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By Clay Wright. Learn more about Clay

March 18, 2006

Despite this horrible drought in the SE, with just 1/2 inch of rain LVM’s Toby Mcdermit thought there would be a short window to slide down the steep granite gorge of the Raven Fork River. So we loaded up with Andrew Holcombe, Brian Kirk, and ‘Johnie Kentucky’ and headed into the Smokies.

The Raven Fork flows out of the Smokies down into Cherokee NC and while it’s a big step up from the Green in difficulty, it’s also a step up in commitment. With all land outside the park owned by Cherokee indians and the only road also carrying the local water supply, it’s the shortest shuttle in the world: we drove about 1/4 mile before we started hiking (only with permission) – from a spot about 200 feet up but looking right down at the take-out. That means 2.5 miles and 800 feet of vertical climb to the put-in.

Once up there, the trees tower over the steep granite gorge and the water is crystal clear – it’s one of the most pristine places left in the Southeast – a small piece of the smokies well protected by the reservation below. And did I mention the gradient? We put in up at ‘Lord of the Rings’ for some 200ft/mi warm up since the remaining 2 miles averages 400ft/mi. The moves are tight, but the rock is slick and the slides impressive. While there are 3 usual portages, Andrew Holcombe dodged a sieve and Toby Mcdermit fired up the 30′ 5.3 test piece ‘Big Boy’ leaving just 2 sections unrun by our group (‘Atomic Elbow Crusher’ and ‘the Mangler’) despite the low flows.

Arriving at the take-out, our window of water had closed. The level had dropped from ‘low’ (7”) to ‘butt-low'(4.5”) and we felt incredibly fortunate to ride this brief bubble of water through this incredible place on a warm sunny day. After a brief sun-soak, fetch session with Flow, and chat with our Cherokee host, Emanuel Watty, I was headed up 441 for a Smokies sunset and on my way back to TN to ride the heavier rains that fell on the Cumberland Plateau. Hoping for more rains . .





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Andrew Holcombe snakes through Anaconda Raven Fork 6

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Big Boy – a 30′ drop with rocks just right and downstream of landing, flowing right into Atomic Elbow Crusher.

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Mike Tysons Punchout
With Big Boy showing in the top of the screen, this is the steepest section of the run.
Johnie Kentucky drops in while Brian Kirk drives for the final boof with Andrew Holcombe looking on from below.

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Paddlers just starting to roll in for an extra-social session on the rocks below Sunshine. Jimmy, Parker, Chris, Robert, Austin, Whitney, Toby, Brian Miller, Mark, Brendan, etc..and so many more on the way.Celebrating a life well lived.