Discover the 5 Best Rivers for Whitewater Rafting in North Carolina

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Published: September 1, 2023
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White water rafting is a fun sport for people of all ages. With multiple rivers in North Carolina, locals and visitors have many to choose from. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing ride on the river or a challenging class V rapid, we have options for you! 

Below you’ll find five rivers with multiple white water rafting outfitters. Use this as a guide to plan your next trip and make memories that last a lifetime! 

1. French Broad River

Largest River in North Carolina - French Broad River

The French Broad River is one of the largest river in North Carolina.

©Dominick Aprile/

Blue Heron Whitewater

Blue Heron Whitewater provides professional white water rafting excursions on the French Broad River, only 22 miles north of Asheville, NC. Whole day, half-day with a meal, afternoon half-day, and picturesque raft tour are the four main trips offered by Blue Heron.

Class I to IV rapids are included in the full-day excursion, which travels nine miles in approximately five hours. The excursion costs $75 per person at the time of writing this. Anyone wanting to take part has to be at least eight years of age.

The early-morning half-day tour, which lasts as long as four hours and covers five miles of Class I to III rapids, also includes lunch. Everybody pays $60 for it. Without lunch, the afternoon half-day excursion runs $52 each.

French Broad Adventures

Young person rafting on the river, extreme and fun sport at tourist attraction

The first-ever attempt at white water rafting was in 1811!


Another option on the French Broad River is French Broad Adventures. There are a variety of activities this outfitter provides. Canyoneering, rafting, and ziplining are among the most popular. 

French Broad Adventures offers package deals for those looking for endless fun. Their rafting trips range from whitewater to relaxing options. Covering five miles over three hours is their half-day trip. 

This costs $55 per person and you must be at least eight years old. You’ll sweep over Class II and III rapids. There’s a full-day trip as well that goes for six hours, travels nine miles of Class II, III, and IV rapids, and includes lunch for $88. 

Nantahala Outdoor Center

Departing from the quaint town of Marshall, Nantahala Outdoor Center allows guests eight years of age and older to enjoy an outdoor adventure. This river has Class II and III rapids. Half-day trips start at $55 per ride, whereas full-day options are $95 and up. 

2. Green River

Most states offer white water rafting adventures.


Next, if you’re wanting to explore the Green River, consider Green River Adventures. This is just 30 miles south of Asheville. For a more relaxed trip, the Lower Green River has Class I and II rapids. 

The lower portion is a relaxing three-mile portion and is open to guests five years of age and older. It takes around three hours to complete and costs about $50. 

The Upper Green River provides Class II, III, and IV rapids. It is four miles long and takes roughly four hours. Because this section is more challenging, it is for paddlers 12 years of age and older. Prices start at $69. 

There is a small part of the Green River in the center that locals call “The Narrows.” If you consider yourself an experienced rafter, try your hand at navigating these Class V rapids! Something that sets Green River Adventures apart is they only allow people to use inflatable kayaks as opposed to large rafts! 

3. Nolichucky and Watauga River

Watauga Lake Canoe

Kayaking and canoeing Watauga River are also popular water sports.

©dmfoss/iStock via Getty Images

High Mountain Expeditions 

A favorite outfitter with locals is High Mountain Expeditions. This place offers trips to both the Watauga River and the Nolichucky River. The Nolichucky option is about $105 per person and can last anywhere from four to seven hours.

In this time, you’ll travel 11 miles and battle Class III and Class IV rapids! It starts and ends in Banner Elk. This is ideal for travelers who are at least nine years old. If you’re looking for a shorter, more relaxing adventure, opt for their Watauga River trip. 

This half-day adventure lasts around five hours and starts and ends in the same location as the Nolichucky course. You’ll enjoy five miles on the river and it’s open for guests three years of age and up. 

You can expect to pay $85 for an adult and $75 for a child’s ticket. For those with a bit more rafting experience, ask High Mountain Expeditions about their Wilson Creek tour. It has Class V rapids, takes up to six hours, and travels about three miles. 

