Local Waters Offer Limitless Opportunity


As the snow melts and the air begins to warm, more and more frequenters of the High Country are finding the quickly growing sport of kayaking to be a great way to spend an afternoon or weekend. In the last few years kayaking has become one of the more popular choices for outdoor enthusiasts and the High Country has a little something to offer for participants of all skill levels.

Whether you enjoy a slow paced float down a meandering river or an adrenaline pumping ride down swift moving whitewater, believe it or not, we have it all within only a short drive. This wide range of kayaking opportunities offers hard-core boaters and aspiring boaters alike the chance to get out on the water and enjoy some of the beautiful waterways and scenery that are found in and around the high country. Watauga Lake and other reservoirs also offer great opportunities for the touring minded boater.

For The Beginner:

For the beginning paddler certain stretches of the New River and the Watauga River are great introductory runs which contain great Class I (beginner) rapids which meander through some beautiful countryside and give you a chance to enjoy a lazy day on the river. More and more boaters are also sampling the unique opportunities that fishing from a kayak presents on these slow rivers. It allows you to quietly stalk some of the High Countries countless species of fish including rainbow trout, brown trout and smallmouth bass. Many anglers have taken advantage of this unique opportunity and been largely successful on their trips.

For The Expert:

The Watauga river gorge near Sugar Grove has consistently been one of the southeast's most popular and exciting runs for big water enthusiasts. The gorge contains 5 miles of Class IV (difficult) and Class V (expert) whitewater which contains a couple of significant drops including Watauga Falls, which is a 16 ft. vertical drop, as well as other highly technical obstacles to navigate. This stretch is a challenging run for the most experienced boater.

The gorge is best run between the levels of 180 cubic feet per second (cfs) and 800 cfs. At the right level the Watauga also becomes a play boaters paradise with countless waves, holes and other features that play boaters can utilize to throw aerial maneuvers as well as other rodeo type tricks. To find the river's level call (800) 238-2264 and then press "3" once the recording starts and listen for "Watauga at Sugar Grove," or check with your local retailer. The put-in for the Watauga Gorge is located approximately 20 minutes from Boone driving west on Hwy 321, past the Bethel community.

A Little Of Everything:

The Nolichucky River is another great whitewater river located in Mitchell, Unicoi (TN) and Washington (TN) counties. The Noli, as it is often referred to, offers everything from Class I to Class IV rapids.

For the more playful minded boater there are a couple of great park and play spots including Big Rocks and Jaws. Directions to these spots are available through your local paddle shop or outdoor retailer.

Other opportunities for whitewater boaters include Wilson Creek, which runs through Avery and Caldwell counties and the Pisgah National Forest, and includes rapids ranging from class III-IV+ with names such as Razorback, Triple Drop, Boatbuster/ Thunderhole, and Ten Foot Falls (don't worry, there not as bad as they sound.)

A couple of other noteworthy rivers include the Linville River, located in Burke County, and the Elk River, located in Avery and Carter (TN) Counties. These two provide creek boaters and other thrill seekers ample opportunity for expert runs when there is a sufficient amount of water. There are stretches on these rivers that are unnavigable by boat, so familiarize yourself with the rivers before heading out. Local boaters or outdoor outfitter shops are great sources of information.

Lake Paddling:

For those looking for a little less excitement and a little more relaxation, the High Country is home to some of the Southeast's most pristine bodies of water.

Watauga Lake, for example, is one of America's cleanest reservoirs and the highest in the Tennessee River system. It is surrounded by Cherokee National Forest and the Appalachian Mountains and is home to a plethora of stunning scenery. Watauga Lake is located along the state line in Tennessee and stretches 16 miles east from the dam towards the North Carolina border. To get there from Boone, follow Hwy 321 North to the Tennessee state line. You'll start seeing the lake once you've crossed the Elk River.

Another excellent location is Price Lake, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near mile marker 296.7. This scenic waterway provides the recreational boater a chance to relax, test their luck fishing and view wildlife such as beaver and migrating ducks. Swimming is prohibited.

The Last Word:

Kayaking is a sport that can be potentially dangerous. Before hitting the rivers make sure that you talk to local shops and paddlers so that you don't encounter any huge surprises while on the water. It is always best to paddle with an experienced boater who has navigated the stretch of water that you are planning on running.

Now that's out of the way, know this last truth: whether you are a hardcore boater or a weekend warrior, your playground is only a short drive away. Enjoy your High Country experience and we'll hope to see you on the water.


Below are a few sources which you may find helpful when beginning your outdoor adventure. These experts will help you to find the right water to tackle as well as the proper equipment to use when doing so.

Footsloggers of Blowing Rock:
921 Main Street, Blowing Rock NC 28605
Telephone: (828) 295-4453
Email: sal...@footsloggers.com
Web: http://www.footsloggers.com

Edge of the World:
Highway 184 in Banner Elk
Phone: (828) 898-9550.
Web: http://www.edgeoworld.com

Zaloo’s Canoe’s:
3874 NC HWY 16 south Jefferson, NC 28640
Toll free: 1 800 535 4027
Email: zal...@skybest.com
Web: http://www.zaloos.com/

New River Outfitters:
10725 US. Hwy 221 N.
P.O. Box 433,Jefferson, NC 28640
Toll Free: 1-800-982-9190
Phone: 336-982-9192
Fax: 336-982-9193
Email: cano...@skybest.com
Web: http://www.canoethenew.com

Ski Country Sports:
Highway 184 in Banner Elk
Nolichucky and Watauga Rivers, NC
Phone: (800) 528-3874 or (828) 898-9786
Web: http://www.skicountrysports.com/

New River Canoe:
Sparta, North Carolina 28675
Phone: (336) 372-8793 or (276) 773-3412.

High Mountain Expeditions:
3149 Tynecastle Hwy
Banner Elk, NC 28604
Phone:1-800-262-9036, 1-828-264-7368
Email: i...@raftingnc.com
Web: http://www.highmountainexpeditions.com

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