Mark Holmberg coordinated a
Pigeon River trip a
of the GCA Spring Extravaganza

Even after paddling this river, I wasn’t
really sure what state it was in. Looking at a map later, we put in
at the power house just off I-40 ON the Tennessee State Line. This
was my first trip on the Pidgeon. Shuttle lived up to the stories
had heard. One exit to the West on I-40, and you are to the take

Scouting entrance rapid was as easy as shuttle. From the
road it was HUGE. It looked like a class 4 to me! Holes were
everywhere and the water looked fast from a long way away. Knowing
that the water was probably faster than it looked from the road and
the holes were bigger than they appeared had me on pretty wound

When we put on the river level was 1350 CFS, and later
climbed to 1550 CFS (usgs-03460795). We ferried across to river
right. It was an easy ferry, but I’m not sure if it was because I
knew the rapid waiting behind me that made it easier than it really
was. There was no way I was going to blow that ferry.

group consisted of 5 canoes and 3 kayaks. Dorothy Vezetti lead the
way down river right hopping eddies along the way. Lisa Haskell, and
Kelly Harbac followed her in kayaks making it look easy.

rapid seems to go on forever. It is almost read and run, but any
mistake could be huge! The eddies were large and easy to hit, but
there was no way I was going to miss one; it just wasn’t going to
happen. At some point the line of boats left river right and moved to
the left. My scouting memories were totally lost, so I just followed
the line of canoes and kayaks dodging rocks and holes across the
river. I was surprised how easy it was to spot and miss the holes. If
Jim Albert went over a drop and did not come up, it was a hole if his
canoe did come up, it must be a good line. Fortunately, Jim always
came back up. At the bottom of the rapid, I had to confess that it
was a class 3 rapid, but it was a LONG class 3.

Lost Guide
rapid was another long rapid. Again, we eddy hopped down river right
dodging rocks and holes. About half way down, I made a rookie river
reading mistake found myself backward wedged against the bank. Taking
the opportunity for a leg stretch, I repositioned my Probe 12 canoe
and finished the rapid. What could have been a long swim tuned into a
pretty good run.

We had lunch at Lost Guide Rapid. Other rafts
and kayaks passed providing occasional carnage.

Rocks on the
Pigeon River are dark gray and have a tendency to crack along sharp
lines. Construction alond I-40 contributed to the amount of concrete
and sharp rocks in the river. I didn’t see any rebar, but heard there
were pieces in the river. To make matters worse they are covered in algae/mold/slime and are very slick. Walking on these rocks is treacherous.

At Double Reactionary is a
relatively short class 3. What it misses in length, it makes up for
in drop and power. We scouted from river right. Dorthy made her canoe
sail through the rapid with grace. Todd McGinnis kayaked down and
set a rope. I should have taken this clue. David Vezzeti piloted his
canoe on a nice line that somehow went wrong and he swam out of my
sight. Dorothy gave chase and got David to shore above Accelerator
rapid. Mark Holmberg and Jim Albert both had a clean runs.

ferry and entrance were exactly where I planned, which was apparently
all wrong. As I cut back to the right a large V-shaped rock was just
under the surface. This was not part of my plan. I cut to the left
and went over the drop. The line that lets you stay in the canoe went
to the right of the rock I later found out was named “Tombstone”.
The throw rope was close, but did not connect. I almost managed to
self rescue with my canoe to river right, but the canoe wanted to run
the Accelerator without me.

Below Accelerator rapid the TDOT
was building a retaining wall along river right. David Vezetti and I
walked down I-40 until we could see our group below where they had
recovered our canoes. They were very enthusiastic that we could make
the climb down the near vertical poison ivy covered cliff face to get
to them. Walking a few hundred more yards, we got to a construction
entrance being used to build the retaining wall. Reunited with our
canoes, we continued. to the take out.

It was a good

William Gatling
May 15, 2010