The Watauga:


Several sections of The Watauga River offer a great family experience with beautiful views and class II to class III rapids. The Watauga River is well noted for its white water, challenging rapids and pristine beauty. The river offers whitewater ranging from class I to class V.
The Watauga originates on the flanks of Grandfather Mountain and flow down through Foscoe before heading into Valle Crucis. The section running through the scenic “Vale of the Cross” community offers class 1 and 2 waters, perfect for tubing. A great half-day float begins at the Valle Crucis Park behind the Mast Store Annex and ends at a high water bridge where Hwy 194 crosses the river.

Below Valle Crucis, the river picks up pace, containing class II, III and even IV waters (depending upon the water level) before flowing into the Watauga Gorge beyond the Bethel Community.

One of the noted sections of this river is the Watauga Gorge, a class IV-V that experienced kayakers and open boaters (canoes specially designed for running white water) have been running since around 1970. This stretch of whitewater is still considered to be one of the more classic runs in the East.

Beyond the Gorge, the river flows into Watauga Lake in Tennessee, a man-made high mountain waterway which is fun to paddle in its own right.

Below the Watauga Lake dam, the river becomes wild and woolly once more, and is a popular day trip destination for many local rafting guides, with class III and IV waters.

Generally this trip’s first major rapid is the Anaconda which can be up to class three depending on water levels. This river is great to raft with children and is perfect way to enter the sport of rafting for those who have never ventured on a whitewater rafting trip before.

Contact Info:
Phone: 304-535-6331
Web: http://www.wataugalaketennessee.com

The New:

The New River is considered the 2nd oldest river in the world. It runs from North Carolina into Virginia and West Virginia and is one of the few rivers in the world that flows north. The paddling on this river is beautiful and majestic and offers a great all day or overnight trip at a leisurely pace.

The headwaters of the South Fork of the river originate in Blowing Rock, and the growing New flows through the edge of downtown Boone, but is not big enough to paddle until it nears Todd and the Ashe/Watauga County boarder. The river meanders near Jefferson on it’s way through Ashe County and offers class I and II rapids as well as great trout, small mouth bass, and catfish fishing. Near the Virginia boarder, the South and North Forks of the New River merge, doubling the width as it moves further North.

In Ashe and Alleghany counties, the river flows through a 26-mile stretch known as The New River State Park, which features several canoe-in only campsites as well as several picnic areas. Two convenient put-ins are the Wagoner Access off of Hwy 88 and the US 221 put-in off of US 221, both located north of Jefferson. Beyond this the river flows through Virginia, growing steadily in size.

As the river moves north into West Virginia, the water becomes more intense and rapids increase to class III and IV’s in the New River Gorge area.

Wilson’s Creek:

Wilson Creek, located in Avery and Caldwell counties in the Pisgah National Forest, has two major sections frequented by boaters. Section 3 (from Mortimer to the National Forest boundary sign) is an excellent section for learning or picking up some of the skills needed to run the lower section. Section 4 (running through Wilson Gorge to Brown Mountain Beach), rated class III, IV and sometimes V, has many dramatic drops and is quite challenging. Local guide companies offer funyak trips on this section.

Elk & Linville Rivers:

Two other rivers in the area occasionally run by local paddlers are the Elk and Linville Rivers, both very scenic and intense, with some sections that are virtually un-boatable. These rivers are for expert paddlers only!


While our local rivers offer plenty of wet and wild fun, this area is blessed with several regional gems that greatly increases the whitewater fun potential. Many of our local guide companies offer trips to the French Broad, Pigeon and Nolichucky rivers, among others.

The French Broad:

The French Broad is one of the more scenic rivers in the area. It flows through Pisgah National Forrest in Western North Carolina and offers everything from cold and tempestuous whitewater in the spring to more mellow yet still exciting trips in the summer. The season on the French Broad generally runs from late March through October. Water levels vary with the season as does the water temperature.

Contact info:
101 Fairview Rd # D
Asheville, NC 28803
Phone: (828) 277-0222
Web: http://www.frenchbroadbrewery.com

The Pigeon:

The Pigeon River runs through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and Pisgah national forest and offers some terribly exciting whitewater in a gorgeous setting. The Pigeon boasts twelve class III and three class IV rapids with names such as Too Late, Vegamatic, and Razor Blade. This section of the river offers one wild and wet ride that you will never forget. The lower section of the river is considerably more tame and offers a more leisurely float for those who don’t need the adrenaline rush of heavy whitewater to have a good time.

The Nolichucky:

The headwaters and tributaries of this powerful river begin on the slopes of Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain on the entire east coast. From there the river rushes along the boarder of North Carolina and Tennessee through a raucous gorge rimmed with beautiful cliffs and flowery rhododendron. The upper Nolichucky is composed of several Class III and IV rapids offering an exciting ride. The lower section of the river contains more leisurely class I and II rapids, with one class III rapid.

For More Information:

Before paddling any river in the High Country, you should familiarize yourself with the rivers and compare the levels of difficulty with your ability to navigate the water safely. All local outfitters employ experienced paddlers with wide knowledge of area rivers, so don't hesitate to ask questions!

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