The rivers of Western North Carolina and the Tennessee border offer Class I through Class IV rapids for whitewater rafting. Major rafting rivers are the French Broad, Nolichucky, Nantahala, Ocoee, Chattooga and Green River. These six rivers in the North Carolina mountains are considered the best whitewater in the Southeast. The closest whitewater rafting companies to Maggie Valley are USA Raft, Blue Heron Whitewater and French Broad Rafting Expeditions, all located on the French Broad River 30 minutes north in Marshall. If you want to get on a river, and whitewater is not a must, check out the Asheville Outdoor Center located right in Asheville. They offer gentle tubing, rafting, kayaking and canoeing also on the French Broad River.
There are few better ways to experience the excitement of the mountains than a whitewater rafting trip, and Western North Carolina has it all, from peaceful gentle streams to big tumbling rivers that roar through the deepest gorges.
The most popular whitewater stream for professional and amateur alike is the Nantahala River in the Bryson City area. A class II and III stream, the Nantahala begins in the mountains of Macon County and flows northward through the beautiful Nantahala Gorge and on into Graham County where it joins the Little Tennessee River. The eight-mile run on the Nantahala takes about three hours. Be advised, though, on summer weekends the river can get very crowded.
There are a number of outfitters that provide rental equipment and guided raft trips on the area streams. The larger outfitters, like Nantahala Outdoor Center, provide guide services worldwide. Prices for a guided raft trip will vary from outfitter to outfitter and usually are higher on weekends. Basic gear requirements are a life jacket and protective foot wear such as river-runner sandals or booties. Be sure and wear quick-drying clothes!
Located in Woodfin on the French Broad River, the Ledges Whitewater Park is the closest whitewater section of the river for canoeing and kayaking without guided service. Recommended for experienced canoeists and kayakers only. The Ledges play spots, of which there are several, begin to warm up at levels over 1,000 cubic feet per second and rise to 3,500. The park is complete with movable holding “gates” that kayakers can paddle through to practice for slalom competition and to improve their dexterity and water skills. To get there from Asheville, take I-240 to 19-23 North (Exit 4) and continue six miles to the New Stock Road exit. Turn left off the exit ramp and drive 0.7 miles to left on Aiken Road, then first right onto Goldview Road. Follow Goldview Road to the river. Turn right onto NC 251. The Ledges Whitewater Park and Picnic Area will be on your right almost immediately. If you wish, you can continue north on NC 251 2.0 miles to the Alexander Bridge for put-in.
Class I: Easy. Moving water with a few riffles, small waves and few obstructions. Requires basic paddling know-ledge.
Class II: Moderate. Easy rapids with up to three-foot waves and few obstructions. Requires intermediate skill level.
Class III: Difficult. High rapids and narrow channels. Requires intermediate skill level.
Class IV: Very difficult. Long difficult rapids, constricted channels and turbulent water. Requires experienced skill level.
Class V: Exceedingly difficult. Extremely difficult, long and often violent rapids. Requires high skill level.
Class VI: Utmost difficulty. Very dangerous and for experts only.