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Nantahala River: A Great White Water Rafting Beginner River

Updated on March 23, 2011

Southeastern U.S. White Water Rivers, Including the Nantahala River...

If you’ve never tried your hand at white water rafting before, it’s time to take a little action and get yourself out there! No matter what part of the world you live in there is most likely a nice river to test out within a few hours’ drive from you… If you live in the southeastern United States, there are MANY rivers available and many different difficulty levels also. As a beginner, you may want to stay away from the New River and Gauley River in West Virginia, the Ocoee River in Tennessee, and the Chattooga River in Georgia, but there are several rivers in North Carolina that are suited for beginners, such as the Nantahala River.

Some of them are the French Broad River, the Nolichucky River, and the Nantahala River… Out of the 3, the Nolichucky is probably the most intense, and the French Broad is probably the most accessible, in addition to the fact that it’s a warm water river, unlike the Nantahala… The Nantahala River is a pretty cold river, as its mountain spring fed, and hasn’t usually had time to warm up much. So be prepared to get a little bit cold!

Nantahala Outdoors Center at the Nantahala River...

Your white water rafting trip on the Nantahala River is going to be about 8 miles long and take 3 hours or more to raft. It’s a relatively easy river, and perfect for families with small children or first timers. There are mostly Class II rapids along the way, with one Class III rapid at the very end. They say there are many different ways to traverse this last rapid, some more daring than others! The main meeting place or location in that area is the NOC, or Nantahala Outdoors Center. This a very centralized and serves as the main store for a variety of different outdoor sports, including hiking, biking, rock climbing, kayaking, rafting, and just about anything else to do with the outdoors that people would be interested in doing… Pretty much everyone in the area has heard about the NOC, so if you get lost just ask!

The area is within a few hours’ drive of many major cities and population centers in the southeast, so you can either come up for a quick day trip, or plan on spending at least one night at any of the many hotels, motels, and campgrounds near the Nantahala River. Camping is actually the preferred method of spending time there, and I remember some great times growing up camping with the family every year! Your kids will love it a lot more than a stuffy old hotel room… Much better to be out with nature and experiencing all that it has available…

Nantahala River Whitewater...

In all reality, the Nantahala River is not much of a river to “learn the ropes” with your eyes set on a much bigger prize, such as the Ocoee… You will learn a little bit about white water, and what maybe to expect on bigger rivers, but it’s really a family river and caters more to that crowd. If you’re trying to tackle a few rivers in succession to work your way up to the Gauley River in West Virginia, then maybe the French Broad River or Nolichucky River would be a better match for you, as they are more advanced and you’ll probably have more fun on them. The Nolichucky is a very scenic river, and comparable to the Chattooga River in Georgia in some respects.

Hopefully you’ve now got a little bit more information on what the next step is for your white water rafting journey on the Nantahala River! It’s really a great sport, and very refreshing in the summertime heat. You aren’t constantly in the rough and tumble rapids; there are times when you just get to relax and soak in the scenery around you. So give it a try, and have fun!

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    • scubadoggy profile image

      scubadoggy 6 years ago

      Yes, it's a great river in the mountains of North Carolina, even if it is just a little cold! Feels great on a hot summer's day though!

    • mike6181 profile image

      mike6181 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing a wonderful experience with me and other readers!