​​Conservation - James Burleson

​I am a resident of North Carolina where I was born and raised. I bought my first whitewater boat in June of 2017. Paddling has given me the opportunity to make many friends from across the country.  I look forward to progressing my skills. Certified in wilderness 1st aid, CPR, and Swift Water Rescue,  I plans on one day being an instructor. I enjoy participating in river clean ups as i believe everyone should. It is an easy way to give back to the community and to nature.

Our Mission

To foster and promote the interest of individuals in paddling canoes, kayaks, and other similar watercraft on the beautiful waterways of Tennessee and neighboring states.

Cruise Director Class III-IV - Wesley Bradley

He's been a paddler since 1994, member of Team Jackson Kayak and the Tri-Cities World Kayak Ambassador.  He is a lifelong resident of Elizabethton, TN and he loves to play outdoors in his local region with his adventurous wife.  He works as an architectural designer and project manager during the work week in Kingsport, TN.  Most other times you can find him shredding on his alpine skis, smashing berms on his mountain bike, cranking out some miles on his road bike or riding the whitewater in his kayak!

Cruise Director Class II/III - Joe Poehlmann

I started paddling when I was 17 and went to Outwardbound in the Boundary waters (Minnesota) for 24 days and it changed my life.

I switched from canoes to kayaks when my boys went into the military about 12 years ago. I've paddled with the Orca's in the San Juan Islands and multiple kayak clubs in Cincinnati, Frankfort KY area. 

I kept taking vacation from Cincy area to paddle on the Nantahala and Hiawassee and helped with TRR. I thought ,"life is short:, I need to find a job around Knoxville and move there.Which I did over 3 years ago and I  haven't looked back!

Last year I drove to the kayak school, Madawaska for a week in Barrys Bay Ontario with the finale at the end of the week running  Lower McCoys and the middle channel on the Ottawa river(eh)

My 1st class 4 with multiple class 3+ rapids and it was AWESOME! Since then I've stepped up my game to the middle Ocoee, Noli ,Upper Green etc... I'm a people person and love the outdoors. I hope you will join me on an APE's trip!

You want to have fun,and meet new people. 

Remember...Smiles are free! : [😊]

Vice President - Ruben Creek

Hi. My name is Ruben Creek. I was born and raised here in northeast Tennessee and I've enjoyed our local rivers and lakes most of my life. I've always been drawn to water. Maybe because I'm Pisces. Or, maybe because I was on an innertube, on the Nolichucky River, when I was merely 3 years old. I spent much of my life riding the Nolichucky on "anything that would float". I took an interest in kayaking, after many years, and bought my first kayak in 2014. I joined the APE's, shortly after that, to meet other paddlers, develop better skills and expand my playground. Since then, I've experienced many more of the rivers that our region has to offer, as well as some of our flatwater. I've met many great people in the club and on the water and I've made several great friends. I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve as the club's vice president this year. I look forward to working with the other officers and members to bring the joy of paddling to as many as want to experience it.   

​​Safety Education - Jerry Smith

Has been a whitewater kayaker and local raft guide since 2016. Jerry enjoys all aspects of the outdoors and being able to introduce new people to it. Jerry is a professional firefighter with the city of elizabethton and has been serving his community since 2006. He believes safety is vital to enjoying any activity and loves to help teach these safety skills. Jerry is certified to teach CPR, First Aid, Wilderness First Aid, Bloodborne pathogens, CABS, AED, Emergency Oxygen, and Advanced First Aid. Most of the time you can find him on one of the local rivers, hiking on a local trail or spending time with his wonderful wife and 3 kids who also kayak.

Social Director - Laurie ​​Levknecht

Laurie is a retired RN and grandma to 2 sweet girls, who has been paddling various watercraft since the early 1960s in a Grumman canoe!  In her 40’s, she became actively involved in sea kayaking, primarily in the Great Lakes in her home state of Michigan.

