Pigeon Gorge Big Creek to Hartford
Difficulty: Class II-III+
Length: 4.6 Miles
The Pigeon is a short 4.6 mile run along I-40. The put-in is at the Waterville Power Plant. Like the Nantahala there is a fair amount of commercial raft traffic on the Pigeon. There is a limited amount public parking at the put-in. Most of the parking is dedicated to the commercial raft traffic. To help minimize congestion stage your vehicle at the take out, and leave as few vehicles at the put-in as possible. There are several rafting companies at the take-out area. They all allow kayaker parking, some are free and some charge. They will also provide rides back up to put-in if space is available. Some will even allow use of their showers and changing rooms. We frequently use US Rafts, they charge $5 to park, but their take-out is first, and they have a large lot and shady parking spaces. They will also let you use the showers and changing rooms.
American Whitewater is one of the best sources for finding information about a new river and current river conditions. Here is the AW page for the Pigeon .
The majority of the Pigeon flow is controlled by release from the power plant. On scheduled release days the flow will be around 1350 cfs. Of course this level can fluctuate based on local rainfall and larger releases from the power plant. You can check the current flows at the AW Page
This run has 13 named features on the AW page. We will take a look at few them here. The Pigeon is a fun quick run that combines long sections of read & run with technical features and wave trains.
Powerhouse: This rapid start directly below the put-in. It is a river wide Class III+ rapid that runs for almost 1/2 mile. It's a great way to get loosened up for the rest of the run. Powerhouse is classic read and run section. You can run it left right or center. The top part of the run is a series of shallow ledges. Through here the right side can be a little bumpy. After the ledges, the river narrows slightly and the gradient increases. The center line through this section becomes more challenging. The easiest line through this section is river right about 15 ft off the shore. If you want to practice eddy hopping then the left side is for you. It should be noted though, that eddy hopping through this section requires some skill. At the bottom of this rapid is BFR, Big "Fantastic" Rock. Just above BFR, is the photo spot, so be sure to smile! The large eddy behind the rock is a great place to regroup and head on down the river.
Snapdragon & Rollercoaster: These two rapids are one after the other so we will talk about them as one feature. Snapdragon, the top part of this feature is run on river left. There are a couple of large eddies on river left, and the line will run you just left of the hole. As you work your way down Snapdragon start working back to river right to run Rollercoaster. Rollercoaster is a long fun wave train. It starts of small and then builds as the gradient increases. This is a fun feature and great place to practice your down river boat control and timing of your paddle strokes.
Lost Guide: Lost Guide is a great opportunity to demonstrate boat control in moving water. The standard line through Lost Guide start on river right about 15 ft of the bank. Once you go over the first ledge you need to immediately go left to the center of the river. To accomplish this have your boat angled left as you head over the ledge. You will see a large pyramid shaped rock at the bottom of the rapid that extend out to almost the center of the river. A large wave hole forms at the bottom of this rapid directly out from the pyramid rock. You want to go between the hole and the pyramid rock. There is a large eddy on the right behind the pyramid rock, and you will often find sunbathers here.
Double Reactionary & Accelerator Both rapids give you another chance to work on boat control and your technical skills as you get your boat in position to run them. American Whitewater does great job of explaining the best line through both of these rapids, check it out.