Rod's Guide to Whitewater Rafting in the Smoky Mountains

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Smoky Mountain Whitewater Rafting

Whitewater - Smoky Mountain Whitewater Raftingit's a word that brings about images of thundering, free-flowing, white-capped river action! An ideal outdoor adventure for adults, as well as kids, whitewater rafting is the perfect warm weather getaway for families, school and church groups that will ensure lasting memories for years to come. March officially begins the rafting season and continues until early November. A few benefits of planning your whitewater for the spring are higher rapids and wildflowers, while fall offers its abundant natural colors.

Rivers take on classifications that range from II (easy) to IV (difficult). Any river with the "difficult" designation would mean rafters must be used to physical exertion, considered "fit" and able to take on a rapid current. When making your plans be mindful of each classification - we want you to come back again and again.

Wildwater Rivers


The movie "Deliverence" in 1972 introduced millions of people to the Chattooga River. Shortly thereafter in 1974, the Chattooga was designated a Wild and Scenic River. When it comes to difficulty, the Chattooga offers the full range of challenging routes from which to choose. And no bystanders are permitted on this river - you must be prepared to physically exert yourself on these trips.

French Broad

Around 25 miles north of Asheville, North Carolina, the French Broad River offers easy to moderately challenging (Class II-III)whitewater trips. River-goers can choose trips that are guide-assisted or go on their own, depending on their desire or experience.


The Nantahala is by far one of the most popular rafting rivers due to its numerous opportunities for beginners and "old pros" alike. The Nantahala Gorge and Nantahala Falls' (Class III) heart-pounding rapids are memorable to say the least. To go with that, the Nantahala is also just south of one of the country's most noted natural treasures - the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


One of the deepest canyons in the East, as well as some huge boulders along the way, highlight the Nolichucky River trip, which winds through the Cherokee and Pisgah National Forests.


The Ocoee, just east of Franklin, Tennessee, was the site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater events. That fact alone should let you know that this isn’t your grandfather's winding river. Expect Class III-IV rapids along the Ocoee and be prepared for a day of excitement on the water.

Lower Pigeon

The Pigeon River's lower section offers Class II and Class III rapids and their guide-assisted trips are perfect for kids as young as 6 up to seniors.

Upper Pigeon

The Upper Pigeon River is located in the heart of the Smoky Mountains and offers approximately 5 miles of Class III and Class IV rapids. The Upper Pigeon is also convenient to every other Smokies area attraction.


There are many river outfitters, or guides, from which to choose from, and the services they offer come in a wide variety. All guides, equipment, and meals are available with some of the listed companies. But be sure to ask each outfitter specific questions and be picky, because your river adventure’s success might depend on your choice! Remember - we're looking forward to your return trip already.

USA Raft or call 1-800-USA-RAFT

Nantahala Outdoor Center – call 1-888-662-1662

Cherokee Adventures, Inc. – Call 865-743-7733 or 1-800-417-5497

Rafting in the Smokies – P.O. Box 592 Gatlinburg TN 37738 or call 865-436-5008

Rip Roaring Adventures – 1-800-449-RAFT

Smoky Mountain Outdoors Unlimited – 1-800-771-RAFT

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