Kayaking the Nantahala Gorge

Nashville to Asheville

We were returning from a trip to Nashville during the Great American Eclipse of August 2017. Asheville was our next stop on the itinerary, but we didn’t feel like driving on more highways. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a real gem–but there can be a lot of tourist traffic. We wanted to get off the beaten path and get even closer to nature. We ended up on US Highway 19/74 as it wound around the hills and banks of the Nantahala River. It’s a pretty remote area which would be great under normal circumstances, but we were running low on fuel–for the car and our selves. Quite by accident, we came stumbled onto Kayaking the Nantahala Gorge.

The Nantahala River Gorge

The Gorge is within the Nantahala National Forest, which borders along four states: Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The forest resides inside of North Carolina, adjacent the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This is a really beautiful part of the country.

We turned the bend and a great playground opened up before us. The Nantahala Outdoor Center was there to greet us. The area features a wide variety of adventures, including white water rafting, kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking, and zip lines. The center offers rentals and guided adventures from their West Bryson location.

Our top priority was to fuel up ourselves. Fortunately there several good choices and we had sandwiches at the Rivers End Restaurant. With that behind us, we turned our attention to the river.

2013 World Championships

It turns out the Nantahala Gorge is a world-class recreational area. It was the site of the 2013 ICF Canoe Free Style World Championships, held in September 2013. Competitors from all over the world came to this small river gorge to compete in canoes and kayaks for the five-day competition.

The top five women finishers were from Great Britain, Japan, USA, Germany, and Russia. The top five men were from the USA, Slovakia, Poland, France, and Great Britain. A very international mix that you wouldn’t see every day in this remote part of the North Carolina Mountains.

The “International Canoe Federation”, a.k.a. ICF is the governing body for various classes of canoe races – and more recently the Stand Up Paddling.

A Brief Stay

We splashed around a bit, but unfortunately didn’t have to run the course or spend much time in the water. There’s so much to do in the area, but we had a hotel reservation in Asheville. This is definitely on our short list for a return trip to spend some quality time.

Nantahala Outdoors Center

Site of the 2013 Canoe Free Style World Championships

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