Over the years, Laurie taught at Midwest symposiums, and had the good fortune to sea kayak in a number of overseas destinations. Laurie was in her 50’s when daughter Adriene (also known as the Queen of the Green!!!) sparked an interest in whitewater kayaking. With a solid cadre of Midwest paddlers, Laurie experienced more great kayaking on various Midwest, SE, and Western rivers. Now living in Tennessee, Laurie’s home is 20 minutes from the takeout of the Lower Nolichucky, and she is quite content on Class I - III water. Laurie also shreds easy mountain bike trails, hikes, plays some not so good pickleball, and is a many year yoga practitioner. As Social Director, she would love to see APES gather both on and off the water!!!


 Copyright ©  Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts

Website designed and created by Erin Bradley-Weatherford

~Quarterly meeting

~A quartery electronic newsletter


~Annual Nolichucky River Clean-up


~Beginner and Intermediate Kayak Instruction

~Beginner Whitewater Canoe Instruction


~Swiftwater Rescue Courses


~1st-Timers Nolichucky Gorge River Run


~APEs Annual Winter Meeting


~Whitewater trips ranging from class I - IV


~Flatwater, lake, and sea kayaking trips


~Discounts at many local outfitters



Secretary/Treasurer - Jerry Griffin

Married to Joan, we have one son Keith Harrison and four grandchildren ages 18-to-28. Retired from Century Link in Dec. 2014. Took my first overnight canoe camping trip while at Boy Scout Camp in 1963 on South Holston Lake.

After school and getting career in telecommunication started became involved again in Boy Scouts in 1980 as adult leader of my old troop. Most of the boys were older and looking for more than car camping once a month and a week at summer camp. So, we started a high adventure program where we would do week long backpacking or canoe camping trips on class II rivers every year. We also became nationally recognized as U.S. Forest Service Volunteers doing trail building and maintenance on Cherokee National Forest.

Around 1996 or 97 for insurance reasons with BSA I needed more formal training and some kind of certification for river trips. So, I went in search of APEs, took their beginner whitewater clinic (that year ratio of canoes to kayaks was about equal) and have been a member ever since.

No longer paddle a canoe, found out air rides at more comfortable and a camper is better than sleeping on the ground. Open to paddle class I-III most days of the week.

What We Offer

Officer Biographies

Who are these APES anyway??

TEHCC Liaison - Andy Steffan

Andy has enjoyed recreational kayaking and rafting since he was old enough to take trips.  In 2016, he took his first whitewater kayaking class at NOC and has since been to several pool sessions and been on a few local rivers.  He just got his first roll in Feb. 2018.  In addition to kayaking, Andy enjoys hiking, watching NC State athletics, and home improvement projects with his wife Jackie.  When not enjoying the outdoors, Andy is in the Process Safety Design group at Eastman Chemical.

Safety Education - Steven Adams

Steven has been canoeing and kayaking his entire life.  That love of whitewater and passion for helping others led him to obtain his ACA Swift Water Rescue Instructor certification in 2020. Always happy to discuss or practice water rescue and safety so please reach out to him about that.  When he isn't training or teaching you will find him on class II/III with his sons or III/IV with fellow APEs, reach out anytime you want a whitewater trip.

Cruise Director

Touring/Class I-II - Debbie Briscoe

Deb started paddling on the Watauga in 1996 and soon was introduced into whitewater on other rivers changing her life forever. She has concentrated her efforts on conservation and introducing new enthusiasts to the sport. She held the conservation chair off & on for 13 years and still volunteers for local river cleanups. The last decade she has been a leader in organizing trips for new paddlers on the Watauga as well as flat water events like Paddle to the Grill and multi-day trips for touring kayakers. When not paddling Deb is a home care business owner and member of many other outdoor groups that offer hiking, backpacking and hammock camping adventures. 

President - Brad Eldridge

Brad has been an outdoor enthusiast his entire life. He started whitewater canoeing in 2013, after a friend, and founding member of APES, gave him an old school C1. Day one was very challenging, even in flat water, but the adventure was on! Former Captain of the APES Swim Team, Brad has moved on to a support role on the Team. Currently Brad enjoys both whitewater canoeing and kayaking, and is an ACA Level 4 kayak instructor. He enjoys paddling throughout the Southeast, and helping new people. He is focused on safety, skill progression, and having fun on the water!