You have not experienced Tennessee until you have indulged in the adventures of white water rafting. Out east of Chattanooga lies the famous Ocoee river. This river is known for its wild rafting—making it the perfect home to the 1996 summer Olympics, though held in Atlanta, Georgia.
The vivacious Ocoee is not the only river in the state that boasts a current fast enough to make inflatable rafting a fun and challenging tourist attraction. In fact, there are so many rafting rental companies available along Tennessee’s scenic rivers, you are likely to get overwhelmed by the choices.You can of course bring your own kayak, here are some of the best inflatable kayaks for the money. Be sure you get a carbon fiber paddle, they will have the light weight and stiffness you will need. Here are reviews of the best kayak paddles.
Most of the white water rafting rivers in Tennessee are in the eastern part of the state, which means they intertwine with national forests and make for an awe-inspiring day trip for any voyager.
You might be surprised to learn that this river is ranked #1 in the United States for white water rafting. Above all rivers in Colorado or California– Tennessee has the corner on the white water scene. There are several courses along the white water stretch, including the Olympic Course (used in the 1996 Olympics), the Upper Course, and the Middle Course. Plan for a full day of fun.
You must first raft the Upper and Middle Courses before getting to the Olympic Course, which takes approximately six hours. Most companies take beginner rafters out on the Middle Course ‘to get their feet wet’. White water season on the Ocoee runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Near the Ocoee runs the family-friendly Pigeon River. The beautiful river lies further inside the Cherokee National Forest, inside the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This river is ranked #3 in the nation for its white water rapids. You can access the river through the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge tourist areas, where you will find rental companies lining up to take you on the excursion. The river offers a lower and upper course, the lower course is more of a relaxing float trip and the upper course is ranked as an intermediate challenge course. The upper course takes an hour a half to conquer.
In east Tennessee, the Nantahala boasts a #4 ranking in the nation for white water activities. The Nantahala runs very close to the North Carolina border and is actually accessed through nearby Bryson City, North Carolina. The Nantahala Outdoor Center also shows you where the Appalachian Trail meets the Nantahala River in case you are interested in viewing a section of this famous trail up the eastern seaboard. To board a raft on the Nantahala, you have to be at least seven years old and 60 pounds. The fee for this daytrip runs around $50.
Lower Nolichucky River
The Nolichucky River flows through both Tennessee and North Carolina, making the Lower Nolichucky the Tennessee access point. This breath-taking river is bordered by mountains, including the Bald and Unaka ranges. The Nolichucky enters Tennessee via a whitewater gorge, after which the river calms down into class 1 and 2 rapids, although there is one class 3 rapid at the end of the course. Due to the river cutting through mountains, you will be able to view striking 700-foot cliffs as you paddle. Between rapids, you can jump into some of the quieter pools that mingle between stretches of rapids.
The Watauga River, also in east Tennessee and flowing through both North Carolina and Tennessee, is the perfect spot for intermediate or beginning white water rafters that want experience a mild adventure or a family fun day. The rapids are mainly classes 1 and 2, meaning you are not likely to get your raft in a rooster tail. In spite of the low-level rapids, the river is fast-moving, making for a fun, low-challenge day trip. The river is controlled by a dam that often releases in the afternoons.