Little Pigeon, West Prong, Tennessee, US
1. Chimneys Trailhead to Chimneys Picnic Area (Trailhead)
||V (for normal flows)
West ProngPhoto of Ross Whitaker by Alex Harvey
Ah. The West Prong. No other place in Tennessee brings chill bumps quite like this one. Way back in
the day, the West Prong was the hot spot for Knoxville, TN boaters and to this day remains one of
many in the Smokies to spark both love and fear. You've heard of people doing laps on it. You've
heard of people getting trashed on it. But most importantly, you've heard of people having
all-out-good-boofin'-fun on it.
The put in is at the confluence of Road and Walker Camp Prongs at the Chimney's trailhead. Walk
across the bridge and put in on river left to run the first 5ft. slot just below the bridge. Or, to
skip this drop, put in on river right just below the bridge.
The next mile is jam packed full of class IV-IV+ complex drops. Most rapids are best run where most
of the water is! Just go with the flow. Perhaps that's a given, but be prepaired for lots of boat
scouting/scouting and small eddy hoping if no one in your group is familiar with the territory.
Within this mile is the first named rapid, Picture Perfect Boof. There may be other names, but this
is what I have always heard. This will be the first big horizon line that you come to and also, the
last place to get out of the gorge (of ease) if anyone is shaken up. The river takes a left turn
and the road can be seen 75-100yrds above. The boof is located pretty much in the center of the
river and with water levels of .8-1.2ft, roughly, it is noted by a small triangular rock sticking
out of the water. The slot is only 2-3ft. wide and about 8 feet tall. Boof straight and hard as you
enter several holes and curlers following. Large eddy on river left just below this series of
Soon, you'll come upon the steepest section of the Trailhead, noted by a river wide 5ft. ledge that
should be run river left with low water and river right with high water. A large pool is below. Hit
the eddy and beach on river right to scout Dinosaur. The first two drops each have eddys on river
left just after them. It is best to catch the second eddy to set up properly for the final drop as
seen in the video and pictures. At higher water, many like to take the far river right line, a 3ft
boof, just above the big one to maintain the far right line on the final drop. At low water, from
the eddy, you will have to work river left of this boof and then cut back river right for the final
drop. Of course, always watch out for the bitch rock located 2-3 feet above the big one ready to
screw you over. Catch the eddy on river right just below the drop, get some points with the splat
straight ahead, or make a quick turn to the left through the shallows. Avoid running river left
down the final drop as it leads to a uncomfortable pillow eddy that continually feeds back into the
Just below Dinosaur there are several slots to choose from. Run the far right 4 foot slot with
higher water levels, but watch out for the nasty rock you might hit. The left slot was pioneered by
Travis from Knoxville and is a low water alternative to the right side. After this drop, work your
way to river left through several more drops. The river will start turning to the left somewhat and
notice a silver box in a small eddy. "The Box" is a 7' tall 2' wide slot that should be run on far
river left just below the box. River right of this drop is one of the places to avoid on the
run...it leads to sieves and lots of wood that continually collects there.
The next drop, which I don't know the name of, is pretty steep and trashy, probably droping around
15 ft total. Keep your gaurd up on this one and your paddle well-gripped. It tends to snatch
paddles. Below this are several s-turn drops, working river left and then back right over a course
of 25-30 yards.
The next two are double drops, quite shallow, and super-tight. The first one is the drop above "Big
Tree" and has a noticable line and some great boofs. Collect in the eddy below and scout, if
possible, "Big Tree". This double drop is on far river right with a very definate horizon line and
a shallow, shelf- like entrance. The first drop is 5-6 feet straight onto a rock, then straight
into a 9-10 footer that lands in a mini-canyon some 4-5 feet wide. Catch the eddy if you can, or go
straight into the 7foot slot below.
Big tree is a wonderful ending to the Class V and marks the beginning of lots of shallow class
III-III+. The picnic area begins here along with several islands and lasts for a 1/2mile. With low
water, don't bother paddling this. Higher up, the shallows ain't so bad.
Overall, the Trailhead is a wonderful section of the West Prong that should not be taken lightly.
It drops close to 650ft from the trailhead bridge to the highway 441 bridge, with mad gradient from
Dinosaur on. So, if you are not comfortable with the section above Picture Perfect Boof please get
out! Few accidents have ever happened on this river and we need to keep it this way. Know your
limits. This is non-stop, boat-meeting-rock whitewater.
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Last Updated: 2017-05-28 15:51:10