Tremont is a bit harder to catch and more difficult to paddle than the nearby Little River Sinks to the Elbow section, making a great a step up in difficulty and a switch up in routine when the mountains get good rain. When the Little is running above 3.5 feet, many regulars will drive up Tremont road first and check the flow there, only resigning to the Little if Tremont is too low.
What Makes It Great
Tremont has two distinct sections, upper and lower. Upper is a short but oh-so-sweet steep run with nearly continuous stairsteps of Class III-IV rapids. The lower section is more mellow, but still a full-on creeking experience, especially at juicier flows. It deals one serious drop called Stop Sign, which is a seriously fun boof—when you hit it right. Both sections are roadside, allowing for easy scouting, shuttle, and multiple laps.
Lower Section: First bridge below Lynn Camp and Thunderhead Prong to the bridge at Tremont Institute—2.2 miles
Class III ledges and slides deal non-stop smiles and quality creeking moves for the full length of the run. Most every rapid is read-and-run, but don’t be shy about taking out and scouting if you are ever unsure, especially because wood can collect sneakily just about anywhere. The one rapid that definitely deserves a scout is Stop Sign, which comes at 1.5 miles into the run, and you can scout it from the road on the drive up. Look for an obvious six-foot pour over on far river left. The move is a straightforward boof, but with little margin for error. Setting safety here is a good idea, and there’s no shame in portaging for first-timers, because a ride in that hole can be nasty.
Upper section: Confluence of Lynn Camp and Thunderhead Prongs to the first bridge to the first bridge downstream—0.9 miles
Upper Tremont is some of the Smokies’ most quality white water for experienced paddlers. Class III and IV rapids are stacked in quick succession, with only very short pools in between. This makes for a great action-packed run, but also for a bad time if you go for a swim in the wrong place. Every rapid can be boat scouted and has multiple runnable lines, but not every line is “good,” especially at lower flows. First timers should take the chance to scout from the road and get out on the shore often. As always, watch for wood.
Who is Going to Love It
Aspiring creekers who are comfortable on the class III rapids between the Sinks and the Elbow should could move up to Lower Tremont with the guidance of an experienced crew.
Experienced paddlers who are confident on steep and continuous drops may want to skip straight to the upper section and either do laps here or take it all the way through the lower section for a long and satisfying run.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From the Townsend Y in Smoky Mountain National Park, turn right onto Laurel Creek Road (rather than left onto Little River Road toward the Sinks). Take the next left onto Tremont Road, which immediately turns to gravel. In two miles you will reach the Tremont Institute and take out for the lower section. Under the bridge here on river right is the stick gauge.
The put in for the lower and take out for the upper is the road bridge another 2.3 miles up the road, where there is a small parking area on river right. Parking for the upper is at the Middle Prong Trailhead at the end of the road. To run this section, put in just upstream of the footbridge on river right.