When the weather is hot, a ride down the river — where you continually get splashed — is refreshing and welcomed. In the fall and winter, many whitewater rafting companies still provide runs, but they are best reserved for the hearty outdoor types who don’t mind the elements.
As a matter of fact, many people enjoy whitewater rafting nearly year-round. Some actually prefer the rivers in North Carolina and East Tennessee when they aren’t so crowded. When the leaves start changing in October, as any seasoned whitewater rafter will tell you, you get some of the best views from the seat of your raft.
There are so many places to raft in and around the Appalachian Mountains that it’s hard to choose just one. Near Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee, there are several rafting businesses right off the highway. From Asheville, NC, take I-40 West all the way to Exit 447 and you’re there! From the Knoxville, TN, area, take I-40 East to Exit 447. Either way, you’ll need about one hour travel time.
There are several different rafting businesses in about a mile stretch — USA Raft, Rapid Expeditions, Rafting in the Smokies, Big Creek Expeditions. You can join an expedition with an experienced guide for as little as $39 per person or bring your own raft and jump in at any point.
Rafting companies typically maintain fewer hours in the fall and winter and some may only be open on weekends once it starts getting really cold. For example, Watauga Kayak in Elizabethton, TN, is closed on Sundays through December and open only on Saturdays from January to April.
You definitely will want to bring a change of clothes. Most outfitters have wetsuits you can rent if you don’t have your own. The tight rubber suits do wonders for keeping you warm during a fall or winter rafting trip.
There is food you can buy at the take-off points, and they provide all the gear you’ll need. Once you call and schedule your trip, it can’t get more stress-free than that. So go ahead, have yourself an adventurous, memorable, stress-free getaway.