The Nantahala River Offers Whitewater Rafting Fun in the NC Smokies
With so many ways to have fun in Bryson City’s cool mountain waters, Nantahala River rafting is clearly the most popular feature for friends and family groups. Trips can be fully guided, or on your own – in a 7-person raft or a 2-person duckie. The ride lasts about 3.5 hours, and offers mild to moderate whitewater action, with a big finish at Nantahala Falls. The minimum is 7 years old, or 60 pounds, The season is April through October and trips go rain or shine – you’re gonna get wet either way!
Outfitters provide paddling tips and safety instruction.
What to Wear
All outfitters provide approved life jackets; most outfitters will provide a wet suit and/or paddling jackets during the cooler months.
It’s advisable to wear a bathing suit or shorts and tee shirt, and secure shoes. If it’s cool, you should bring wool socks, a hat and sweater. Watches and loose jewelry should be left behind. And eyeglasses should be secured with a head strap. You should also bring towels and a change of dry clothes.
Take Your Pick of Four Rivers To Raft – Or Try Them All
Located about a dozen miles west of Bryson City on US 19/74, the scenic Nantahala River ranks among the most popular whitewater rafting rivers in the country. Without a doubt, it is the most popular in the Southeast luring more than 200,000 paddlers to its waters every year. A perfect combination of exciting whitewater and placid pools, the Nantahala is a great introduction to the sport of whitewater paddling.
With Class II and III rapids, it’s considered a “family” river suitable for senior citizens and children — providing the kids are at least 7 years old or weigh at least 60 pounds.
But, don’t get the wrong idea. Just because the river is suitable for families doesn’t mean it’s not exciting; canoe and kayak Olympians often train on the Nantahala.
Nantahala won “Best Paddling River” in the Blue Ridge Outdoors 2016 Best of the Blue Ridge Awards.
In the mood for something more sedate? Try the Tuckasegee River. With its Class I and II rapids, Tuckasegee rafting trips provide great outdoor entertainment for the entire family. (including kids as young as 4 or weigh at least 40 pounds).
The Cheoah is a nine-mile stretch of a narrow, whitewater river located outside of the mountain community of Robbinsville, west of Bryson City. It begins below Santeetlah Lake Dam, parallels Hwy 129 and finishes at Calderwood Lake. The Cheoah is a controlled-release river with a very limited number of release dates. It has continuous Class IV – V rapids. Dropping 150-feet per mile, the Cheoah is 3x as steep as the Gauley. Check with your outfitter for times.
The Ocoee has been rated one of the ten best whitewater rivers in the country by Canoe Magazine. A number of these outfitters also take trips down the Ocoee, about 1-1/2 hours southwest of Bryson City. It has been chosen as the site of national whitewater championships on several occasions as well as home of the 1996 Olympic Whitewater competition. Fully guided due to the challenging water.