The 8-mile stretch of water running through the Nantahala River Gorge near Bryson City, North Carolina, is one of the most scenic stretches of river in the United States. The dam-controlled river offers swift and consistent current, ensuring heart-pounding rapids throughout the year. Its location along the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park means you can easily incorporate river rafting or kayaking with your mountain vacation.Photo courtesy of Bill Russ Ââ€“ VisitNC.com
A trip down the Nantahala River takes two to three hours and passes through thrilling Class II and Class III rapids, culminating in a plunge down the Class III Nantahala Falls. As you're whisked down the river, you'll be passing cliffs covered top to bottom in verdant rainforest. Most rafting tours pull out in the small town of Wesser, and if you cross the Wesser bridge and hike along the railroad tracks, you'll find a place to view one of the river's larger waterfalls. Photo courtesy of Bill Russ Ââ€“ VisitNC.com
If you're new to rafting, the Nantahala Outdoor Center operates an excellent rafting and kayaking program with trips geared toward families and beginner rafters. If you're ready to take your skills to the next level, sign up for a class at the Nantahala Outdoor Center Paddling School for world-class whitewater instruction.