Little Pigeon, Middle Prong (The Greenbrier) - 3. Porter's Creek Confluence to Hwy 73

Little Pigeon, Middle Prong (The Greenbrier), Tennessee, US


3. Porter's Creek Confluence to Hwy 73 (Greenbriar)

Usual Difficulty III-IV (for normal flows)
Length 3 Miles
Avg. Gradient 107 fpm
Max Gradient 135 fpm

Boof on Next to Last Rapid

Boof on Next to Last Rapid
Photo by David McConnell taken 10/27/10 @ 2.70 ft

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-03497300 2.60 - 4.60 ft III-IV 00h16m 2.37 ft (too low)

River Description

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:

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2017-09-11 13:15:49


Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

User Comments

Users can submit comments.
August 6 2018 (164 days ago)
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.
July 8 2013 (2019 days ago)
Chad SpanglerDetails
I think it needs to be noted that the "pourover" after the ranger station (just before the river
becomes roadside again)- is much more than a pourover (typically a hole formed behind a single
boulder) at higher levels. At 2.6-2.7 it was a nearly river-wide hole with a boil line that was
about 10ft downstream of the drop. Highly aerated water with a significantly depressed hole. It
certainly has the possibility to be a keeper hole at this level.
April 11 2011 (2838 days ago)
David McConnellDetails
Below about 1.8' there is an upstream facing undercut rock that comes into play that can really
ruin your day. This in the rapid about 200-400 yards before the rapid AW calls Big Pillow. The
rapid starts off angling from left to right with a big tombstone rock on the bank in the corner
then doglegs back to the left. It is important to get to the center of the river or left of center
once you pass the corner where the tombstone rock is. Unfortunately at the low flows this rock is
in play as almost all of the flow is directed right at it.
July 1 2009 (3487 days ago)
Mark SingletonDetails
Park Dispatch Office number (865) 436-1230 See BoaterTalk post: June 25, 2009 - If you didn't catch it, an
overturned kayak was found just outside of the Smokies on the MP of the Little Pigeon. It spurred a
search and rescue scenario that was serious enough for it to be reported to local TV stations. Not
sure of the outcome and I hope everyone is OK. But this did raise a very significant question. Who
do we notify when we a boat gets pinned or gets out of our control in the Smokies and darkness or
other circumstances force us to abandon it for any period of time? My friend Russell asked this
question and this was his post on a local paddling list serve. I asked the GSMNP folks what would
be the best way to report a lost boat.Here is their reply: Hello, If there is a report of an
accident or missing person, the park responds and/or conducts a search, but just finding an empty
kayak in the water would not necessarily result in a full-fledged search and rescue effort as the
town of Pittman Center launched during the recent incident. If one of your club members loses a
boat, but is otherwise okay, please call the park's Dispatch Office at (865) 436-1230 to let them
know that an empty boat may be found and it is not an emergency situation. This is a non-emergency
line which is staffed from 6:00 a.m. - midnight, but if a serious accident or other emergency has
occurred in the park, sometimes all available dispatchers have to concentrate on radio
communications among responding units and don't answer the line. If there is an accident with a
serious injury or a member of your party is known to be missing, please call 911. Best regards,C.
BloomGreat Smoky Mountains National Park
June 11 2009 (3507 days ago)
nick parkerDetails
Made this trip at 600cfs last wknd. About 1/2 mile down river from confluence / bridge put-in there
is a tree completely accross the river. Easily avoided at low water. Not so easy if water gets up
December 29 2007 (4037 days ago)
x (1)
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 !!