Scenic USA - North Carolina
|Photo by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website
Heavily influenced by the rippled land of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Nantahala River rises in a mountainous Macon County near the Georgia border and heads northward to eventually join the Tennessee River. The Cherokee name Nantahala, Place of the Noonday Sun, well describes the upper Nantahala Gorge where its gorge walls are so narrow and steep the waters are only brightened by an overhead sun.
Promoted as one of the best trout fishing destinations in the country, the upper gorge is so steep river runners and paddlers avoid it, leaving the river cascades and shallow pools to sightseers and anglers. Featuring the only trout waters opened to night fishing in North Carolina, the state ensures river trout are replenished on a regular basis.
Further downstream, the thrill of whitewater draws in visitors by the thousands. From the town of Nantahala to Wesser, Route 19/74 follows the Nantahala River where paddlers and rafting parties take on Nantahala whitewater. This exciting section of the river provides a two to three hour heart pounding ride through the gorge. The eight mile run is sprinkled with moderate Class II and III rapids, dependent on releases from Nantahala Dam. Two put-in areas, one in Beechertown (in name only) and the other at Ferebee Memorial Recreation Area, are maintained by the U.S. Nantahala Forest Service. There are more parking areas, river viewpoints, waterfalls and picnic areas spaced out along the river, attracting more than just river-runners.
Whether it's the thrill of whitewater, Nantahala Mountain scenery or an excursion on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, these very different perspectives will ultimately tell that it was well worth enduring the twisting, winding route to get to the gorge.
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