Posted by Phil Rodgers in Things to Do
As human beings, we seem to have a natural affinity with bodies of water. That would explain why so many of us head to the ocean for summer vacations or why we can spend days and days on the lake, enjoying recreational fun like water skiing, tubing, jet skiing and more.
But in the process of seeking water-related adventure, don't overlook the humble river. Rivers offer opportunities all their own, some of which can't be replicated in oceans or lakes. And the bonus is that when you vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains, you can enjoy all the beauty and benefits of majestic mountain peaks while also taking advantage of the many rivers located in this region.
In this post, we'll touch on a few of the more popular outdoor activities Smoky Mountain travelers enjoy on our rivers, and in some cases, we'll steer you in the direction of specific locations. And remember that when you're not playing on the water, you can always swing by Goats on the Roof in Pigeon Forge for hours of family fun.
One of the most popular summertime outings for our Smoky Mountain guests is inner tubing, most notably on the Little River in Townsend, TN. That community has multiple outfitters that rent high-quality inner tubes and provide transportation to various put-in and take-out points on the river. The upshot is that you can spend a couple of hours or more kicked back and relaxing in your tube as the gentle waters of the Little River carry you and your troubles away. And even in summer, the water is very refreshing, so there aren't many better ways to cool off on a hot day. Just don't forget to bring your sunscreen or you'll come out looking like a lobster.
If you're interested in stepping your float experience up a few levels, there's whitewater rafting. There are several rivers in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina where the rapids are wild enough to deliver the ride of a lifetime. Most of the popular outfitters are based in Hartford, TN, on the Big Pigeon River, but they offer expeditions to the Ocoee and Nantahala Rivers as well. And most of these companies have booking offices in Gatlinburg, so if you're vacationing here, it's easy to connect with them and schedule a half- or full-day trip.
The Great Smoky Mountains are known for their trout, and if you're an avid fisherman, consider bringing your gear along on your next trip to the Smokies. The national park alone has hundreds and hundreds of miles of fishable streams where you can cast your lines for trout and many other native varieties as well. You can practice catch-and-release or hang on to your haul for a tasty fish dinner. Be aware that you'll need to have state and/or, in some cases, a local fishing license.
Our Smoky Mountain waters are made for swimming too, and if you visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are a couple of spots that have been popular swimming holes for decades. One is the Y in the Little River, located just inside the Townsend entrance to the national park. The other is called The Sinks, which is located on Little River Gorge Road between Meigs Falls and Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area.
The Smokies are home to several companies that offer canoe and kayak rentals. Paddling on the river is an excellent way to head outside and get some exercise while also viewing wildlife in its natural habitat. Your watercraft can also serve as a platform for a day of fishing.
Another popular river thing to do in East Tennessee is pull water skiers, inner tubers and wake boarders behind a ski boat. Usually for that, however, you'll need to access some of the wider portions of the Tennessee River and the reservoirs formed by the many TVA dams throughout the region. Generally, you'll need to travel to the counties surrounding Knox County to access popular TVA lakes like Fort Loudoun, Tellico, Norris and Douglas.