it horizontally when dropping in.
After more class III, a major congestion appears, with a huge boulder blocking the entire middle and a blockage on the right side of the river. River left will look clear, so head that way, catch an eddy, and scout Body Snatcher from the river left bank.
Enter Body Snatcher against the river left bank. The current is pushy, so immediately turn back to the right and 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 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 final rapid of any real size is Flag Pole, a bumpy, rock-filled rapid that pours into the river left wall and curves to the right as it bounces down for 20 yards or so. It's easy to scout this rapid from the center island. A diagonal hole at the top just begs you to drop in so it can surf you river right. To avoid the hole, enter the rapid tight against the river left wall, and work towards the middle of the rapid, taking care not to fall off into the far river-left seam. At the bottom you can line up for a super-sweet boof over the final ledge.
The Doe is comparable to the Lower Little River(TN) in difficulty, although slightly more congested in some areas, but not as continous. There is calmer water after every major rapid, but has a great deal more strainer hazards. Again, please note that at levels above 1000 cfs the Doe is very continuous, more similar to the Cheoah at 1500.
Scout all rapids you can't see the bottom of as this river can be heavy with strainers. Almost all rapids can be boat scouted, although scouting "Body Snatcher" from the river left bank is advisable. Two major piles of trees exist in the river, the first one located as you come around the bend 1 mi. downstream from the put-in. This clogs the left half of the river. The river right route is "Bear Cage" rapid and should be scouted for log jams before running. You can do this from your boat. The second major pile is located midway through the run and also occupies the left half of the river. Be very careful here, leave plenty of time to make your way past, as the water here is always very shallow and it's easy to get off line. Pinning possibilites abound on the Doe, especially at water levels below 500 cfs.
A creekboat is nice but as long as there is a little volume up front, any kind of boat should be able to make the run. Shorter canoes in experienced hands are good to go also. Use your judgement here, paddle what you are comfortable in.
Put-in and Take-out:
The put-in for the Doe run described here is reached by taking US 19E to Bear Cage Road just outside of Blevins, TN. There is a bridge on Bear Cage Rd with parking for a few cars. If there is no space, do not block the dirt driveway. This is private property, the landowner is very gracious, but understandably not appreciative of boaters blocking access to his property! Shuttle vehicles to the take-out, where there is plenty of parking. The take-out is back on US 19E where the bridge crosses the Doe River near Hampton (north towards Hampton.) Some use the area immediately downstream of the 19E bridge, but ample parking is available on the upstream side of the bridge in the grass field at Hampton High School (be mindful of changing and post boating activities as this is school property).
Hampton/Blevins TN are located in the very Northeastern tip of Tennessee. 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!
|Mile||Rapid Name||Class||Features (Legend)|
Flagpole should be identified as early as possible by an island splitting the flow. Scouting/portage from the island. The right side of the island used to be sneak, but since some flooding in the past couple of years offers a 'West Prong' style tight line. 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 (see photo) immediately following the first drop. The right 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 make for at best an uncomfortable broach situation. The middle line off the first ledge is only for those wanting to taste 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 at the end though is to simply go to the right of the boof as the current pushes hard left to right at that point. Large eddy on the right to look back and enjoy the view of what you just ran as well as a cool geologic moment as this is one of the deepest parts of the gorge with an excellent view of the rock strata.
Located in the Doe River Gorge Christian Camp area, this rapid from upstream is a benign 3-4' ledge with most of the flow going left of center into a sticky, sticky horseshoe hole regardless of the level. It's swam many a paddler that lets his/her guard down. At levels around 650 & up the reasonable thing to do is take the short slidey part of the drop found to the right of the hole at river center.