The Nantahala river is a scenic whitewater river that is full of great views and also offers some thrills. Nantahala is a Cherokee word which, when translated into English, means land of the noon day sun. the river is called Nantahala because of the steep walls of the gorge. The walls are so steep that some parts of the river only get direct sunlight for the middle part of the day. The Nantahala river is a relatively short river that runs from Lake Nantahala to Lake Fontana. The section that is actually rafted is on the last eight miles of the river. The sections above the commercially rafted section are popular fly fishing spots. There are also scheduled releases for whitewater kayakers who want some class IV-V thrills. The section that is commercially rafted is only class II with one class III at the very end of the run. This river is great for kids and first time whitewater rafters who want an intro to whitewater rafting. Kids must be at least sixty pounds to raft the river with a commercial outfitter. The water is colder than fifty degrees year round due to the fact that it is sucked from the bottom of the four hundred foot deep Lake Nantahala. This water will give you a wake up call when you round the first turn and splash through Patton’s Run. The water is also amazingly clear on days it is not raining. You can even see a few rainbow trout if you are lucky.
What to Expect in June
When you plan a trip to go whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River you will be visiting the Nantahala Gorge in the first full month of peak season. Peak season runs from Memorial day weekend until labor day weekend. In the month of June, rafting will be in full swing. All of the outfitters will begin putting down as many people as they can. The prices will be a little higher than they were in April or May but the cost is well worth it. The temperatures in June can range anywhere from the mid eighties all the way up to the low hundreds. This is the time of year when getting on the river is a relief from the heat of the southern smoky mountains. When you approach the river you will immediately feel the difference in temperature. The water is still the same freezing temperature of fifty degrees and it will sting when you first feel it. But once you get used to the cool water you may want to pull over at a deep spot and jump in for a quick cool off. There are some rainy days in the June, sometimes multiple in a row. Outfitters can provide rain gear to keep you warmer in the rain. If you don’t want to get rained on just make sure to check the weather before reserving your trip. The river will be much busier in June than in April or May. This is because summer has officially started and the kids are getting out of school and hitting the road with friends and family. Whitewater rafting on the Nantahala is a popular summer vacation idea. Families and groups of friends find there way to the gorge to enjoy the beautiful river. The busiest days in the gorge are obvioulsy the weekends. If you want to dodge the crowds, try to visit during the week between Tuesday and Thursday.
When searching for lodging in the mountains of western North Carolina you have a few different options. If you want to stay in a rental cabin, there are hundreds of options within range of the Nantahala gorge. The area surrounding Nantahala is full of beautiful cabins to suit any desire or price range. Another great option is camping there are plenty of campgrounds to choose from that are inside the gorge and just outside of it. Each campground offers a different camping experience. The weather in June is perfect for camping; with lows in the high low sixties camping is a great experience. Rain is a possibility in June so bring a tarp or tent to cover your things. The campgrounds tend to fill up on weekends so I recommend calling ahead to be sure there is availability.