Quack quack: Why are Inflatable Kayaks nicknamed Duckies and why it’s the perfect way to paddle the Nantahala River

Lysianne PeacockNantahala, Uncategorized, White Water Rafting

2 people paddling an inflatable kayak (ducky) on the Nantahala River

Although rafting is an absolutely amazing way to get down the river, inflatable kayaking is the next step for experiencing whitewater from a more intimate perspective. An inflatable kayak is made out of the same material as a raft but is a little more narrow, shorter and typically seats one or two people. To really understand the nitty gritty of how rafts very from inflatable kayaks, check out the article, Inflatable Kayaks: Ultimate guide | Everything you need to know. If you are familiar with what an inflatable kayak is already, but are open to some pointers in operating one, check out the article, Inflatable Kayaking 101 published by OARS. 

Why are inflatable kayaks called duckies?

a girl paddling an inflatable kayak on the Nantahala RiverCompared to the shape and stature of a raft, as a metaphor, inflatable kayaks look sort of like a duck. In addition, when on commercial expedition river trips, multiple inflatable kayaks often line up behind a raft keeping narrow and consistent spacing while traveling down river. The guide in the raft will circle up with all the inflatable kayaks at the top of the rapid to give directions and caution about hazards. In this way the raft resembles a mamma duck and the smaller inflatable kayaks resemble her trailing babies. 

Who should paddle a ducky?

If you’re a confident paddler and want to take on the Nantahala in a smaller boat, the inflatable kayak or “ducky” trip is for you. More stable than a traditional kayak, a ducky allows you to get up close and experience the Nantahala’s class I, II and III rapids more intimately than in a raft. For inflatable kayaks we recommend you consider renting a wetsuit because you’ll get very wet!  New this summer!  By special arrangement we offer guided ducky trips that allow you the experience of getting to captain your own boat, but with an experienced leader. 

Why is the Nantahala the perfect river to ducky on? Two men paddling in two inflatable kayaks on the Nantahala River

Three words – comparatively low consequence. The Nantahala River is a class II-III river. Rivers with this rating are considered fairly low consequence in terms of the risk of hurting yourself or equipment while paddling. Check out this article on the International Scale of River Difficulty. In addition to the low consequences of the rapids, the Nantahala’s beauty can be taken in differently from a smaller craft where one sits in the water at a lower level. If you have paddled the Nantahala in a raft before, think about giving it a go in an inflatable kayak, and seeing the river from an all new perspective. To decide if you have what it takes, scroll down the page a bit and read Wildwater’s paddler description here.

For more on Everything you need to know about Nantahala River 

For more on how to experience the Nantahala from the sky, see fun fall zipline and canopy tours