Wahoo’s Adventures

Nolichucky River

The Nolichucky River has many curvy banks.

©Merma1d/iStock via Getty Images

Another outfitter that travels both of these rivers is Wahoo’s Adventures. These rafting trips take off from Boone, NC. If you’re looking for an outfitter that also offers tubing, this is a great choice! 

For a more laid-back rafting adventure, take the Watauga River trip. It has Class I and II rapids with a single Class III jolt. It’s open to visitors of all ages. Adult tickets are $50, whereas children ride for $40. 

Wahoo’s Adventures takes guests seven years and older to the Nolichucky River. This is more challenging than the Watauga River, with Class III and Class IV rapids. This option is 11 miles long and costs $90 per rider. 

4. Nantahala River

White Water Rafting

The Nantahala River is near the Great Smoky Mountains.

©Digital Vision./Photodisc via Getty Images

Carolina Outfitters

For those in the Topton, NC area, take a trip to the Nantahala Gorge with Carolina Outfitters. Paddlers enjoy an eight-mile ride on mostly Class I and II rapids. At the end of the trip, you’ll navigate Class III rapids that lead to Nantahala Falls. 

Carolina Outfitters allows guests to go white water rafting from April through October. There are half-day trips that are just two hours long. Visitors must weigh at least 60 pounds and be seven years of age or older. 

This costs between $45 and $55 per rider. They also offer ducky trips on inflatable kayaks. This is an ideal option for someone looking for a more independent ride. 

Nantahala Outdoor Center

Dry Falls North Carolina

Waterfalls are in Nantahala National Forest.

© Bilous

This particular outfitter provides trips on the Nantahala River, as well as the French Broad River. For the Nantahala trip, you’ll experience Class II and III rapids. It’s available on a large raft or inflatable kayak.

Visitors are required to be at least seven years old and weigh 60 pounds or more. Guided tours run around $62 per person, whereas self-guided are $32. 

5. Tuckasegee River

Tuckasegee River view in Dillsboro, North Carolina, USA

The Tuckasegee River is around 60 miles long.

©Dee/iStock via Getty Images

Smoky Mountain River Adventures

The penultimate option we’ll be looking at today is the Tuckasegee River. Smoky Mountain River Adventures allows guests to rent single kayaks, two-person kayaks, as well as rafts. The ride on the Tuckasegee River takes about two hours and is five miles long.

Here you will experience Class I and II rapids. This is great for inexperienced rafters, looking for a family-friendly activity. Guided trips are $40 for an adult, and $30 for travelers younger than 12. 

They do require trips to consist of three to seven people. There are self-guided trips for up to eight individuals. These cost $20 for an adult and $15 for riders under 12 years old. 

Tuckasegee Outfitters

James River tubing, summer fun

Tubing is just as popular as rafting on the Tuckasegee River.

©jack looney photography/

Last, but certainly not least, Tuckasegee Outfitters has single kayaks, double kayaks, tubes, and rafts available for visitors. The Tuck is one of the easiest rivers to travel on in North Carolina. 

There are calm Class I and Class II rapids. Many people traveling with kids opt for this specific outfitter. A single raft can hold five adults or two adults with four children. It’s also more affordable, with tickets for adults coming in at $20, while tickets for children are $15. 

They do require kayak riders to be at least 90 pounds for their own safety. The more relaxing trip on the Tuck lasts about two hours and is three miles long. You must be 12 or older for this. The more extreme option requires riders to be at least 16 years old. You also have to be physically fit in the event the rough rapids throw you out of the raft, tube, or kayak. 

Summary of the Best White Rafting Rivers in North Carolina 

French Broad RiverFrench Broad Adventures, Nantahala Outdoor Center, and Blue Heron Whitewater
Green RiverGreen River Adventures
Nolichucky and Watauga RiverHigh Mountain Expeditions and Wahoo’s Adventures 
Nantahala RiverCarolina Outfitters and Nantahala Outdoor Center
Tuckasegee RiverSmoky Mountain River Adventures and Tuckasegee Outfitters

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Aleksandr Lupin/

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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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