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I had a little birthday this week 🙂 and so far I have had three separate birthday celebrations. Yay me! The first of the festivities was a whitewater rafting trip on the Nantahala River with my mother and Rob. We had a blast! The weather was perfect, the water was fast, and the river wasn’t terribly crowded.
The Nantahala is a dam-controlled river run by Duke Energy in western North Carolina within the Nantahala National Forest. The lower run is 8 miles of class II-III rapids with names like Patton’s Run, Quarry, and Upper Falls.
There are several outfitters that offer guided and unguided whitewater rafting trips, and children as young as 7 can make the run. Because the river is pumped from the bottom of Lake Nantahala, the temperature of the water is in the low 50’s all year round.
In other words, it is bloody cold!
Our river ride made for a pretty great day all in all with my only complaint being the outfitter we used. We booked with the Paddle Inn Rafting Company, and we were all a bit dissatisfied with the service. It may have just been an off day because I’ve rafted with them before and everything was swell. But this time…
The staff wasn’t what anyone would call friendly. The office was being run by a little old lady (which everyone in the joint called mama) that ruled the place like some sort of mafia don. Actually, she reminded me of Mama Fratelli from The Goonies. Remember her?
Mama was shouting orders left and right which, in fact, caused more confusion for everyone if you ask me. The average age of employees there was somewhere around 132, which is whatever, but it makes it a little tough for them to toss around heavy and awkward rafts.
One particular employee ( who was sorta creepy in a House of 1000 Corpses kind of way), he basically yelled at me to grab my raft off of the top of the bus. I have run a few rivers before and a lot of the outfitters will have you help carry the raft and paddles to and from the river. Generally, though, they don’t make you try and catch the heavy boat while they toss it off a school bus onto your head
Oh well, live and learn, right? The little outfitter snafu didn’t put a damper on our Nantahala river whitewater rafting trip in the slightest.
Once we got on the river we had an absolute blast. The river is beautiful, and the scenery is so peaceful—very lush and green.
The three of us managed to stay in the boat the entire way down the river, although we did play a quick game of bumper boats by getting slammed between another raft and a tree.
The Nantahala is easy to navigate. You can make it down without a guide as the river pretty much pushes you along where you need to go. The very last rapid, called The Falls, is the only one that is a little bit tricky. I usually just hunker down in the raft and hope for the best! So far that method has served me well. If you feel nervous about going alone, you can always book a guided trip!
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After the run, we changed into dry clothes and had a picnic lunch at one of the many picnic tables lining the river. It is a lot of fun to sit and watch the other rafters and kayakers pass by. If you forget to bring your lunch with you, there are a few places around to get a bite to eat, and Bryson City is a short drive down the mountain.
The Nantahala River is a great day trip if you live close enough-only a few hours from Charlotte, and there is an abundance of cabins and lodges for rent if you need to stay a little longer and make it a whitewater rafting weekend!
I highly recommend visiting the area if you ever find yourself passing through western NC.