Great creek run!!! Bring a short blunt boat, lots of rescue gear, and a big grin!! I would have to call the run a class 4 plus. Most of the run involves taking a duffek stroke to line up, then a boof stroke to launch - for just about the entire run. Not a whole lot of drops over 4 or 5 feet tall, but lots of drops about 8 feet apart.
The first rapid below the put-in bridge and the last rapid above the confluence were the most difficult. A high-water paddle out on the Middle Prong is a great way to cap off the run!!
This run is harder than it looks. There are also many bad spots spaced throughout the river. With good water this run is as or more difficult than upper Big Creek.
The first drop is right above the footbridge. To putin above this 8 foot boof, turn right off of the trail immediately before it crosses the footbridge. Go a hundred feet upstream and there will be a spot to put on. After sliding in, be ready for a little ledge above the big one that comes up quick. The big ledge is best boofed on the right, but keep your angle downstream so as to not land on a rock that sticks out on the right side of the drop.
The next rapid is the hardest on the run, with the possible exception of Pinball, near the takeout. Here the river squeezes down against the right bank and drops through a super steep boulder field for some distance. There are sick holes and rocks in here and its always bigger than it looked from the parking lot. After this set, eddy out and take a breath because it is non stop for the next half mile.
The gradient holds pretty steep through here and it tends to push you from one drop to another with little recovery time. Swimming doesn't look like fun. After several hard rapids be on the lookout for a large wall on the right signifying cave rapid. Half the river drives under this rock formation and the consequences of a missed line are of the worst type. A sneak is available on the left at high water, but at medium to low flows there aren't many options.
After the cave things get junky for a while. There are several twisting drops with unpleasant rock contact all the way down. Soon the road crosses, and be on the lookout here for river wide log jams that tend to wind up pinned against the bridge supports.
From here the creek relaxes a little to normal class 4 and winds through some good boulder gardens and braided areas. Keep an eye out for wood. Then the river picks back up significantly at Pinball, which is on the right side of an island and is easy to blunder into without knowing it. Down the middle is the line, trying to stay out of the big holes littering the pathway. Near the bottom stay center driving right to avoid several nasty pins and boulder piles where the left channel meets back up with the right one.
Below Pinball the creek is easy class 4 again for the last half mile to the takeout at the confluence with Porters Creek.
9 years ago
by Mark Singleton
For most of modern paddling history the TVA gauge Little Pigeon at Sevierville has been used to speculate on flows on the Middle Prong. 2000 cfs was a good indicator for a reasonable run.
Now there is a better way. There is a gauge called Little Pigeon above Sevierville which measures the flow of only the Middle Prong and the East Fork of the Little Pigeon. This more accurately conveys flows in the upper stretches of the Middle Prong, as the West Prong is not included in the values recorded at this gauge location. This spot is four miles upstream of the West Prong confluence
Using local radar rainfall totals, investigate whether the rain was valley precipitation or whether it fell in the higher altitudes at the top of the headwaters. If it fell high then look for levels of 1100 cfs or more for good flows. If it is still rising it is anyone's bet, based on rainfall totals. If it is falling and is below 1000, a skunking is likely.
National Weather Service/NOAA Rain gauge for Sevier County
Newfound Gap is a good rain gauge for this run, though it is in one watershed west, that of the West Prong Little Pigeon. If there has been an inch or more, this is likely to be running, with more rain required after extended dry periods.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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Canoe Running Pinball
Just another drop
Looking back Upstream
Glen & Tyler
creeking in the smokies
1st rapid on Middle Prong
The drop just upstream of the bridge
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