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Whitewater Rafting Frequently Asked Questions
Wildwater has been in business for 45 years and has maintained an excellent safety record. Our Team Members go through extensive training before being “checked out” as a guide. All of our guides are trained in CPR and First Aid with many being trained in Advanced Wilderness First Aid as well. Wildwater takes pride in providing our Guests with a quality trip that is both safe and enjoyable. However, due to the nature of whitewater rafting and other associated activities, Wildwater Ltd. and its affiliates assume no responsibility for personal safety or loss of personal property. All participants are required to complete a personal liability and photo release form before their trip. Really safe, no, reasonably safe, yes.
Trip Beg. Int. Adv. Family Groups Min. Age Length
Chattooga Mini * * * * 8 4 hrs
Chattooga III * * * * * 8 7 hrs
Chattooga IV * * * 12 7 hrs
Nantahala * * * * 60 lbs 4 hrs
Ocoee Upper * * * * 12 3 hrs
Ocoee Middle * * * * 12 3 hrs
Pigeon * * * * 8 2 hrs
Lower Pigeon * * * 4 2 1/2 hrs
International Scale of River Difficulty
Class I- Easy. Few or no obstructions; fast moving water with riffles; risk to swimmers is slight.
Class II- Novice. Wide clear channels; occasional maneuvering; rocks and medium-sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers; swimmers are seldom injured; assistance is helpful but rarely needed.
Class III- Intermediate. Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and capable of swamping a boat; complex maneuvers in fast current and narrow passages require good boat control; large waves, holes and strainers may be present but are easily avoided; powerful current; scouting advisable; swimmers are unlikely to be injured but assistance may be needed to avoid a long swim.
Class IV- Advanced. Intense, powerful rapids; turbulent water; may involve long, unavoidable wave trains, holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure; may require “must” moves above dangerous hazards; risk of injury to swimmers is moderate to high; group assistance to swimmers requires practiced skills.
Class V- Expert. Long, obstructed, turbulent rapids; drops may contain very large unavoidable waves, holes or steep congested chutes with complex demanding routes; several of these factors may be combined at the upper level of this class; rescue is extremely difficult; above average rescue skills are essential. Risk of injury is real.
Class VI- Almost Impossible. Difficulties of Class V are carried to the limits of navigability; very dangerous; risks are high and rescue may be impossible; for teams of experts only under favorable conditions. Risk of injury is high.
Many rafters cannot swim but you should be comfortable in water. On all trips, Coast Guard-approved PFDs are provided and must be worn. On advanced trips it is recommended that you have basic swimming skills. In general you should be comfortable in water and all rafters should be able to follow directions.
Participation is required on all of Wildwater’s trips, you must paddle. On all Chattooga trips there is a 1/4 mile hike into and out of the river carrying all equipment needed for the trip. You do not need to be an athlete, however good physical condition is recommended. PFD limitations are a maximum girth of 52″. For any medical conditions that may be affected by strenuous activity please consult your doctor. IF YOU ARE PREGNANT, YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE, IT IS NOT WORTH THE RISK!
In the summer; shorts or a bathing suit, and t-shirt are recommended, shoes that will stay on your feet are required. For the spring and the fall we recommend layering with synthetics such as synthetic fleece or polypropylene. On the Chattooga River wetsuits are provided March, April, October and November free of charge. The Nantahala & Ocoee Rivers rent wetsuits for $10. Wetsuit booties rent for $5. Check out our “What to Wear” page for more information about seasonal weather and clothing to wear.
Well Dressed Rafter
Rain: Trips go rain or shine. You are going to get wet anyway so why not enjoy your river trip when other activities like hiking and biking are better suited for sunny and dry weather. Rainy days also provide some of the most beautiful scenery as fog and mist rises off the river. A baseball cap can be worn under your helmet and help by keeping rain out of your eyes.
Lightning: In the event of a locally severe lightning storm, trips may stop and pull over on the bank. Exposure while on the river is at a minimum because of the high ridgelines and trees that surround the river. Trip starts may be delayed if a storm is occurring at the rafting center.
High Water/ Flood: Wildwater, in conjunction with the agencies that license the outfitters, have established a protocol for paddling at specific water levels. On the Chattooga, as the water level rises, we move upstream. If the water levels on any of the rivers exceeds safe levels, trips may be cancelled or relocated to another river. In the case of a trip cancellation, Guests are offered the option to reschedule, get a credit voucher or receive a full refund.
No. Whether you come by yourself or with a large group we can accommodate you on a trip. If you do not have a full boat we will combine groups. The rafts on the Chattooga hold 4-5 per raft and on the Ocoee, Nantahala and Pigeon Rivers the rafts hold 6-7 people. These numbers may vary depending on the size of the trip. During the spring and fall, small trips may be combined or cancelled.
Lunch is included on some trips: Nantahala Raft & Rail©, Chattooga III & IV and the Ocoee Combo. The Chattooga Lunch consists of a make your own sandwich buffet, pickles, chips & salsa, fruit, veggies, trail mix, cookies and a drink. The Raft & Rail© and Ocoee Combo lunches are usually BBQ, side and a drink. Vegetarian options are typically available; let us know if you have special needs or a large group with specific concerns. (The exact menu varies slightly depending on the trip).
During the summer months Wildwater Chattooga has Friday BBQ’s and Saturday Cookouts. The Friday BBQ dinner is just that; Pork BBQ, sides, drinks and desert. Saturday Chattooga III Cookout includes hamburgers, hotdogs, grilled chicken, sides, drinks and desert.
