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Whitewater Release Schedule For Epic Adventure

People going down a rapid on a whitewater rafting tour with the Nantahala Outdoor Center in NC.

The Great Smoky Mountains, known for their spectacular displays of wildflowers, abundant wildlife, and breathtaking mountain vistas, is also popular for its whitewater rafting. Due to its longer rafting seasons and mountainous terrain, you’ll find no lack of thrilling rapids any time of the year. If you love an adventure, then plan your river trip around the whitewater release schedule.

There are multiple river release dates planned in the dam fed mountain rivers, and these specific days bring out some of the best paddlers and kayakers to play in these crazy class IV-V rapids. So whether you are a skilled paddler looking for a challenge or you love watching this dynamic sport in real time, you win. So take note.

Tuckasessee River Release Dates

High Falls Dam’s release at Lake Glenville into the West Fork of the Tuckasegee River turns this 5.5 miles of usually fairly serene water into a formidable Class IV river, for experienced boaters ONLY due to the challenging nature of the rapids and high flows. Visitors coming to watch are advised to stay out of the water all together. These are some serious waters, y’all, and a must-see for adrenaline junkies. 

Release Dates:

  • June 8
  • July 6
  • July 27
  • August 10
  • August 24

Nantahala River – Upper Cascades Release

In the Nantahala Gorge, the Nantahala River’s Upper Cascade Releases coincide with some of the NOC’s annual events and can be quite busy, but otherwise, not too crowded and guarantee some serious boating skills will steal the show.  Watching this spectacle is easy enough on foot, and can even be viewed from your car after a pleasantly scenic drive on Wayah Road.

Release Dates (all are 4-7 p.m.):

  • June 14
  • July 2
  • August 2
  • August 22

Cheoah River Release Schedule

And lastly, another gem here in the Great Smoky Mountains, we have the Cheoah River Releases, which encompass a 9.25 mile section from Santeetlah Dam to the Calderwood Lake Boat Launch, creating a continuous class IV-V whitewater full of classic drops, wave trains and play holes – lots to offer the advanced paddler.  Boaters for these dates are advised to have a rock-solid roll and strong ability to read water.  World class boaters will be seen as this is a classic Southeastern run.  Spectators, Welcome!

Release Dates (all 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.):

  • May 11
  • May 12
  • May 18
  • May 19
  • May 25
  • May 26
  • June 22