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rafting in the great smoky mountains of NC

Visit The Cheoah River


The Cheoah River, 20 miles long, is located in the extreme southwestern corner of North Carolina, near Robbinsville.  Unique in it’s features, the Cheoah is one of the most physically demanding rivers in the world and the perfect challenge for the most adventurous paddlers.

For seventy years, the nine-mile section between the Santeetlah Dam and Lake Calderwood was dewatered.  American Whitewater advocated for the releases which began in the fall of 2005.  Each year, there are at least 18 releases for paddlers to enjoy for the next 40 years.

The Cheoah is unusual for rivers of its volume in the Southeast in that its gradient is relatively constant, meaning with the exception of 2 or 3 half-mile sections, it is unusually more continuous than anything else with a similar volume of water in the Southeast.  Some call it “warm western-style paddling”.

On release days, sections of the Cheoah offer challenging Class IV and V rapids making the Cheoah a fantastic whitewater experience.  The lower section has numerous “classic drops” according to whitewater enthusiasts, with the largest one at approximately eight feet.  All who have paddled the Cheoah have agreed it will become one of the crown jewels of the whitewater world.

Fish Species


Cheoah River Commercial Putin

  • GPS: (lat) 35.382236, (lng) -83.877825
  • Water Type: River
  • Water Class: III – IV
  • Launch Type:  Primitive
  • Restrooms: No
  • Picnic Area: No
  • Universal Access:  No
  • Time to next point: 5 hours
  • Safety & Other Notes: Whitewater Experts Only