So I'm going to introduce Plan B. We'll still watch the Red River gauges carefully and maybe even do some visuals from the bridges, but everyone needs to read this because we probably won't be on it and my proposed Plan B is very different.
I say we go to the Big South Fork area and float the Clear Fork river. It has been on the RRCC bucket list for a long time and requires wet weather, which is good, but that also means its not a big slow river like we've grown accustomed to. In fact, it would be the most technical river we've ever done. I'm not going to use the word "whitewater" because real kayakers would be bored on the Clear Fork. Let's just say there will be times you're going to have to set your drink down.
I have floated it solo and did not think it was bad at all, but just so you can reach your own conclusions, here are descriptions from three different float books in the RRCC library:
I don't know why that last one is sideways. Turn your head.
We would do the first two sections: the twelve miles from Gatewood Bridge, past Peters Ford Bridge and take out at Brewseter Bridge. We would NOT do Brewster Bridge to Burnt Mill Bridge so you don't have to lay in your tent the first night wondering how you're going to "keep your skull intact" on "Decapitation Rock" the next day.
Here are the reasons I think we should do it (assuming the Red is too high). Number one is it's gorgeous. It's got the classic east Tennessee look with mountain laurels and big boulders and bluffs that we have never seen by canoe and never will unless we do a river like this. Remember how the drive to the Current River was really long but we all recognized afterward that if we never did the drive we'd never have paddled in a cave? And the Clear Fork is just about the only one like this we ever will do, because the rest of them really are whitewater.
There aren't many pictures on the internet (which is itself a good sign) but here are a couple:
Number two reason: at the same time the water level is going to be just right on the Clear Fork, we happen to have a small but solid group of 8 men instead of our usual Mardi Gras parade of 15 canoes.
Number 3: the daytime temperatures are supposed to be unseasonably warm. That really lowers the stakes in case somebody gets wet, which I honestly don't expect.
We can also take some easy precautions without cramping our style: just make sure everything's bagged up, leave behind some of the frivolous things (like accordions and kegs of beer) and lash down the important ones. We could put two people in each canoe if we want, but I don't think that's necessary for everyone. Personally I'm excited about the idea and while it might be a little more bold adventure than lazy float, you know I will never take us down a river where there is any unreasonable risk or I think it's not safe.
All of the literature says the Clear Fork is a good canoe-camping stream. I did not scout it for that purpose the one time I was on it, so I have no notes and don't really remember gravel bars at all. It's in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area so they may say that because camping is legal (and scenic). We will find a cozy campsite, even if Phil has to hack one out of the rhododendrons.
Editor's Note: by the time I finished writing this it started raining. So there's your 100%.