The Chattooga Overnighter includes two lunches, campfire steak dinner and a full hot breakfast. If you wish to have an alcoholic drink with or after dinner please bring your own (in moderation) and we will carry to camp.
Dam controlled rivers have scheduled and unscheduled releases. Water is held in lake and most often released to make electricity, that released water provides fun whitewater on a consistent basis. The Ocoee, Nantahala and Pigeon Rivers are all dam controlled.
On the Pigeon River Duke Power is required to release water for recreational purposes 4 days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Noon until 6:00pm. These days are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Wildwater will book trips early spring for non-guaranteed days, if you book on a non-guaranteed water release day, water levels could be lower than normal.
On the Ocoee there are releases on weekends spring and fall. Summer releases are Thursday through Monday on the Middle Ocoee River and weekends on the Upper Ocoee River.
The Chattooga River is a free flowing river and is affected by the amount of rain received in the area. Typically the Chattooga has higher water in the spring with water levels dropping in mid-late summer. If you are looking for big whitewater then we recommend the spring or early summer. If you are looking for a great day out in the wilderness with family and friends with less intense whitewater, then the summer is our recommendation.
The exact stretch of river you will navigate depends on the water levels on the day of your trip. Please expect changes if the water is very high or very low. Water levels below .85 can cause changes in river schedules- please check with our reservations to make sure your trip time has not changed before traveling to the Chattooga Ridge Activity Center.
The line has to be drawn somewhere. We have seen kids below the minimums that were perfectly capable and we have seen kids that meet all the minimum requirements, but still are not ready!
The determining factors usually revolve around the likelihood of a raft flip or swim and at what age a child listen to and understand instructions. Can the child understand the dangers? Does the child have enough size or body fat to have control of their body in icy water? Can the child rescue themselves or will the parents be so concerned about a young child they put their own health at risk?
Minimum ages and/or weights are often set by the managing agency that regulates each river. Wildwater will not knowingly take an underage person on our trips, we do ask and we do require a signature from a parent signifying proper age. Should you push the limit with your child? No, it is not worth the risk!
Canopy Tours Frequently Asked Questions
Canopy Tours are guided experiences using ziplines and bridges to travel through the trees. Natural interpretation, a sensation of flying, gaining a new perspective on trees and terrain, thrilling personal challenge and group interaction is all part of a canopy tour. Rangers lead groups of 8 to 10 people on an aerial trek while providing instruction, giving assistance and sharing stories, taking time to enjoy new vistas.
An aerial Adventure park like Asheville Treetops Adventure Park is a self guided set of challenges similar to a High Ropes Course. Training and equipment is given at the start and then it is up to you to chose your next move, park assistants are available for help if needed. A modern park will have different levels of difficulty to challenge a range of abilities. Most Adventure Parks include some kind of ziplines but they are not the main focus.
Canopy Tours and Aerial Adventure Parks are designed with safety in mind. Certified builders, engineering and regular inspections are a part of all our courses. ACCT standards are used in construction, inspections and training of staff. When participating in any adventure sport is up to you to listen, learn and follow instruction. Your participation in your own safety is critical to your well being. Arial activities like most outdoor adventures are safest when you stay alert, follow instruction and enjoy the experience. However, due to the nature of whitewater rafting and other associated activities, Wildwater Ltd. and its affiliates assume no responsibility for personal safety or loss of personal property. All participants are required to complete a personal liability and photo release form before their trip. Really safe, no, reasonably safe, yes.
Join the crowd; most of us are afraid of heights and that is part of what makes Canopy Tours fun, exciting and challenging. We will start with basic instruction and practice before tackling any of the big stuff.
No, as long as you are less than 250 pounds, you are good to go. On most courses there will be stairs and or hills to climb, you must evaluate your own ability to climb stairs and walk on uneven terrain. On the Pigeon River Canopy Tour their is a very long set of stairs called the Stairway to Heaven, the climb is long but the final zip payoff is huge.
You will be outside for up to three hours so dress appropriately for the expected weather. Personal safety harnesses will have straps that go around your upper thighs, so longer shorts are advisable. Straps over the shoulders are more comfortable if you have a collard shirt. Ball caps are not permitted since they restrict vision and make for a poor helmet fit. Beanies in cold weather are appropriate, fit under helmets well and will help keep you warm. Sunglasses or any glasses with a strap are fine. Jewelry should generally be removed and left in your locked car. Empty your pockets for a better harness fit and for comfort. Long hair should be pulled back and restrained.
We go rain or shine. Dress appropriately for the expected weather. In the case of high winds or lightning we will delay, cancel or cut a trip short, rescheduling or a prorated refund will be offered.
Do to the nature of following instruction, predicting behavior and general height issues we require all participants be 10 yeas or older. Weight has a large impact on traveling speeds; lighter people will travel slower and barely make it to the end, larger people will travel faster and have to brake more while zipping. Harnesses and cables are rated for large weights but traveling speed and control is a big issue for heavier people.
That being said, we now offer ziplines for ages 4 and up at our Nantahala KidZip and Asheville Kidzip!
Participants will have the choice to challenge the trails they feel comfortable with at their own pace and move around the park individually instead of in a group like a canopy tour experience. Think of it as ski slopes in the trees and a true “Jungle Gym” for all ages, strengths and adventure levels. This is made possible by new technology called “smart belays” designed to assure Participants are attached to safety systems at all times and can not detach from the system until they have completed the aerial trail and are back on the ground. Guests can explore freely knowing the safety system monitors their attachments and is designed to not allow accidental unclipping from the safety points. It is an active adventure that incorporates physical fitness and personal accomplishment. You will travel from 10 to 50 feet off the ground.