Oconaluftee River Smokemont Campground to Birdtown

Sylva, North Carolina

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The Oconaluftee heads up between Indian Gap (elevation 5,286 feet) and Newfound Gap (elevation 5,048 feet) and generally flows beside US 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, until it confluences with the Tuckasegee River east of Bryson City. The run above Cherokee is one through many rock gardens in crystal-clear water. Below Cherokee, the water quality diminishes considerably because of sewage being dumped in. The approximately 4.5-mile stretch above the reservation boundary can be paddled at any time. In order to paddle it, one should check in at the ranger station at Park Headquarters, which is located at Pioneer Structures on US 441 north of Cherokee, to inform them of plans to canoe the river. This might save one from being “pulled” off the river by park rangers. This actually happened to a friend of mine several years ago. It could not only prove embarrassing but could also lead to a rather long hike.
Carolina Whitewater: A Paddler's Guide to the Western Carolinas

DESCRIPTION FROM:

Carolina Whitewater: A Paddler's Guide to the Western Carolinas

by Bob and David Benner (Menasha Ridge Press)

The Oconaluftee heads up between Indian Gap (elevation 5,286 feet) and Newfound Gap (elevation 5,048 feet) and generally flows beside US 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, until it confluences with the Tuckasegee River east of Bryson City. The run above Cherokee is one through many rock gardens in crystal-clear water. Below Cherokee, the water quality diminishes considerably because of sewage being dumped in.

The approximately 4.5-mile stretch above the reservation boundary can be paddled at any time. In order to paddle it, one should check in at the ranger station at Park Headquarters, which is located at Pioneer Structures on US 441 north of Cherokee, to inform them of plans to canoe the river. This might save one from being “pulled” off the river by park rangers. This actually happened to a friend of mine several years ago. It could not only prove embarrassing but could also lead to a rather long hike.

©  Bob and David Benner/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.

Activity Type: Whitewater Kayaking & Canoeing
Nearby City: Sylva
Length: 11.5
Elevation Loss: Minimal
Duration: 4.5 hours
Class: Class II to III
Local Contacts: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee Indian Reservation
Local Maps: Smokemont, Whittier (USGS); Swain (County)
Topo Map: Oconaluftee River: Smokemont Campground to Birdtown Topographic Map
Guide Book: Carolina Whitewater: A Paddler's Guide to the Western Carolinas Guide Book
Driving Directions: View Directions
Trail Directions: View Guide

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