If you’re looking for an amazing adventure during your next trip to the North Georgia Mountains, white water rafting just might be it. We have the most stunning scenery, the most thrilling rapids and the most competent river guides in the Southeast. No experience is necessary and the rafting companies will provide all the equipment you’ll need. If you are staying at one of our Rainbow Cains, there are 4 rivers nearby for whitewater rafting: the Ocoee, the Nantahala, the Tuckaseegee and the Cheoah.
The Ocoee River is just up the road from Blue Ridge in southeastern Tennessee’s Ducktown. Discover why this is the nation’s most popular stretch of whitewater. From launch to takeout, there is a run of non-stop Class III-IV Rapids that drop 260′ from start to finish. The Ocoee River is divided into two wild rides–the Upper Ocoee and the Middle Ocoee. Because it is dam controlled, even in the driest months the water level stays constant. It flows through a picturesque gorge in the lush Cherokee National Forest. The Upper Ocoee is home to the Whitewater Center, site of the 1996 Summer Olympics. On certain summer weekends you can run the same course that challenged the Olympians. The Middle Ocoee allows rafting trips on weekends only in the months of April, May, September and October. During June, July and August, you can book a raft trip every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays (when no water is released from the dam, hence there is no whitewater). The Upper and the Middle can be combined for 10 miles of rolling waves and turbulent rapids. All trips on the Ocoee have a guide in the boat and children are required to be at least 12 years old to ride. Companies that offer trips on the Ocoee River include:
- Rolling Thunder at www.RollingThunderRiverCo.com (800) 408-7238
- Ocoee Adventure Center at www.OcoeeAdventureCenter.com (888)723-8622
- Wildwater Adventure Center at www.ocoeeriverbasinadventurecenter.com (877) 247-5536
- Ocoee Rafting at www.OcoeeRafting.com (800) 251-4800
- Nantahala Outdoor Center at www.noc.com (888) 662-2199
The Nantahala River is family-friendly and ideal for a beginner. Located in western North Carolina near Bryson City, rafting companies offer 1/2 day trips from March through October. The Nantahala is nestled deep within a canopied gorge thick with rhododendron, mountain laurel and wildflowers. The rapids are exciting, but much milder than the Ocoee. You’ll encounter some Class II-III rapids spread out between spells of crystal clear flat water. Most companies offer “guide assisted” rides where a guide will be along, but not necessarily in every boat. Children must be 7 years old or weigh at least 60 lbs. Nantahala rafting companies include:
- Nantahala Outdoor Center (see above)
- Blue Ridge Outing at www.raftwithkids.com (800) 572-3510
- Wildwater Adventure Center (see above)
The Tuckaseegee River provides the perfect whitewater trip for younger kids. Childreb as young as 4 years old are allowed on this river. The Tuckaseegee (better known as “The Tuck”) is located near Whittier, NC, close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You’ll enjoy a wonderfully scenic trip through the lower gorge of the river where you’ll come upon some whitewater–spirited, but kid- appropriate. The water temperature is warmer and the rapids are milder. The Blue Ridge Outing Company has been in business since 1988 and they guarantee their raft trips 100%. Young, old and even teens will have the time of their life!
- Blue Ridge Outing Company (Tuckaseegee Outpost) at www.raftwithkids.com (800) 572-3510
The Cheoah River is for hard-core, experienced thrill seekers. It will give you “hang onto your helmet” continuous Class IV-V Rapids for 9 miles! It’s steep, it’s hard and it’s intense. Not that you’ll have time to gaze at the scenery, but if you did, you’d be spellbound by the beauty. Trips on the Cheoah run March to November. Since there are limited water releases by the dam, there are only 19 very popular trips planned for the 2011 season. The two remaining trips are scheduled for October 1st ahd November 5th. Kids must be at least 16 years old to go on the Cheoah and they need to be very experienced. If this sounds like the adventure for you, contact:
- Nantahala Outdoor Center at www.noc.com (888)662-2199
Whitewater rafting is a blast. If you’ve never tried it, you’re really missing our on one of the best experiences you can have in the mountains. Most companies give you a choice of how involved you want to be on your ride–from letting the guide do all the work to you pitching in and paddling like crazy to avoid the boulder dead ahead. Do your homework and investigate each website to see which adventure best suits your experience level, your athletic ability and your dreams. Be sure to dress appropriately. In warm weather wear a bathing suit, quick-dry shorts and a T-shirt. In cool weather wear lightweight polar fleece or a wetsuit (NOT jeans or sweats). And always wear shoes that won’t fall off–water shoes or tennis shoes, NOT flip flops. Bring a towel and a dry set of clothes for after your ride. As with any water activity there is inherent risk involved and you will have to sign a liability waiver before getting on your watercraft. All of the companies I’ve listed in this article have many years of experience and excellent safety records.
You can be sure of three things when you go whitewater rafting: you will get wet, you will get scared at times and you will have a fascinating experience to tell all your friends! Your kids might even think you’re cool.