Whitewater Rafting North Carolina: All the can’t miss landmarks the Nantahala River region sweeps through

Lysianne PeacockBryson City, feature location nantahala, Nantahala

A group of people in a raft on the Nantahala River

Whitewater Rafting North Carolina: All the can’t miss landmarks the Nantahala River region sweeps through

By K.M. Collins

The Nantahala River region is full of historic treasures, monuments, and federally protected lands. These sites are all connected by the waters of the Nantahala River and the reaches of the Little Tennessee watershed and basin. When you visit the Nantahala River region for rafting, ziplining, jeep tours, or railroad excursions, keep an eye out for these cornerstone spaces and pop in for a visit. 

Nantahala National Forest

Comprising 531,148 acres in North Carolina, the Nantahala National Forest fully envelopes the Nantahala River. Established in 1920, a major component of the protections were meant to allow for safe keep of watersheds and waterways. By raft on the Nantahala River, you’ll see just a flicker, a teaser of Nantahala National Forest. To get a bird’s eye perspective, check out the United States Department of the Interior map of Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest. Find the Nantahala River stretching from Nantahala Lake to Fontana Lake in the lower left quadrant of the map.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park 

In the heart of the Southeast, Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the Smoky Mountains ridgeline within the Blue Ridge Mountains at the southern tail of the Appellation Mountains. Wildwater rafting outfitter is located in Bryson City which is one of the premier gateways to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fontana Lake, where the Nantahala River terminates, borders the park’s southern boundary.

Southern Nantahala Wilderness 

Designated in 1984, the Southern Nantahala Wilderness covers 23,365 acres of land. Near to this, and on the border of Georgia and North Carolina, is the headwaters of the Nantahala River. Here, the Forest Service actively promotes leave no trace practices as the landscape was previously deforested and the land still recovers from early logging. 

Appalachian Trail

Passing through Southern Nantahala Wilderness, Great Smoky Mountains National Park,  Nantahala National Forest, and the entire eastern seaboard, Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail is a thru hiker’s paradise. This trail runs through the heart of the Nantahala River region and within a handful of miles of the Nantahala River, just after it leaves Nantahala Lake. 

For more on what parts of these landmarks you’ll encounter from rafting the Nantahala River, see Everything You’ll need to know about Nantahala River Rafting

To add some Nantahala River region sites to see to you your list, check out Nantahala Wildwater Area Bucket List