4 Places to Go Whitewater Rafting in North Carolina
Whitewater rafting is a thrilling way to spend a summer afternoon, and residents of North Carolina are lucky to have some of the best whitewater rafting in the east in their own backyard. Whether you’re looking for pulse-pounding rapids or a family-friendly adventure, there’s plenty of options to choose from. We’ve listed our top favorite whitewater rafting locations and companies in North Carolina to help you plan your next outdoor escapade.
Nantahala Outdoor Center
The Nantahala Outdoor Center, or NOC, is one of the best rated and most popular outfitters in the United States. They offer trips that range from easy rafting for families with young ones to challenging expeditions for more experienced rafters. They also offer equipment rentals for adventurers comfortable with tackling river rapids on their own.
The NOC has multiple outposts along the various rivers in Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Each is staffed with knowledgeable guides who are rigorously trained. The most popular North Carolina trips are, without a doubt, the ones that head down the company’s namesake river, the Nantahala, but their variety of trips make them one of the best for other rivers including the French Broad and Chattooga.
French Broad River
One of the most popular rivers for whitewater rafting near Asheville, the French Broad River is free-flowing, which means it isn’t controlled by a dam. As such, the water levels and rapids depend on recent rainfall. If there’s been a lot of rain, the rapids pick up considerably, while a dry season will see a calmer river.
Because of the variable conditions, it’s best to wait until a few days or a week before your planned date to decide on a trip. You don’t want to book it out and then find out that the river can’t be run thanks to a deluge of rain, or that there isn’t enough water to create substantial rapids.
Unlike the French Broad, the Tuckasegee River is controlled by a dam. When the dam is closed, the Tuckasegee is a pleasant, calm float downriver. However, when the dam is opened, that calm float turns into 5.5 miles of category IV and above rapids, making the Tuckasegee one of the most popular high-category rivers in the area.
Release days are scheduled ahead of time, and you can learn more about them here. Running the Tuckasegee on a release day is recommended only for experienced rafters and kayakers.
The Nolichucky River cuts through the steepest gorge in the eastern United States and has some of the most unparalleled natural scenery of any rafting trip in the Carolinas. This trip is definitely for experienced rafters and kayakers but is a must-do on many rafters’ list thanks to the stunning vistas and uniquely challenging rapids. The river passes by the Unaka Range and delivers riders from North Carolina into Tennessee.
These three rivers are great places to go if you have your own equipment or are planning on renting, but if you’re looking for an all-inclusive guided experience, the NOC is the perfect place to start your rafting adventure!
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