The Ultimate Guide To Asheville and the Western North Carolina Mountains
The Ultimate Guide to Asheville & the Western North Carolina Mountains

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Whitewater Rafting

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The rivers of Western North Carolina and the Tennessee border offer Class I through Class IV rapids for whitewater rafting. Major rafting rivers are the French Broad, Nolichucky, Nantahala, Ocoee, Chattooga and Green River. These six rivers in the North Carolina mountains are considered the best whitewater in the Southeast. The closest whitewater rafting companies to Asheville are USA Raft, Blue Heron Whitewater and French Broad Rafting Expeditions, all located on the French Broad River 30 minutes north in Marshall. If you want to get on a river, and whitewater is not a must, check out the Asheville Outdoor Center located right in Asheville. They offer gentle tubing, rafting, kayaking and canoeing also on the French Broad River.
    There are few better ways to experience the excitement of the mountains than a whitewater rafting trip, and Western North Carolina has it all, from peaceful gentle streams to big tumbling rivers that roar through the deepest gorges.
    The most popular whitewater stream for professional and amateur alike is the Nantahala River in the Bryson City area. A class II and III stream, the Nantahala begins in the mountains of Macon County and flows northward through the beautiful Nantahala Gorge and on into Graham County where it joins the Little Tennessee River. The eight-mile run on the Nantahala takes about three hours. Be advised, though, on summer weekends the river can get very crowded.
    There are a number of outfitters that provide rental equipment and guided raft trips on the area streams. The larger outfitters, like Nantahala Outdoor Center, provide guide services worldwide. Prices for a guided raft trip will vary from outfitter to outfitter and usually are higher on weekends.
Basic gear requirements are a life jacket and protective foot wear such as river-runner sandals or booties. Be sure and wear quick-drying clothes!
    Located north of Asheville in Woodfin on the French Broad River, the Ledges Whitewater Park is the closest whitewater section of the river for canoeing and kayaking without guided service. Recommended for experienced canoeists and kayakers only. The Ledges play spots, of which there are several, begin to warm up at levels over 1,000 cubic feet per second and rise to 3,500. The park is complete with movable holding “gates” that kayakers can paddle through to practice for slalom competition and to improve their dexterity and water skills. To get there from Asheville, take I-240 to 19-23 North (Exit 4) and continue six miles to the New Stock Road exit. Turn left off the exit ramp and drive 0.7 miles to left on Aiken Road, then first right onto Goldview Road. Follow Goldview Road to the river. Turn right onto NC 251. The Ledges Whitewater Park and Picnic Area will be on your right almost immediately. If you wish, you can continue north on NC 251 2.0 miles to the Alexander Bridge for put-in.

Stream Classifications:
Class I: Easy. Moving water with a few riffles, small waves and few obstructions. Requires basic paddling know-ledge.
Class II: Moderate. Easy rapids with up to three-foot waves and few obstructions. Requires intermediate skill level.
Class III: Difficult. High rapids and narrow channels. Requires intermediate skill level.
Class IV: Very difficult. Long difficult rapids, constricted channels and turbulent water. Requires experienced skill level.
Class V: Exceedingly difficult. Extremely difficult, long and often violent rapids. Requires high skill level.
Class VI: Utmost difficulty. Very dangerous and for experts only.

 

Resources:
North Carolina Professional Paddlesports Association PO Box 145, Rosman NC 28772, 828-877-3106.

Outfitters:
Asheville Area (French Broad River)
Asheville Adventure Rentals: Full service outfitter offering shuttles, boat rentals, kayaking and float trips through the Asheville area. No whitewater rafting. 704 Riverside Drive, Asheville NC 28801; 828-505-7371. Travel time From Asheville: 5 minutes
Asheville Outdoor Center
: Canoeing, Kayaking, Rafting and Tubing on the French Broad River. No whitewater rafting; 521 Amboy Road, Asheville NC 28806; 800-849-1970, 828-232-1970; travel time from Asheville: In Asheville.
Zen Tubing: Tube rentals on the French Broad River for 2-3 hours floats. 855-936-8823


