8 Awesome Canoe and Rafting Adventures in North Carolina

The geography North Carolina is amazing, as it boasts two of the oldest rivers in the world. It’s quite the state for a diverse array of floating options. There is legitimately something for everyone when it comes to getting on these waters. From smooth drifting steady currents, to white water rapids, you can have all the chilling and relaxing or all the adrenaline you want. Here are 8 of the best rivers to float and some options to get any rentals you may need.

Nantahala River – Map

The Nantahala River is one of the most popular rivers in the United States. It provides a little more adrenaline then some of the other rivers on the list, if that’s what you are more about.

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While the river swaps between calm spells and rapids, there are over twenty named whitewater rapids to make for a pretty exciting rafting adventure. The skill range going from a simple class II to a slightly more intense class III near the falls.

If you are ready to take on the waters of the Nantahala you must stop in at Nantahala Outdoor Center. National Geographic has been quoted on calling this place “One of the best outfitters on Earth”. They offer raft rentals, lodging, and even a zip line course.

Nantahala Outdoor Center
(800) 232-7238 or Get Directions

French Broad River – Map

Being one of the oldest rivers in the world, a float down the French Broad leaves you with an experience unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. We’re talking older than the Amazon and the Nile old, and even older then the mountains that surround them. In-fact, the Broad literally helped shaped the Appalachian Mountains around them.

The French Broad offers some amazing scenery throughout western North Carolina. For Canoe and Kayak rentals you can check out Asheville Outdoor Center which is located right in the middle of the town of Asheville. They also offer raft, SUP, and bicycle rentals if that’s more your style.

Asheville Outdoor Center
(828) 232-1970 or Get Directions

Tar River – Map

With over 200 miles of undeveloped banks, the Tar River is a channel of rich history and culture being a major area of Native American inhabitants even before white settlers. It gets its name from the tar-laden barges that it long ago used to channel through to the ocean.

Ancient fossils and artifacts from Native American villages and the Civil War have been found along it’s banks. You can veer off the beaten path and paddle into Cypress swamps, known to contain giant trees over 800 years old and inhabited by tons of wildlife. Loads of sandbars are located along this slow moving river and are great for relaxing and hanging out with friends.

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You can also spend the night on one of the many conveniently located camping platforms. For rentals on the Tar River, we recommend checking out the Riverfriendly Business of the Year – Knee Deep Adventures. They offer paddleboards, single/tandem kayaks, special fishing kayaks and canoes as well as a full service delivery and pickup.

Knee Deep Adventures
(252) 714-5836 or Get Directions

Cape Fear River – Map

Winding through North Carolina for a solid 200 miles, the Cape Fear River is a heritage rich float. The river was a major transportation route several hundred years ago and continues to remain an important part of the states infrastructure with 27% of the population living near its municipalities.

It’s absolutely huge and makes for an awesome scenic float trip. For Canoe, Kayak, Paddleboard, Tubes, or Rafting check out Cape Fear River Adventures. They have everything you would possibly want to rent for floating.

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Its water levels are controlled by the dam at Jordan Lake. Enjoy relaxing floats while the water is down, and adventurous white water rafting when its up. A huge plus of this outfitter is the location, only about 40 minutes from the state’s capital of Raleigh and 35 minutes from Fayetteville.

Cape Fear Adventures
(919) 495-5555 or Get Directions

Green River – Map

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If you are looking for a real ride down the river, and not merely a float, definitely look towards the Green River. The Upper Green has constant Class ll/Class lll rapids, two Class lV rapids, and is the steepest commercially ran portion of whitewater in the southeast portion of the country.

Hit up Green River Adventures for literally all your needs in this area. They have rafting rentals, kayak rentals, water rappeling, zip-lining, and loads of other stuff. Located in the southwest corner of North Carolina.

Green River Adventures
(828) 749-2800 or Get Directions

New River – Map

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At about the same age as the French Broad, this river is far from new. Flowing mostly from south to north, the New River is formed from the meeting of the South Fork New River and the North Fork New River.

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It flows for a whopping 320 miles through several states, eventually into the Kanawho River. Unreal views as you float across the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Appalachian Valley. If you need Canoe, Kayak, or even Tube rentals for the New, contact Riverside Canoe. They are located on the perfect spot directly on the banks of the South Fork of the New River and also offer camping.

Riverside Canoe
(336) 982-9439 or Get Directions

Dan River – Map

A trip down the Dan River features everything from woodlands to fields to towering cliffs. Stretching a respectable 214 miles, the river starts in Virginia then drops down into North Carolina. It then teeter totters back in forth into and out of the state of North Carolina, eventually flowing into the Roanoke River.

Ninety percent of the water depth stays between your ankles and elbows and the river offers over 30-35 class one rapids if you float with Dan River Company. They are the best in the area offering Canoe and Kayak rentals, and will make your experience out on the Dan one to remember.

Dan River Company
(336) 593-2628 or Get Directions

Oconaluftee River – Map

The Oconaluftee River is an awesome freestone river that extends through downtown Cherokee and Qualla Boundary (A land trust for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians). It’s known for being one of the cleanest, clearest, and overall most beautiful rivers in the Southeast United States.

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Dense forest surround most of the river creating lots of shade pockets as you float through light tunnels, created by the towering trees fruitfully around. A good recommendation for rentals on the Oconaluftee would be none other then Cherokee Rapids Tube and Kayak Rentals. They offer both tube and kayak rentals and a huge perk of their outfitter is the numerous swimming holes and iconic rope swings they have on their routes.

Cherokee Rapids Tube and Kayak Rentals
(828) 736-4231 or Get Directions

Make this a memorable year out on the water. Floating allows you to get outside and experience the world in a way like no other. Hit up some friends, make some plans, and get ready to on an adventure.

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