In the heart of western North Carolina, the Nantahala River Gorge joins other wilderness and natural areas to create a vast recreational paradise. With its close proximity to Asheville NC, Atlanta GA, Knoxville TN and Greenville SC, this area is a prime recreation and vacation destination.
Sandwiched between the Cherokee National Forest, Pisgah National Forest and the Great Smoky Mtn National Park, the Nantahala River Gorge is a part of the Nantahala National Forest, Wayah District, which includes other notable areas such as Joyce-Kilmer Memorial Forest / Slickrock Wilderness Area, Ellicott Rock Wilderness and the Southern Nantahala Forest.

This heavily forested area is perfect for outdoor activities; including whitewater rafting, canoe and kayaking, waterfalls, hiking, mtn. biking, horseback riding, fishing, camping / backpacking. As well as, serious shopping for antiques, and genuine Native American goods in Cherokee NC. The surrounding areas have main streets filled with eclectic shops, restaurants and plenty of activities to fill your time when you are not in the woods, or on the river.

The Nantahala River, the heart of this area, is formed at the base of a hydroelectric dam. Water is routed to the river through two circular tubes, from the upstream side of the dam. The water originates from the bottom of Nantahala Lake(map image ). As a result, the Nantahala River is a cool 50 degrees year-round. The river flows down hill, along Hwy 19, headed toward Fontana Lake. Fontana Lake, an enormous lake with just under 12,000 acres of surface area, is held suspended in place by Fontana Dam, the highest dam east of the Rockies, which holds back 30 miles of water. The Appalachian Trail, which meanders for 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine, crosses the Fontana Dam.

Additionally, this area has a rich local history, including William Bartram and the Cherokee. Nearby is the Qualla Boundary, the homeland of the Eastern Band of Cherokee.

Also, to the north, is the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, a national treasure, resting directly on the North Carolina - Tennessee border. This vast section of wilderness provides its own opportunities for recreation. The wilderness is filled with a variety of plant and animal life: several hundred species of birds reside year-round or migrate through, in the spring, the area is abundant with wildflowers and the wildlife includes bear, reintroduced elk, at Cataloochee and red wolves. A nature lover's dream and beautiful year-round, the Fall foliage in this area alone, is worth a trip.

It should be no surprise why there are numerous groups working to preserve this area and the area at large called the Little Tennessee River Basin, an ecologically diverse section of area, containing multiple rivers and streams, and stretching over three states. Locally, in Bryson City, the Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River and the Tuckasegee River Revitalization Project are working to clean and protect the Tuckasegee River. In Franklin NC, the Little Tennessee Watershed Association is working to protect the Little Tennessee, a river winding a great distance through western North Carolina.

The local communities are filled with friendliness. Local merchants, restaurants and lodging establishments welcome the many families who vacation, rest and relax in this area, with open arms. You will notice returning visitors called by name at certain locations, people who have been staying at one or another lodging establishments for years. Come and make the Nantahala Gorge a part of your family traditions.

Release Schedule
Nantahala FS

Guide Assisted Trips
Raft & Duckie Rentals
Raft'N Rail®

Nantahala River
Upper Nantahala River
Little Tennessee
Calderwell Resevoir
Wilson's Creek