Blog for Zip line Attraction in the Smoky Mountains
Located in Pigeon Forge, TN and near Gatlinburg and Sevierville.
By Ross Bodhi Ogle
Posted on August 10, 2021
In last week's blog, we mentioned that whitewater rafting was one of the must-do bucket-list items for anyone hanging out in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee or North Carolina. This week, we thought we'd expand on that and go on a deeper dive into one of the most popular outdoor activities in the area (in addition to Smoky Mountain Ziplines, of course). Rafting is thrilling, fun and a nice way to stay cool on a hot summer day. So grab your paddles, strap on your helmets and come along for the ride as we shoot the rapids of the Smokies!
Once you decide you want to do some rafting in the mountains, one of your first decisions will be choosing the river you want to explore. Some of the more frequently rafted rivers in the region are the Pigeon River and Ocoee River in Tennessee and the Nantahala River in North Carolina. Since so many of the rafting outfitters in our local area are based on the Pigeon River, that's the one we'll focus on this week.
A number of companies conduct whitewater rafting tours on the Pigeon River, including NOC Gatlinburg, Rafting in the Smokies, Pigeon River Outdoors, Rip Roaring Adventures and Smoky Mountain Outdoors Rafting, just to mention a few. We recommend researching different companies online to compare tours, rates, locations and customer reviews.
You'll find that several of these businesses have storefronts in Gatlinburg, and you can get information about tours and book them there, but you should know that they base their actual operations on or near the rivers themselves. Many are located on the Pigeon River in Hartford, TN, which is just off Interstate 40, near the North Carolina border.
Once you've chosen your rafting company and booked your tour, all you have to do is show up at their riverfront site on the big day. You'll need to dress prepared to get wet and wear some kind of water shoes. From there, your rafting guide will organize your group, which may include as many as seven people, and he or she will go over all the rules of the trip, including paddling commands. These are important since your guide will have to read each set of rapids and give the correct commands for the group to negotiate them safely. So it's crucial that each guest know exactly how and where to paddle when the guide issues specific instructions.
This is similar to how we conduct tours on our Gatlinburg ziplines. We get our groups outfitted with safety gear, and we teach them all the rules and instructions so everyone can enjoy an exciting and fun but safe day in the mountains.
Next, your rafting group will be shuttled to the put-in point, which might take a half-hour or more, depending on how long of a rafting trip you've booked. It's common for rafting trips start at a remote location and end back at the rafting outpost. Most trips last anywhere from a half day to a full day.
Once you're on the water, it's time to enjoy the scenery and experience the thrills of shooting the rapids. As we mentioned, it's important to follow your guide's paddling commands to successfully navigate the white water. Every now and then, someone may wind up getting bounced out of a raft, but each rafter wears protective headgear, and the rest of the group will circle back to pluck that person out of the water. There are even times when the guide might stop the raft in a calm section so everyone can take a dunk in the refreshing waters.
Rapids are classified as Class I, Class II, Class III or Class IV, depending on how intense they are. Class I are the tamest, and Class IV are the wildest. The Pigeon River has lots of Class III and IV rapids, although some folks can find tours that offer excursions that are a little more easygoing. It all depends on what you're looking for in a whitewater trip.