The Narrows lie in the heart of Green River Gorge and begin just upriver of the Henderson/Polk County line on the Henderson County side just below the Green's confluence with the Big Hungry River. The Narrows has a reputation as one of the most extreme kayaking destinations in the eastern United States and has 11 major class IV+ to V+ rapids. The Narrows section is approximately 3 river miles long, dropping an average of 178 feet per mile. The middle section (where all the fun is) drops about 342 feet over a half mile.
The Narrows is tough whitewater kayaking and has been the site of numerous injuries and fatalities. It's extreme nature is what makes it so attractive to world class kayakers who compete every year in the Green Race, which is run on the first Saturday of November every year.
I'm not a kayaker, so for me the Narrows offers something besides extreme whitewater. The Narrows is a a place that rewards you for the effort you take getting to it. The first time I went to the Narrows I was truly amazed, but my sense of reward was diminished by the fact that I climbed out of the Gorge via an incredibly difficult route that left me tired and frustrated at the end. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the adventure, but sometimes it's better to keep things simple.
I called up my good buddy Chris to see if he wanted to go on an adventure. He was of course happy to go. We had started an adventure to the Narrows a couple of years ago that more or less went awry because we never got where we were going (not for lack of trying) and we got wet (had to cross the river to get to the vehicles). The problem with that trip was we tried to do something easy the hard way. Hey, I learn from my mistakes. This trip would be different.
Winter time hiking offers its own set of challenges so you always have to be prepared, particularly for ice, frozen ground, and slick areas where thaw has occurred. Chris and I were certainly up for the challenge. We arrived at the Pulliam Creek Trailhead off of Big Hungry Road (this was not the way we went on the failed attempt). We hiked in about two miles until we came to the trail (more like a goat path) that leads down into the Gorge. This is the main route people take when they come to see the race in November. There are handlines strung from tree to tree to assist with getting down the very steep hill to the river. At the bottom of the hill, you find yourself at the confluence of Pulliam Creek and the Green River. A quick scramble and a leap across Pulliam Creek and you are met by the awesomeness that is The Narrows.
|Falls on Pulliam Creek at confluence with the |
Once you cross Pulliam Creek at the bottom of the hill, the river is on the left and you then begin making your way up river, enjoying each huge rapid as you go.
|Groove Tube is the first rapid you see when you reach the river. |
It's also the last rapid for kayakers who choose to take out
before taking on the toughest rapid of The Narrows called Sunshine
|Rapid Transit reminds me of one of those log rides you might|
get on at an amusement park.
|This rapid is known as Power Slide.|
|Here's Chris standing at the top of Power Slide. The rapid series known|
as the Gorilla is in the background. This picture serves as a scale for
the size and power of these rapids.
|Known as Nies' Pieces, this rapid is the last in a series of five|
called the Gorilla.
|Scream Machine is the fourth in the Gorilla series.|
|The signature rapid of The Narrows, this rapid is the third and most iconic of the Gorilla series. The Flume is the 16 foot waterfall which drops into the Speed Trap. The distance across the Speed Trap is approximately 6 to 8 feet across.|
|The Notch is quite possibly the coolest rapid of Gorilla. The span from |
rock to rock is 4 to 6 feet. The entire river is flowing through this extremely
tight section. This spot is the namesake of The Narrows.
|Pencil Sharpener is the first rapid in the Gorilla Series. Just upstream is |
the take out for those who don't want to challenge Gorilla.
Once you're committed, you pretty much have to run it.