Little, Middle Prong, Tennessee, US
|Usual Difficulty||IV (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||230 fpm|
|Max Gradient||240 fpm|
|LITTLE RIVER ABOVE TOWNSEND, TN|
|usgs-03497300||3.20 - 5.00 ft||IV||00h29m||1.9 ft (too low)|
Known locally as "Tremont," this is the classic local creek run for boaters with a wide range of abilities in the greater Knoxville area. It runs frequently and provides a great introduction to the non-stop boofing experience to be found on harder runs like the West Prong, Upper Middle Prong Little Pigeon, and Big Creek. Many of the rapids are only class 3-3+, but there are at least 6 or 7 class 4's and given the run's continuity and compactness, as well as frequently shifting wood conditions, this run is a solid class 4 run. Like the West Prong, the run has a road beside it, so it is a little more boat-abusive than runs like hike up Elkmont or Big Creek. The road does provide the ability to lap incessantly, and the run has been done over 20 times in a day in the past, with laps as low as 8 minutes. If you haven't done it before and are new to class 4 boating, take your time and scout, b/c there are some places you don't want to be. There are many lines on most rapids, but a number of them only have one line that is pleasant.
Due to the run's continuity, it is hard to explain, but there is a rhythm to the creek that can be broken down by describing the big rapids, and assuming that everything in between is solid class 3-3+. If there are names to these rapids, let me know, but I don't think there is much point in naming them other than for the sake of describing the drops. Here is an attempt at a description:
The easiest way to putin is to walk to the footbridge over Lynn Camp Prong (the branch on your left at the confluence) and before crossing, turn to your left and walk down a 20-foot-long trail that puts you in below the last big drop on Lynn Camp Prong. To run this drop, go across the bridge and then go left, dropping into the creek a hundred yards upstream of the confluence. The big drop is shallow at the bottom.
Immediately after putting on, Thunderhead Prong doubles the flow coming in on river left. The next hundred plus yards is a series of pleasant class 3 rapids with rocks and tongues. As the river begins to turn to the right, be on the outside of the turn (left) and hit an nice shoulder boof into an eddy on the left. You can eddy out or plane right through, finishing by bouncing down the runout drops. This will deposit you into a highly scenic pool.
At the end of this pool you enter the approach to Staircase. This approach begins with a nice boof down the middle, tightening between boulders into a 4 foot sluice with a boulder on the right. After powering through here, there is a short calm and then staircase comes next.
Staircase is the steepest spot on the river and definitely one of the best. Here the river makes a sweeping left turn in front of the road ( scout this on the shuttle drive up) and drops over two sets of sizable drops. The first set has a great shoulder boof of 4 feet off the left bank. From here head center and drop the next 3 foot ledge, careful to line up the remaining 3 holes above the second set. The second set consists of a large sloping ledge on the left and the trashy boulder pile run out. Most people boof right here, avoiding the hole, but you can also run left and finish the set left at select levels. There are significant pin spots in the run out, so study carefully.
After staircase the river travels through some nice class 3-3+ fluff. After the first series, snake over to the right to stay with the flow, sideswiping close to a river right undercut. Then after another series of class 3 fluff head left at a rock island formation to run the next class 4.
This one is chunky. Punch the big diagonal ledge heading left and then down a steeply blind drop of around 6 feet. Keep it center pointed downstream planning to hit the bottom a little further right. Immediately afterwards is a cool s-turn rapid where the sweet line is to drive high on the right shoulder, just missing the mank in the center of the river.
Next head towards the center of the creek and run a cool slot boof angled back to the right. Below here is some bouncy not too involved class 3 , ending in another sizable pool with (currently) a gigantic tree blocking the whole river. At all but the highest flows this tree is duckable on the right. After this, the river heads into the second big left bend that is right next to the road. This one is also 2 main parts, the tight and technical entrance jumble, and the 6 foot ledge at the bottom. The first part is best run down the middle, eddying out right at the bottom in a sizable eddy which is just above the second part. The 6 foot ledge below is divided by a midstream boulder. The left is runnable but sports a sticky hole, so the right side is almost always run and is often called "the tooth." The key here is to not be too far against the center boulder, ie the left side of the slot. The flow from the left side of the ledge meets the other side here and creates a very sticky pocket hole that is very hard to get out of. So stay center boofing straight off the tooth. Think downstream on this boof, and try not to be too far right either. The creek calms down after this for a bit with class 2-3 rapids for a hundred yards.
Next a midstream boulder pile facilitates another move to the left. Best done at the last possible moment, one will drop into a nice slot with plenty of water, before spigoting out towards the final and most dangerous set on the run.
This set is very convoluted and has some unpleasant things in store for the unsuspecting boater. The top is tight, so be ready. After entering the boulder garden at the top, go with the flow down a 5 foot tongue that slams you into the left wall. Go with it here, but make sure to let the rejection current coming back off the left wall take you back right. This is the crux of the run, as the center of the river here is not safe. There is a tight boulder jumble in the cneter of the creek that contain numerous drops that are choked full of trees. So drive to the right, away from this into the shallows for some short lived boat abuse. After the mank subsides for a bit, you will bounce down the last drop before the bridge, which depending on wood can be fun or a real pile of crap. The right line is the biggest, with a few neat ledges, but stay far right so as to not pin/piton the last drop. The easier line is down the left through some smaller less defined drops.
After hitting the deep clear pool at the bottom, eddy hard right, walk up the bank 30 feet to the car, and do it again!
Boaters frequently continue down to Tremont institute, which is a little over 2 more miles. The rapids ease to class 3, but the wood and pin spots are still there.