Little Pigeon, Middle Prong (The Greenbrier), Tennessee, US
|Usual Difficulty||III-IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||107 fpm|
|Max Gradient||135 fpm|
|LITTLE RIVER ABOVE TOWNSEND, TN|
|usgs-03497300||2.60 - 4.60 ft||III-IV||00h22m||2.02 ft (too low)|
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: