This photo needs editing.
Difficulty V
Length 1.8 Miles
Gauge N/A
Flow Range
Reach Info Last Updated 05/28/2017 3:51 pm

River Description

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 rapids.

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 hole.

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 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.

Rapid Descriptions


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12 years ago

I regret to inform this community that on tuesday evening we lost a very special person to the boating community to this river. Issac Ludwig was an amazing person and lived for boating, He taught me and others soo much and could have taught us so much more. this week of rain has brought great joy and even greater sadness to all of us. I want dedicate this weekend of boating to an amazing boater and great friend, Issac we all will miss you so much brother...

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16 years ago

From Boatertalk:
Forum: BoaterTalk
Re: Altitude confirmation needed. Attn Bradley LVM New
Date: Mar 08 2004, 14:23 GMT
From: deluge

Road prong is 1100ft (1.9 miles) from putin 1/4 mile above greenlight falls. If you go from here and do west prong all the way down to last take out (below in a hurry) that is just about 3000 feet of drop with no portages (unless you want). If you did road prong from third bridge it is .6 miles and about 300-350 feet. upper west prong is 700 feet (1.7 miles) from foot bridge to 441 bridge. 441 brige to last take out is 3.3-3.5 miles and a little over 1100 feet. Campbell over is a mile less.- howard

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16 years ago

Newest reports have 1.5 being the high water cut off.

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17 years ago

The W. Prong guage has changed. It now reads around
1/3' lower. So now I guess 1 1/2- 1 3/4 is my high
water cut off for the lower (it was done wensday at 1
3/4) and 1/2' is the low h2o cutoff. No new bad trees
and no major changes with alot aoff small ones.
hope it rains more- Howard

No Gage

Gage Descriptions

The NOAA river guage near the Chimney picnic area (ID = CPAT1) gives nearly real time information on the flow as it is at the put in. Subtract 1.5 ft from CPAT1 to get the bridge guage.  A better view of this guage is available on

As of late 2006, 0.8 is pretty low, with 1-1.1 feet being nice and 1.3-1.5 being medium to medium high. Above 1.5 and you are on your own.

The NOAA page for Sevier County has several rain guages useful for anticipating the flow on the West Prong. Check the Newfound Gap rain gauge (ID = NFGT1). During the winter months, look for at least  1 inch cumulative rainfall in the last 12 hours, while in late spring through fall, look for readings of 2+ inches for flow.

Both the flow and rain gauges above can be found on the site.

USGS gauge in Sevierville is further downstream and can be a backup if the gauges above are out. It is 20 miles downstream so the delay is probably 6 hours or more. To anticipate flow look for the gauge to be on its way up to go over at least 3 feet. 3.5 or 4 feet means it might be running. This correlation has not been verifed as of May 2017.

PLEASE POST YOUR PICNIC VISUALS AND THE DATE AND TIME IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW! The visual gauge is located on the US 441 bridge over the creek at Chimneys Picnic Area. It is located on the downstream side of the river left abutment of the bridge. The gauge changes frequently, so use your head.

Updated by Alex Harvey, May 2017.


Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2008-08-26 n/a Fatality High Water Read More





Matt Muir


Alex Harvey


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1192757 01/09/07 n/a n/a
1207590 05/28/17 Alex Harvey ajh
1207589 05/28/17 Alex Harvey ajh