Float #84: Pigeon River

12 Sep

Carolina Power House to Smoky Mountain Outdoors

F84_PigeonPigeon River
Cocke County, Tennessee
Tuesday, August 13
6 Miles

After all the fun we had on the Ocoee we really wanted to go rafting one more time on our vacation, but we hadn’t planned anything ahead of time. DW suggested the Pigeon river, as it was near by and we could easily go rafting on a moment’s notice. A quick internet search provided many options for rafting companies. We picked Smoky Mountain Outdoors on the Upper Pigeon River. DW made a phone call to reserve a spot for us and that afternoon we made the hour drive to the Pigeon. This rafting company is definitely more of a commercial feel than Endless River Adventures on the Ocoee, but the guides were friendly and we had a good time all the same.

When arrived an hour before our scheduled trip to check-in and buy some cheesy souvenirs. DW and I collect gaudy refrigerator magnets from all the places we visit, so we picked up a “Pigeon River Swim Team” magnet that fit our exclusive tastes. We waited around for a bit until our group number was called. Then we geared up, met our raft guide and our two other boat partners, and loaded onto the bus for a really short drive to the put in. Our guide was a tiny woman and this was her first year guiding commercially, but she did a great job! We got the requisite safety talk with cheesy guide jokes on the bus ride and within minutes of arriving at the put in we were on the water.

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Just like all the other rivers in the area, the Pigeon was a bit high for this time of year, so the waves were a little higher and probably more fun! Our access point was at a powerhouse right on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line. The river runs along Interstate 40 most of the way, but we were in a tree-lined gorge and didn’t really notice the road. We also floated past the Appalachian trail at one point. Apparently the Pigeon River used to be incredibly polluted and devoid of life, due to toxic runoff from a paper mill. All that has changed in the last 20 years and aquatic life and recreation have returned to the river.

The morning had been hot and sunny, but soon after we put on the water it clouded over and began to rain a little. We didn’t mind; when you’re rafting you’re getting soaked anyway. We chatted with our guide and asked her about her first summer guiding and the area. She was helping some friends with a farm on a mountainside in Tennessee and advised us to never buy property on the North side of a mountain; the sun never shines there!

As soon as we hit the water we went through a class III rapid, named Powerhouse of course. That was followed by some rolling class II waves and a few more class III rapids.

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Our most eventful rapid was Lost Guide, a class IV that deserves its name. DW almost fell out of the boat (he was sitting rear left) and managed to stay in only by grabbing on to the first thing he could grip: our guide’s leg. Our guide’s paddle hit a bump and smacked her in the lip, causing a bit of blood. Guides often get tossed in this rapid. Our guide said she had been launched from her position in the back all the way to the front on a couple of occasions. I had a lot of fun though!

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Swimming at the end of the trip

Swimming at the end of the trip

After Lost Guide rapid we collected ourselves and geared up for a few more class III and IV rapids. Everyone had fun and we all managed to stay in the boat. With the exception of Lost Guide I would say this river was a bit easier than the Ocoee and a good way to spend the afternoon. Eventually the sun peeked out again and at the end of our trip we were able to jump out of the boat and swim the last bit. Once we arrived back at Smoky Mountain Outdoors we carried the raft up the ramp, returned our gear and changed into some dry clothes. As soon as I exited the bath house in my dry gear it started to rain again!

On Wednesday we headed out of Asheville and into Smoky Mountain National Park where we relaxed for one day before doing some more floating on our own, including the Tuckasegee and Nantahala rivers.

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