This run is described in many books:
Canoeing and Kayaking Guide to the Streams of Tennessee, B. Sehlinger and Otey.
Southeastern Whitewater, Monte Smith.
North Carolina Creeks and Rivers, Leland Davis.
People have been boating this classic class 3 run for a long time and for good reason. The river has pleasant class 3 creek rapids set in an enchanting environment that is accessible to the adventuresome novice and still appreciated by more serious boaters. The river runs frequently during rainy periods, and access is simple and unhindered.
This run is in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so the aesthetics and water quality are high. The Middle Prong alternates between brief mild mannered roadside straightaways and powerful bends away from the road, loaded with holes and pushy boulder slaloms. It should be noted that most of the rapids occur on these bends, so they cannot be seen when scouting. There are a few exceptions.
The best put-in is at the confluence of Porters Creek. This is around 3.5 miles up the Greenbriar Road from US 321, and is right before the road crosses Porters Creek.
Note: If the water is quite high, or if Porters has ample flow, a fun option is to hike up as far as you like on Porters for a nice class 3 flushy run with a few technical woody rapids.
After launching, one immediately enters into solid class 3 shoulder boofing for around 1/3 mile. This is a great rapid and a sometimes surprising warm-up for newer paddlers. Next is a long series of bends and straightaways, which comprise a bulk of the run. The rapids are in the bends. When in doubt go right at islands. There will be a handful of memorable features and a few exciting class 3+ jumbles.
When it feels like you have gone a few miles, watch for the big rapid that can be seen from up high on the road when running shuttle. This is Big Pillow. At low water, run the tight slalom course down the right bank, careful and aware that a large hole exists at the bottom in the center of the river. Drive right at the bottom over the curl, or let it throw you in for a nice moment of chaos. At higher flows, you can run along the left bank and hit a nice 4 foot boof, but watch the hole.
The river does a couple more bends away from the road, and regardless of flow it is important to be on the lookout for a large pourover on the apex of the last bend to the left. The hole is on the outside of the turn, so stay on the left, or be ready to boof and land on a stroke. This spot eats boaters regularly.
After the pourover the river comes back to the road and stays there for the last 1/2 mile. The final set is called Ranger Station. There are two ledge rapids in here, the first being the more consequential. To avoid a nasty pin in the center of the river, there is a cool 4 foot boof on the left bank. The rest of this one is straightforward. The second part has some great attainments so catch some eddies in here.
Takeout on river left immediately after the second part of Ranger Station Rapid. There is a beach here (regularly used for weddings), and its a 30 foot walk across the road to the parking lot.
For info (on weather, road conditions in the park, and more) check out Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Enjoy the following video showing parts of this run:
1.4 on the bridge gauge is wet-rock minimum. But everything goes.
Unlike the description on this page, we call the rapid by the ranger station "Ranger Station" for obvious reasons, and the rapids near the take-out "Wedding Boof rapids" since it's a picturesque spot for weddings. What is called "Big Pillow" on AW is called "Sidewinder" in the groups I have run this with.
"Sidewinder" has a spot to get out above on river right and scout. There's a left side chute that goes at minimum but it's possible to piton. The right side feeds into a curler/hole that can get nasty. There's a center line that is friendly enough at low water, haven't run it at higher flows.
"Ranger Station" by the actual ranger station is a long rapid that is not scoutable, that culminates in an ugly keeper hole river right that has beaten the snot out of some folks. Run as far left as possible. You can also boof the center rock at some levels but be aware of the keeper hydraulic wanting to reach out and grab your stern for a long visit.
Everything else is read-and-run.
I ran the GB several times in Summer 2018. In early August two strainers appeared approx 0.75 miles below the Porter's Creek putin. The first is on far river right and poses no severe problems as you can easily take the river left line. The second is a much larger tree, poised atop a wood buildup, but local boaters cut away part of the strainer and you can also easily pass this one on river left. In late April I ran at 1.5ft on the bridge gauge. I agree that this is a minimum level, but it was truly not a frustrating level (few groundings in shallow water, for example). It's just not as strenuous. In general I tell newbies "If it's an Island, in general take the right channel" . "If it's a bigger rapid, then while there may be several lines, you can typically run left of center or far left and get an easier line"
Well downstream of the halfway point there is a mostly river-wide ledge. It has a pourover type hole in the center. The approach to this ledge is fast, but not terribly technical. At levels 2.0ft and higher you can try to avoid the pourover using a boof right of center (no doubt there is some upper bound to this line, but I am not sure). Otherwise, running far left of this ledge will usually get you good outflow and hit a weaker spot on the hole. For example, a recent swimmer had his boat spit out by this pourover on far river left. I hope that this helps.
This is a great creak to run durning any season. You need to know the creak to stay out of some hairy spots. This is a great place for beginers at creaking and want to go the distence in your paddleing skills. I recomned puting in at one of the few flat water places to get warmed up for the almost nonstop class 3-4 rapids.
Cut all the logs from porter/ ramsey to 321 from run. I run this creek at FULL flood (6-10 ft) in a tube .. must be class 4 + at this time (6-8ft. waves below ranger station).. excellent !!
6 years ago
by Chad Spangler
9 years ago
by David McConnell Jr
11 years ago
by Mark Singleton
by nick parker
The upstream gauge "Little Pigeon above Sevierville" was taken out of service by USGS.The Little River gauge is a better surrogate than the gauge far downstream. It seems to work well. Thanks to David McConnel for this tip.
Using local radar rainfall totals, investigate whether the rainfall in the Little River and Little Pigeon were fairly similar. This link will take you to a rainfall map where you can zoom in and change the opacity. http://www.srh.noaa.gov/ridge2/RFC_Precip/
National Weather Service/NOAA Rain gauge for Sevier County
Newfound Gap is a good rain gauge for this run, though it is in one watershed west, that of the West Prong Little Pigeon. If there has been an inch or more, this is likely to be running, with more rain required after extended dry periods.
This run is navigable on a more regular basis than people realize, and has a sizable drainage.
At the US 321 bridge, There is a gauge on the midstream river left bridge abutment that is faintly spraypainted on the upstream face. Unfortunately as of 12/2006, the gauge is not readable and needs a repaint real soon. The section described herein can be run as low as 1.5 feet on the gauge (which will be bony) and as high as you like.At 3 feet the run is quite big and gauleyesque.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Boofing in a fishing kayak
Typical Greenbriar Rapid
Entrance to Last Rapid
Boof on Next to Last Rapid
Gorgeous Day on Greenbriar
Next to last rapid - Pin Spot - view 2
Next to last rapid - pin spot
Next to last rapid
Last Rapid 2
Last Rapid 1
Last Rapid - Bottom looking up
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