Doe - 2. Gorge: Bear Cage Road (Blevins Bridge) to Highway 19E bridge at Hampton High School

Doe, Tennessee, US


2. Gorge: Bear Cage Road (Blevins Bridge) to Highway 19E bridge at Hampton High School

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)
Length 6.1 Miles
Avg. Gradient 95 fpm
Max Gradient 160 fpm

Toaster Slot by Daniel Fosbinder

Toaster Slot by Daniel Fosbinder
Photo of John Webb by Daniel Fosbinder taken 03/02/03 @ 510 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
Doe at Elizabethton
tva-de008 400 - 2000 cfs III-IV -08h01m 427 cfs (running)
Boatable Range

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.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2018-04-04 05:54:07


Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
0.6Old Railroad Grade RoadN/AAccess
0.9Bear CageIIIAccess Photo
1.9First Railroad BridgeN/A
2.1Second Railroad BridgeN/A
2.3Toaster SlotIII+Photo
3.6Diagonal LedgesIV
4.8Schooley's FollyIII

Rapid Descriptions

Old Railroad Grade Road (Class N/A, Mile 0.6)

(A waymarker to judge your progress toward the first significant action.)

Bear Cage (Class III, Mile 0.9)

Bear Cage from above

Bear Cage from above
Photo by Mike Nail taken 05/15/09

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.

Second Railroad Bridge (Class N/A, Mile 2.1)

The river has done a fairly tight oxbow, thus crossing the railroad twice in quick succession.

Toaster Slot (Class III+, Mile 2.3)

Toaster Slot by Daniel Fosbinder

Toaster Slot by Daniel Fosbinder
Photo of John Webb by Daniel Fosbinder taken 03/02/03 @ 510 cfs

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!

Bodysnatcher (Class IV, Mile 2.4)

Big Rock @ Body Snatcher @ 450 CFS

Big Rock @ Body Snatcher @ 450 CFS
Photo of Chuck Hunley & Milton Wicker by James Woods taken 11/22/03 @ 450 CFS

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.

Flagpole (Class IV, Mile 2.8)

Flagpole - after first drop ~ 750-800cfs

Flagpole - after first drop ~ 750-800cfs
Photo of Mark Stover by Scott Fisher taken 04/15/05 @ 800 cfs

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 3.6)

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 4.8)

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.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
January 20 2010 (3284 days ago)
tfpaddles (151427)
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
December 28 2009 (3307 days ago)
AlanWilson (151363)
There is a river wide in the rapid below Bear Cage. It is at the bottom of the rapid and if you
came around the corner not paying attention you would run right into it. At higher water you could
probably boof over the middle but today at 700ish it was a mandatory portage. We walked on the
right. Otherwise all the wood could be avoided.
November 2 2009 (3363 days ago)
Mark StoverDetails
Ran the Doe yesterday at approximately 680cfs. Here's the current wood situation. The big tree you
ducked under to enter Bear Cage is now down all the way across. At higher flows, I think you could
slide over it but 680 wasn't enough but you can seal launch into the top of the rapid from the
right side. No problem with wood at the entrance to Bodysnatcher, you could go in from the left
easy. However, there is a tree fallen from the bank into the left side of the outflow from the boof
move; it's the spot just before that little pointy, FU rock gets in your way just upstream of the
final river right eddy before the final drop. Does that make sense? Anyway, a tree about the
diameter of your thigh is in the left side of the outflow. You would have to really mess up to get
into it, but you should be aware of it. We set someone right next to it, just to be safe. Other
than that, any other wood is small, readily visible, or otherwise not in play with the commonly ran
June 4 2006 (4610 days ago)
Mark StoverDetails
**********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.
July 2 2003 (5678 days ago)
Mike MorrowDetails
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.