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Whitewater First Descents Dave Simpson’s descent of


Gorilla changed canoeing forever. PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVE SIMPSON


NARROWS OF THE GREEN


ASHEVILLE AREA, N.C. A LITTLE LESS THAN 20 YEARS AGO, North Carolina’s Nar- rows of the Green River was nothing more than a portage route that joined the more gentle stretches upstream and down. Long touted as unrunnable, it wasn’t until 1988 when creek-


ers Tom Visnius and John Kennedy finally executed a full- on descent that the Green Narrows began its torrid ascent to popularity. In a few short years it became one of the most popular class IV–V+ stretches in the U.S. Earning a first descent on the Narrows was difficult enough


in a kayak, certainly no one would have any business running them in a canoe, right? Particularly when the river—controlled by dam release—could be pumping out a savage 8.5–11.33 cms, unlike modern flows, which seldom top 5.66 cms. Dave “Psycho” Simpson stepped up to the Green’s banks


with his Dagger Encore about a year after Kennedy and Vis- nius, but before word had really spread about the 11 gnarly class IV–V+ rapids in quick succession. “It was overwhelming,” Simpson described his first meet-


ing with the Narrows. “At the time I thought it was completely unfeasible to run. I thought it would be suicide.” So, Psycho set out, bringing along trusted partners Bob McDonough and Forrest “Woody” Callaway. Over a couple of days they picked away at the rapids, only a couple of which had been named. The most beastly would earn its name on that trip—Gorilla. “At the time it was completely uncalled for,” Simpson said. “It


was unrunnable. The guidebooks said it was unrunnable, ev- eryone said it was unrunnable. Then I thought ‘Oh, the guide- books are wrong; what else could they be wrong about’.” The Narrows would remain a favourite for Simpson as he


would run it every chance he got, sometimes twice a day. It inspired him to tackle the Gauley, Tellico, Watauga and Russell Fork when its releases were far more substantial. Simpson was not the only one inspired by his runs of the


Green Narrows, they marked the beginning of OC creeking. Many single-blade paddlers began to think of the possibilities; an open boater had not only survived a steep class V, he had done so with grace. Wayne Gentry’s Green Summer, the 1992 National Paddling


Film Festival’s “Amateur Best of Show” showcased the Nar- rows and Psycho’s skills at that year’s Gauley Fest, where a young Eli Helbert, now at the forefront of open canoe creeking and the only open boater to enter the Narrows of the Green River Race, watched in awe. “I remember thinking that guy’s crazy, I could never do that.


But because Psycho did it first, a lot of us were willing to do it too when the time came,” Helbert says. “When I saw the movie I knew I had to try.” —NE


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RAPID


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