Whitewater Rafting in North Carolina

In its western mountains, North Carolina has many thrills to offer the whitewater river-runner, especially among the surging waves and high waters of spring and early summer. Among favorite rivers is the dam-controlled Nantahala just south of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Raftable from March to October, the Nantahala Gorge is a beautiful float which provides excellent paddling for families and novices. The chasm is deep and forested with rhododendron and mountain laurel. Whitewater Outfitters offer guided and unguided half-clay trips on the eight-mile run, which is mostly rated Class II. At the end, the exciting plunge through Nantahala Falls provides a Class III climax to test beginners' newly-learned skills. Small wonder, then, that over 100,000 rafters run the Nantahala every season.

Rafting in North Carolina is a Great Family outing and offers Experienced Guides

The season runs from April through October and the outfitter guides have special training for instructing young children. It’s a nice family North Carolina whitewater rafting experience for the kids to spot wildlife such as deer, beavers, turtles, and muskrats while on the river.

The French Broad River provides good family North Carolina whitewater rafting as it, too, churns through spectacular gorges in the Pisgah National Forest. In places, the mountains rise more than 1,000 feet above the river. Its water flow, however, is not as dependable as the Nantahala's in the summer. On the eight-mile stretch between Barnard and Hot Springs the French Broad has Class II-IV rapids alternating with placid pools.

The free-flowing Nolichucky, often associated with North Carolina rafting since its only a few miles across the state line, has a great one-day Class III-IV springtime rafting through what is claimed to be the deepest gorge in the Southeast. Mountains of the Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests rise fully 2,000 feet above the water. Guided whitewater rafting trips are popular when the water level drops in the summer.

Big Laurel Creek has exciting spring rafting for North Carolina whitewater rafting connois¬seurs close to its confluence with the French Broad near Hot Springs. When in full spate, this is a very fast river with Class IV rapids and big ledge drops. At one point it drops eighty feet in a half-mile stretch of furious rapids.

Gentler whitewater rafting in North Carolina

Lovers of nature who enjoy more placid waters like to bask in the upper reaches of the New River in the northwestern corner of North Carolina. The North and South Forks which converge just south of the Virginia state line provide 100 miles of gentle paddling through forested mountains and pastoral valleys, enlivened by deer, wild turkeys, wild ducks, and herons.

The Haw River, a favorite Piedmont whitewater trip for city dwellers in central North Carolina, provides great scenic rafting and wildlife. It offers easy rapids on its rocky course through a narrow valley before it runs into Lake Jordan close to Durham.

Map icons display company headquarters.

Nantahala Outdoor Center

13077 Highway 19 W.Bryson CityNC28713USA


Chattooga River French Broad River Nantahala River Nolichucky River Ocoee River Pigeon River State Georgia State North Carolina State South Carolina State Tennessee

Wildwater, LTD.

PO Box 309Long CreekSC29658USA


Chattooga River Nantahala River Ocoee River Pigeon River State Georgia State North Carolina State South Carolina State Tennessee