Western Mountains (From Murphy  to Waynesville)
Adventurous Fast Rivers Rafting: Nantahala River; 14690 Highway 19 West, Bryson City NC 28713; 800-438-7238, 828-488-2386; travel time from Asheville: 11/2 -2 hours west to Nantahala River location.
Appalachian Rivers Raft Company: Nantahala River; US Highway 19, Topton NC 28781; 800-330-1999; travel time from  Asheville: 11/2 -2 hours west to Nantahala River location.
Big Frog Expeditions: 1278 Welcome Valley Rd. Benton, TN 37307; 877-776-2633: travel time from Asheville: 3 hours west.
Carolina Outfitters: Nantahala River; 12121 Highway 19 West, Bryson City NC 28713; 800-572-3510; travel time from Asheville: 11/2 -2 hours west.
Cripple Creek Adventures: Pigeon River; 3555 Wheat Road, Crosby TN 37720; 828-260-1111; travel time from Asheville: 1 hour west.
Endless River Adventures: Nantahala, Cheoah and Ocoee Rivers; 14157 US Highway 19/74 West, Bryson City NC 28713; 800-224-7238, 828-488-6199; travel time from Asheville: 11/2 -2 hours west to Nantahala River location.
Great Smokey Mountain Fish Camp & Safaris: Little Tennessee (Tubing & Canoe Rentals only); 1136 Bennett Road, Franklin NC 28734; 828-369-5295; travel time from Asheville: 2 hours west to Franklin.
Headwater Outfitters: Canoeing, kayaking and tubing on the French Broad River. No whitewater rafting; 25 Parkway Road, Rosman NC 28772; 828-877-3106; travel time from Asheville: 11/2 hours west.
Nantahala Outdoor Center: Nantahala, Ocoee, Chattooga, Cheoah, Pigeon, French Broad and Nolichucky Rivers; 13077 Highway 19 West, Bryson City NC 28713; 828-785-5082, 888-905-7238; travel time from Asheville: 11/2 -2 hours west to Nantahala River location.
Ocoee Adventure Center: 4651 Hwy 64, Copperhill, TN 37317; 888-723-8622: travel time from Asheville: 2.5 hours west.
Paddle Inn Rafting Company; Nantahala River; 14611 US Highway 19 West, Bryson City NC 28713; 800-711-7238; travel time from Asheville: 11/2 -2 hours west.
Rolling Thunder River Company: Nantahala River; 10160 Highway 19 West, Bryson City NC 28713; 800-408-7238; travel time from Asheville: 11/2 -2 hours west.
Southeastern Expeditions: 7350 Hwy 76 E, Clayton, GA 30525; 800-868-7238: travel time from Asheville: 1.75 hours south west.
Tuckaseegee Outfitters: Tuckaseegee River; 4909 Highway 74, Whittier NC 28789; 888-593-5050; travel time from Asheville: 11/2 -2 hours west.
USA Raft: Nantahala River; Bryson City NC 28713; 866-872-7238; travel time from Asheville: 11/2 -2 hours west
Wildwater Ltd. Rafting: Pigeon, Nantahala, Chattooga, Ocoee and Cheoah Rivers; 10345 Highway 19, Bryson City NC 28713; 866-319-8870, 828-488-2384; travel time from Asheville: 11/2 -2 hours west to Nantahala River location.

Central Mountains (From Waynesville through Asheville to Burnsville)
Asheville Adventure Rentals: Full service outfitter offering shuttles, boat rentals, kayaking and float trips through the Asheville area. No whitewater rafting. 704 Riverside Drive, Asheville NC 28801; 828-505-7371. Travel time From Asheville: 5 minutes
Asheville Outdoor Center: Canoeing, Kayaking, Rafting and Tubing on the French Broad River. No whitewater rafting; 521 Amboy Road, Asheville NC 28806; 800-849-1970, 828-232-1970; travel time from Asheville: In Asheville.
Big Creek Expeditions: Pigeon River; 3541 Hartford Road, Hartford TN 37753; 877-642-7238, 423-487-0178; travel time From Asheville: 1 hour northwest.
Blue Heron Whitewater: French Broad River;  35 Little Pine Road, Marshall NC 28753; 888-426-7238; travel time from Asheville: 30-45 minutes north.
Cherokee Adventures Inc.: Rivers:  Nolichucky, Watauga and Holston Rivers; 2000 Jonesborough Road, Erwin TN 37650; 800-445-7238, 423-743-7733; travel time from Asheville: 1 hour northwest to Nolichucky River location.
French Broad Rafting Expeditions: French Broad River; 9800 US Highway 25-70, Marshall NC 28753; 800-570-7238: travel time from Asheville: 30-45 minutes north.
Green River Adventures:111 East Main Street, Saluda NC 28773; 800-335-1530, 828-749-2800; travel time from Asheville: 45 minutes south.
Loafers Glory Rafting: Toe and French Broad Rivers; 2637 Highway 226 North, Bakersville NC 28705; 828-688-9290, 866-933-5628; travel time from Asheville: 1 hour west to Bakersville location.
Outdoor Rafting Adventures: Pigeon River; 3635 Trail Hollow Road, Hartford TN 37753; 866-333-7238, 423-487-2085; travel time from Asheville: 1 hour northwest.
Rapid Descent River Co.: Pigeon River; 3165 Hartford Road, Hartford TN 37753; 800-455-8808; travel time from Asheville: 1 hour northwest.
Rafting in the Smokies: Pigeon River; 3595 Hartford Road, Hartford TN 37753; 800-776-7238; travel time from Asheville: 1 hour northwest.
Rip Roaring Adventures: Pigeon River; 3375 Hartford Road, Hartford TN 37753; 800-449-7238; travel time from Asheville: 1 hour northwest.
USA Raft: French Broad River; 13490 US Highway 25-70, Marshall NC 28753; 866-872-7238; travel time from Asheville: 30- 45  minutes north to the French Broad River location. They also offer overnight rafting trips on the Nolichucky River in nearby Tennessee.
Wahoo Adventures: Watauga and Nolichucky Rivers; 1201 Rock Creek Road, Erwin TN 37650; 800-444-7238, 828-262-5774; travel time from Asheville: 45 minutes -1 hour northwest to Nolichucky River location.
White Water Rafting: Pigeon River; 453 Brookside Village Way, Gatlinburg TN 37738; 800-771-7238, 865-430-3838; travel time from Asheville: 11/2 -2 hours northwest.
Zen Tubing: Tube rentals on the French Broad River for 2-3 hours floats. 855-936-8823. In Asheville

Northern Mountains (From Burnsville to Sparta)
High Mountain Expeditions: Watauga and Nolichucky Rivers, Wilson's Creek; 3149 Tynecastle Highway, Banner Elk NC 28604; 828-848-9786; travel time from Asheville: 11/2 -2 hours east to Banner Elk location.
River and Earth Adventures: Watauga and Nolichucky Rivers; 1655 Highway 105, Boone NC 28607; 800-411-7238, 828-963-5491; travel time from Asheville: 2-21/2 hours east.
Riverside Canoe: South Fork of the New River (Tubing and canoeing only), 2966 Garvey Bridge Road, Crumpler NC 28617; 336-982-9439; Travel Time From Asheville: 3 hours east.

 

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