Hiking In The Green River Game Lands To Gorilla Rapids

On Monday, I went hiking with four companions in the Green River Game Lands.  There are more than 10,000 acres and 16 miles of hiking trails in the Game Lands which are located in Henderson and Polk Counties in Western North Carolina.

Also within the Game Lands is a 2.9 mile section of the Green River known as the Narrows. The rapids along the Narrows form one of the most extreme kayaking runs in the Eastern U.S. and each November, many of the worlds best paddlers come here to compete in the annual Green Race.

Our hike began at the Pulliam Creek trailhead off of Big Hungry Road.  After crossing a small wooden bridge, the trail gradually descended until it came to Pulliam Creek, which we crossed on slick boulders.  After hiking about another half mile, we came to a point where there is an unofficial side trail that descends very steeply down the gorge.  This side trail is not for the faint of heart.  In addition to being very steep (it drops something like 400 feet in 2 tenths of a mile), it is also filled with large roots and boulders. Thankfully someone has tied five or six lengths of rope along here which aids in the descent.

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Once we made our way to the bottom, we immediately crossed a three or four foot wide spot where the water was rushing between the boulders, then we followed the river upstream.

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Along the way, we had to avoid poison ivy which seemed to be growing everywhere.  After a few minutes we reached some rapids known as the Gorilla.  At the top of the Gorilla rapids, the river funnels into a 4 foot wide slot known as The Notch.  It’s hard for me to imagine that people actually kayak down the river here.

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We removed our packs and ate lunch while sitting on a large boulder, all the while enjoying the beautiful view of the gorge and the sights and sounds of the river.

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A few feet from where we were eating our lunch, we spotted a plaque dedicated to Jerry Beckwith.

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I didn’t know who Jerry was, so I did a little research after getting home.  Turns out, he was a legend on the river and an athlete that won marathons and triathlons. More importantly, Jerry believed in people and considered his many friends to be one of his greatest gifts.  He had been diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and passed away in 2006. Each year, a dual sport race featuring kayaking and road cycling, is held in his honor and raises money to fight ALS.  For more information, check out jerrysbaddle.org.

When we finished our lunch, we started our hike out.  The climb back up from the bottom of the gorge was naturally fairly strenuous, especially considering that the air was quite humid.  When we were about 15 minutes from our vehicle, we began hearing thunder which seemed to be getting closer.  We didn’t have a clear view of the sky through the trees so we had not been aware until now that a storm was building.  One of the members of our hiking group has been struck by lightning numerous times, so it was important that we pick up the pace and get back to the vehicle quickly.

Our hike was about 4 miles total for the round trip and I would rate it as being moderately strenuous to strenuous.  Because of the steep section and slick boulders along the river, it could also be potentially dangerous.

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The Green River Game Lands are beautiful and I’m looking forward to going back and hiking more of the trails.

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