7 Unforgettable Tennessee White Water Rafting Adventures

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Are you searching for an adventurous way to explore the beautiful outdoors in Tennessee? If so, white water rafting in Tennessee may be the perfect option! 

Tennessee has three excellent rivers for white water rafting—the Pigeon River, Nolichucky River, and Ocoee River, with rapids for all skill levels—from beginners to adventure seekers! 

Take a look at the most popular spots for white water rafting in Tennessee to determine which river and rafting company are best for you! There is some great white water rafting in North Carolina just over the state line as well.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through this link, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for keeping Stuck On The Go going!

Pigeon River – Hartford, TN

Tennessee white water rafting trip

Smoky Mountain Outdoors

Section: Upper Pigeon

Class: III-IV

Skill Level: Moderate

Age: 8+

Located in Hartford, Tennessee, just 45 minutes from Gatlinburg, lies Smoky Mountain Outdoors—one of Tennessee’s most highly-rated river rafting companies! 

Smoky Mountain Outdoors offers a moderate rafting trip on the Upper Pigeon River with powerful waves and big drops. During the 1.5-hour journey, you’ll run at least 70 rapids varying in size for 6.5 miles, including famous rapids like Powerhouse, Lost Guide, and Accelerator. 

This Tennessee white water rafting adventure is excellent for families; however, if you’re looking for a trip that’s milder for young children, Smoky Mountain Outdoors also offers an easy 5.5-mile rafting trip on the Lower Pigeon River for ages three and up.

Tyler and I did the Upper Pigeon with Smoky Mountain Outdoors last year and had an amazing time. It’s been one of my favorite rivers so far because the rapids are fun but not scary.

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Big Bear Rafting

Section: Lower Pigeon

Class: I & II

Skill Level: Easy

Age: 3+

Big Bear Rafting, located in Hartford, Tennessee, is the perfect destination for white water rafting on the Pigeon River during a family trip. Big Bear Rafting is just a 45-minute drive from popular cities like Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg and offers an excellent Lower Pigeon Rafting trip for ages three and older.

During the 5.5-mile rafting trip, you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of the mountains, relax on a pristine river, and experience periodic (but exciting!) rapids for nearly three hours. This portion of the river is known for its scenery, so it’s great for beginners or families with young children who want to take things slowly.

However, if you’re looking for a more adventurous rafting trip, Big Bear Rafting also offers an Upper Pigeon River rafting trip with Class III and Class IV rapids.

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River Rat Tubing & Whitewater Rafting

Section: Upper Pigeon

Class: III & IV

Skill Level: Difficult

Age: 8+

Are you searching for a unique river rafting experience on the Upper Pigeon River? If so, the XTREME Upper Pigeon Adventure with River Rat Tubing & White Water Rafting is perfect for you! 

Like the Upper Pigeon Whitewater Rafting expedition, you will embark on five miles of scenic river with Class III and Class IV rapids during this tour. However, instead of a standard raft, you will ride on a smaller XTREME raft, allowing you to navigate each rapid with more agility. These rafts enhance the thrill of each rapid while enabling you to make a bigger splash! 

During the quieter moments of your rafting trip, you’ll be able to enjoy the surrounding beauty of the Cherokee National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains. 

River Rat Tubing & Whitewater Rafting also offers Lower Pigeon River Rafting for a laid-back ride. They also offer all-day rafting “daycations” that include two rafting trips with a meal in-between.

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Nolichucky River – Erwin, TN

raft on the Nolichucky River

USA Raft Adventure Resort

Section: Nolichucky Gorge

Class: III-IV

Skill Level: Moderate

Age: 10+

Located on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina is the Nolichucky River—one of the best places for white water rafting in Tennessee.

The USA Raft Adventure Resort in Erwin, Tennessee, offers excellent rafting trips on the Upper Nolichucky River Gorge. The headwaters for the Upper Nolichucky River begin at the top of Mt. Mitchell—the highest mountain on the east coast. 

