Ride of a Lifetime- Whitewater Season is Open
The powerful natural force of water provided the ride of a lifetime on the whitewater rivers of East Tennessee. Depending on your appetite for thrills and spills, your options can be “controlled release” or “wild and free.” Canoes, kayaks, duckies, rafts, and tubes are your other choice. The season for white water is now open, so get ready to go…
Controlled Release- The Pigeon River’s waters begin in the mountains of North Carolina and flow for seventy miles before entering the French Broad River in Newport, TN. The river is dammed at the confluence of the Pigeon and Big Creek as it enters Tennessee. The control of water downstream is dependent on Duke Energy releases of water at the spillway of Walters Dam in Waterville. Scheduled water release days are generally on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday weekly during the season.
Pigeon River- Kayaks, Rafts, Tubes
Long recognized as some of the best whitewater rafting in the Southeast, the upper Pigeon River offers a thrilling 5-mile ride adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and a crossing of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Most whitewater enthusiasts will sign up for a trip with one of the guided services.
More suitable for children and novice kayakers is the lower portion of the Pigeon. Class l and ll rapids provide just enough bumps and eddies for a fun ninety-minute ride.
In general, the rafting season will last from mid-March to September.
Wild and Free Running– High in the Cumberland mountains are two systems of whitewater that offer a wild and free run though isolated canyons and forests. The experience is highly dependent on water flow from rains filling the creeks and tributaries. When planning your trip, you can check the river levels for navigability on the American Whitewater website. Your run is dependent on “going with the flow:” and your safety is dependent on both water and weather conditions.
Obed Wild and Scenic River- Kayak and Canoes
Located in the Cumberland Plateau, the Obed runs undammed for forty five miles. The best portions of the river for whitewater paddling are Daddy’s Creek and Clear Creek. The season is short, generally running between January and April. Because of the elevation and the cold water, most paddlers take to the river in mid-March through April. This river is not for the novice paddler. It is highly recommended that paddlers learn about the river by joining a group or hiring a guide or joining an organized ride for their first trip on the river.
- Daddy’s Creek flows through the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area. Clear Creek Gorge runs to the Nemo Bridge.
- Obed Junction to Nemo Bridge-map 10 mile run through the canyon.*Requires a 0.5 mile hike down to the river.
- Daddy’s Creek Run: map– 12 miles run and take out at Nemo Bridge.
- Clear Creek Gorge: map5 mile run between Lily access and Nemo Bridge.
The National Park Service offices are located in Wartburg, TN
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area- Kayak, canoes, rafts.
The waters of Big South Fork offer multiple rivers and experiences. Back country camping is available.
- Peters Bridge to Brewster Bridge class l-ll 6 miles map
- Brewster Bridge to Burnt Mill Bridge class ll -lll 5 miles. Map
- Burnt Mill Bridge to Leatherwood Ford lll-lV 11 miles map
- New River Bridge to Leatherwood Ford ll-lV 15.5 miles map
Know before you go-
- Know the weather conditions and waterflow on each river before entering the river.
- Pack for emergencies. These waterways are located in very remote areas.
- Consider joining a group paddle or travel with someone familiar with the river.