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Difficulty III-IV
Length 6.1 Miles
Gauge Doe at Elizabethton
Flow Range 400 - 2000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 230 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 04/04/2018 5:54 am

River Description

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 1500.

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.

Rapid Descriptions

Old Railroad Grade Road

Class - N/A Mile - 0.55
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(A waymarker to judge your progress toward the first significant action.)

Bear Cage

Class - III Mile - 0.86

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.

First Railroad Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - 1.89
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Second Railroad Bridge

Class - N/A Mile - 2.11
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The river has done a fairly tight oxbow, thus crossing the railroad twice in quick succession.

Toaster Slot

Class - III+ Mile - 2.34

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!


Class - IV Mile - 2.42

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.


Class - IV Mile - 2.8

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.

Diagonal Ledges

Class - IV Mile - 3.55
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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.

Schooley's Folly

Class - III Mile - 4.77
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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.


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Tyler Farrar
10 years ago

Ran Doe today not quite sure of level, I would guess around 500-550ish.. Bear Cage rapid is still a mandatory portage, also the next rapid after bear cage is now a mandatory portage. Portage is easy and quick on river right. It's the rapid where the river bends to the right and the house is sitting on the left of the bend above. Today, at lower water there was some wood visible, but all avoidable. The right line at top of Bodysnatcher has a tree down, but i think you could still squeeze by it if you chose that line. There is one more river wide a ways down on left. Low water was no problem ducking right under. higher levels it could come into play. Great day on the river! will post picture of portage 2 by house soon. Tyler F

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11 years ago

Great day to go boating!! Went down the Doe River Gorge today. Water level was around 360-380 and it was a treat to go down this river. Water level was great. Water did not seem too pushy but manageable. We scouted the major rapids to make sure there were not any strainers. There are a few trees down across a few spots, but not on the rapids and the trees that were down were easily visible. Spring is here and its time to go boating!! Oh lordy, I'm getting all worked up and excited now I'm gonna go teach my junk a lesson!

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13 years ago

me able to brake one off in Dave's big ass. tree blocking the river eary in the run yay!!!

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Mark Stover
14 years ago

**********Per the landowner at the put-in, park in the turnout area only, DO NOT park in the tall grass, this is feed for his cattle. He was very nice about it & we don't want to lose access to this put-in over parking. Be mindful of other boaters & leave as much room as possible. Thanks.************

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William Schooley
14 years ago

Nov. 30, 2005, Mark Stover and I ran the gorge. This was the day after a storm very briefly put the water up over the +1foot mark on the 19E bridge gage, and it moved some wood. Not far below BearCage rapid, a good sized tree covers the whole stream. I'd call it a mandatory portage. Just look for it, and it shouldn't be a problem. If you slide into it, I think it would be a big problem.

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Mark Stover
15 years ago

Post Francis/Ivan wood report - the rains have been good for the Doe, cleaning a lot of debris & trash out. Of note are:
1. The tree at Toaster Slot is gone - Toaster is open for business again!!!
2. The far left entrance to Bodysnatcher is clear of wood again. The next entrance just to the left of the large rock at the top of Bodysnatcher seems to have gotten a bit wider and steeper too.
3. There is one very larger nearly river wide strainer in the right hand corner just before the DRG Camp. In the same place that used to be really clogged with wood, then was totally clean for the past several months. It's a large tree that blocks the entire river except for about 3 feet against the RL bank. Plenty of room to scoot by, but keep an eye on the tree.


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Mike Morrow
16 years ago

We ran this on Saturday, 6/26/04. The level on the TVA gauge was 1200 cfs that morning. The bridge gauge was +3" on our first run and +2" on the second run. Wood has moved around (as usuall) since my last run. There is a large log tetering on top of the rock at the first significant drop. This is the one that has a slot to the right against the rock wall. This log will move downstream during the next high water event. There is new wood at Toaster slot across the left and middle slot. It was too high to tell if the large log that has been there has moved. The right side was clear. A couple of rapids have changed since my last run. The right side of Flagpole is significantly different. There used to be a narrow slot in the middle. We would boof one of the rocks forming the slot. Both of the rocks forming this slot have spread apart making a much wider shoot down the middle. At the levels we ran it, there was a lot of push to the right against the move you want to make left. A smaller rapid changed right above the Doe River Gorge camp. You go left around a small island instead of right. the right has filled in with rocks and sand.