During your four-hour rafting trip, you’ll ride dozens of rapids through a gorge while admiring the beautiful surrounding cliffs and wildflowers. 

If you’re looking for a milder white water rafting trip for beginners or young kids, you can also raft the Class I & II rapids on the Lower Nolichucky River with USA Raft.

I’ve been on the half-day Nolichucky rafting trip with USA Raft and highly recommend it. It’s a little technical for my taste but it definitely got my adrenaline up.

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Wahoo’s Adventures

Section: Nolichucky Gorge

Class: III-IV

Skill Level: Moderate

Age: 7+

Another Tennessee white water rafting adventure on the Nolichucky River is with Wahoo’s Adventures—located in Erwin, Tennessee. 

On this white water rafting trip, you will travel for four to five hours for nearly 11 miles through the scenic and remote Pisgah National Forest and Cherokee National Forest. The river drops almost 70 feet per mile during the first four miles, making for a thrilling trip through the steep-walled canyons and tree-lined forests in the Nolichucky River Gorge. 

Wahoo’s Adventures also offers river rafting on the Watauga River near Elizabethton, Tennessee, and Wilson Creek Extreme River Rafting in North Carolina.

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Ocoee River

kayaker on a Tennessee white water rafting trip

Ocoee Rafting

Sections: Upper & Middle Ocoee River

Class: III & IV

Skill Level: Difficult

Age: 12+

One of the best rafting trips in Tennessee is offered by Ocoee Rafting on the Ocoee River. Ocoee Rafting is located in Ducktown, Tennessee, just minutes from the northern border of Georgia and the southwestern border of North Carolina. 

Instead of choosing between the Upper Ocoee River and Middle Ocoee River, Ocoee Rafting allows you to ride the entire river in one epic ten-mile trip lasting three hours. 

First, you’ll start on the Upper Ocoee River and take on the challenging rapids from the 1996 Olympic Whitewater Course, nicknamed Godzilla, Humongous, and Slam Dunk. Then, you’ll travel through the Middle Ocoee River, where you can travel through infamous yet milder rapids, like Broken Nose, Diamond Splitter, and Table Saw.

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Outland Expeditions

Section: Upper Ocoee River

Class: III & IV

Skill Level: Moderate

Age: 12+

Outland Expeditions is another highly-rated company offering white water rafting trips on the Ocoee River. However, unlike Ocoee Rafting, they are located further west in Cleveland, Tennessee, closer to the Upper Ocoee River.

Outland Expeditions offers an epic Tennessee white water rafting adventure on the Olympic Section of the Upper Ocoee River. You can experience epic drops and the largest rapids on the entire river during this five-mile ride. You’ll also be able to admire the surrounding beauty of the remote wilderness as you travel through the gorge.

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Ride the Rapids with These Thrilling Tennessee White Water Rafting Adventures

Never been rafting? I’ve got you covered with what to wear white water rafting! Also includes what not to wear.

No matter which white water rafting adventure you choose, you’re bound to have a memorable time tumbling down the powerful river rapids in Tennessee.

Since each of these rafting trips comes with a river guide, you can feel confident about navigating the rapids with ease. Just wear sturdy shoes, synthetic clothes, and sun protection, and you’re ready to go!

Which of these Tennessee white water rafting trips would you embark on first? Let me know in the comments below!

About Me

Anna Cook

Hey Guys! I’m Anna, a small town girl from North Carolina with a passion for exploring this beautiful world. I work a fulltime job, so I make the most of my weekends and 15 vacation days. I created this site to inspire people like you to make travel a bigger part of your life and help you figure out how to do that. If you like what you see be sure to follow along on social media.

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Anna was born and raised in North Carolina and spent her childhood traveling the southern US. She loves helping people plan efficient itineraries especially with a focus on outdoor adventure and food & drink. You can typically find her on a hiking trail, kayaking, or searching for the best meal in town.

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