Picnic is no picnic.
This section, although not as steep as "Trailhead", still packs a punch and gives you more river miles. The West Prong is "one big rapid" in a sense where you find the channel with the most water in it and go with the flow. There are a few named rapids and places in the river to note.
First Island: Stay left here. Not much rapid wise, but this is where most of the water goes and it is usually free of trees.
Second Island: Much more complicated than the first island. Here you go right. The entrance is somewhat of a boil, but managable. There are several drops back to back, the biggest one involving a hard boof right, followed almost immediately by a boof on the left.
Boof Right/Cave: This drop is in the center of the river. Ride the rock, but don't stall or boof too hard right. Get to river left after the slot to avoid the mini-cave on river right.
Skywalker: Entering slightly center left/left is the prefered line for the top drop here, followed immediately by a big ole rock in center of the river. Go left of this rock. At higher water this drop can also be run on far river left through smaller drops.
West Prong Falls: Shortly after Skywalker is WPF. Several lines exist. Some take a far river right line that ends in a vertical 8-10 foot slot boof. Another line is to run center where the falls have more of a ledge look to them. Beware that there is a large rock just under the surface on the left side of the center line. Far river left should be avoided entirely.
Amtrack: The entrance to this rapid is quite long and ends with an exciting boof. The best lines are seen when boofing center to slightly center right. The drop is close to 8 feet and is followed by a river wide hole and several strange undercuts to be avoided. Luckily there is a large pool to gather your belongings below.
Room Without a View: Just around the corner from Amtrack is Room Without a View, the grandfather and climax of the West Prong "Picnic" rapids, and a tough one to have towards the end of the run. Enter through a slot on river left and hold on. You'll soon find the river running into a large boulder in the center of the river. Do not go left or you'll end up in a pin fest. Instead, go with the flow, towards the right, punch several holes and you're done. It's one big challenging s-turn of beauty.
Blue Angel: Shortly after Room Without a View you'll come upon a third island. You want to go right here, for it is Blue Angel, an 8-10 foot launch off of a boulder in the center of the river.
Bitch: As you turn the corner after Blue Angel you'll find yourself in a very long series of s-turns and slots. At the end of these is Bitch. The river-left side of the West Prong, just before the take out, goes into a sieve with many trees in it. Therefore, run the right side, also known as Bitch. It is probably the most dangerous rapid of the run because of it's high pinning possiblity.
The take out is just below this series of rapids, on river left that leads to a trail for Campbell Overlook.
However, you don't have to take out here if you're still up for a few more class IV's, solid class III and one BIG class V. The following rapid descriptions apply to what is being called section 3 of the West Prong, http://www.americanwhitewater.org/rivers/id/1761/.
However, the top part of this section 3 should be considered in the Picnic section, as, half of the time people don't take out at Campbell Overlook (especially with higher water levels), and two, there are big rapids yet to go that don't compair to the class II only from the Park Headquarters to Gatlinburg. With that being said...
Thors hammer: This rapid is not too far from the Campbell Overlook takeout. You'll find yourself hanging out on river left shortly before the drop, generally speaking, and when you begin to notice the river widening to the right, it's Thors Hammer. The river goes through many different slots with many different lines, all of them usually on the shallow side of life.
In a Hurry: This drop is as big as anything on the standard Picnic section. It's sort of like a longer Room Without a View but with In a Hurry mostly being straight on.
The take out, is close to a 1/2 mile below In a Hurry, the second walkway from the Vistors Center. You'll have gone through quite a bit of class II. The trail is easy to miss, so hike down from the takeout to make sure you know where to get out.
The West Prong, Trailhead and Picnic respectively, are very demanding runs and not to be taken lightly. It's best to go down with someone that knows the river. The rapids mentioned above are mostly class IV+ to V, meaning, there are no names for the scores of continuous class IV and III that you see. Trees are always an issue, so make sure you chat with local boaters before hand who know the latest hazards.
Jim Janney posted the following on BoaterTalk on 9/6/2011. http://boatertalk.com/forum/boatertalk/1052308782/.
Subject: West Prong Wood Report.
It's probably in the best shape it's been in for a good while.
Nothing on the upper until big tree (that's right, metal box is open again), which has a pile of trees across the bottom. Not sneakable until some flossing is done, but the tree blocking the main line is serious. The pile of logs in the picnic section is still there. Lower was all runnable but there is still the wood at cave, a log below skywalker, and a pungi stick in the center line at WP falls (still runnable center but right is open again too).
Visual level was 1.35 when we got there at 5, and 1.3 when we passed the gauge at 6:30. This was pretty much minimum and felt like 1 ft from the last few years. Online gauge was about 1.85 around 6:30.
Re: Altitude confirmation needed. Attn Bradley LVM New
Date: Mar 08 2004, 14:23 GMT
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
10 years ago
by Mark Singleton
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. 0.9 feet is a rough minimum, above 1.6 feet starts to get pushy. A better view of this guage is available on rainpursuit.org.
The NOAA page for Sevier County has several rain gauges useful for anticipating the flow on the West Prong. Check the Newfound Gap rain guage (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 rainpursuit.org site.
A 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.
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Amtrak - LWP
Room without a View
A tough one.
Fun drop on the West Prong
West Prong - Put-in bridge looking upstream
West Prong - From Put-in bridge looking downstream
WEst Prong - From put-in bridge looking upstream
the scene on the west prong
Room w/o a View
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