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John Heffernan
16 years ago

3-7-04 About 500cfs and -8'' on the Hampton Bridge. There is still a log across Toaster Slot, the rapid was clear along the river right bank. There was still wood in the far left slot at the top of Body Snatcher, the far right slot was runable. At Flag Pole the log across the bottom of the river left channel was still there, but the right channel did not have any wood.

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Mark Stover
16 years ago

Just to follow up on Chuck's comments below, we ran the Doe 12/26/03 @ 400 cfs. The far left entrance to Bodysnatcher is blocked by a large log and some other junk, however there is a tight slot move just to the right of this that should be much easier with more water. The right side of the island at Flagpole is runnable now at lower flows, the 4 ft drop at the end is no longer there. Finally, the major wood jam just before you get to the camp that required hugging & scraping along the right bank is completely gone!

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Chuck Hunley
16 years ago

Made the run on November 22, 2003 @ 400cfs with a couple of friends. Here is the wood report:

Bear Cage: There is a large tree(1ft in diameter) across the entrance on river right. At this level we were able to limbo underneath. Another 6in or so of water and it will be impossible.

Body Snatcher: There is small log jutting out to river right from under the large boulder in the center. It's blocking the slot on river right. At higher water it might be covered. At this level we saw no clear safe passage around the boulder, so we haul boats up on the boulder and seal launched into the pool below. The rest of Body Snatcher was clear.

Flagpole/Escalator: There is a log/tree(9in diameter) blocking the last ledge/drop on the river left channel. It's wedged in between trees on the island, so it's not going anywhere anytime soon. You cannot see it from the top of the rapid. We ran the river right channel after shore scouting.

I'd still suggest scouting the drops. This was our first time running it, so we might not have run the traditional lines and missed something.

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Mike Morrow
17 years ago

Glad to see such a nice write-up on one of my favorite runs. I have been running it for eight years and still enjoy every trip. In fact, I am getting ready to leave work and run it this evening! My humble opinion is that the Doe Gorge (500-1100 cfs) is a step up from the Lower Little. Try it at 2000 sometime and you will be in for a wild ride! I would take people down the Lower Little that I would not take down the Doe Gorge. I have always put the Doe between the Ledges Section on the Tellico and the Watauga Gorge in terms of difficulty. Just another opinion. Take it for what it is worth. There are a few rapid names in your write-up that we (locals) refer to with different names. What you refer to as "Escalator", we have always called "Flagpole". Also we refer to "Slot Drop" as "Toaster Slot". Thought you might want to know.

Gage Descriptions

Call: 1-800-238-2264 (press "3")

Listen for "Doe @ Elizabethton"

350 cfs is fun in a drought low

425 cfs is minimum level, low but runnable.
500-700 cfs is ideal
700-1000 cfs is primo!
1100+ is cooking in the cl 4-5 range

Check gauge after a fairly significant local rain. Depending on the time of year, 1" at Roan Mountain on AFWS can bring it up to a runnable level

Directions Description

The put-in for this run is reached by taking US 19E to Bear Cage Road just outside of Blevins, TN. There is a bridge on Bear Cage Road 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 anyone blocking access to his property!

The take-out is on US 19E where the bridge crosses the Doe River near Hampton. Some use the area immediately downstream of the 19E bridge, but 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!)

No Accident Reports







Daniel Fosbinder


Mark Stover


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1209164 04/04/18 Rob reset coords (which were considerably off)
1191536 03/04/07 Daniel Fosbinder n/a
1196819 12/03/09 Mark Stover
1203936 12/18/14 Daniel Fosbinder