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Canoeing & Kayaking


Nantahala River Whitewater to Wesser, west of Bryson City NC

This page Copyright 2000 Alfonso Vazquez-Cuervo - See Terms of Use

Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Al Vazquez
  • Date Submitted: 7/2000
  • Email:
  • Location: 12 1/2 miles west of Bryson City NC
  • Class: II - III
  • Releases: Nantahala flow is controlled by an upstream hydroelectric dam. On some days, no water is released. So check the release schedule with the Nantahala Power Company before you go
  • Distance Paddled: 7 miles one way
  • Water: fresh and cold
  • Wildlife: rafts


  • Directions: From Bryson City, take Route 74 / 19 (toward Murphy) about 12 1/2 miles. (Bear left at the Route 28 Exit to stay on 74/19 west.) The road will narrow as it begins to wind through the mountains. You'll also pass Nantahala Village. If your paddling through with the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) shuttle, cross the bridge to you right across the river as you approach the NOC, then bear left into the gravel parking lot. Rental and shuttle arrangements are made at the building at the end of the lot on the river.
  • To proceed to the put in at , we took an NOC shuttle bus about 7 miles further on 74 / 19. You'll see a Forest Service sign for Patton's Run Overlook on your left. The parking lot for the put in is just beyond that also on the left.
  • GPS: N 35 deg 16.703' W 083 deg 40.733'
  • Fee: none for parking at the NOC. There are river permit fees or fees for rental inflatable kayaks called duckies, which typically include the river permit fees. Inquire at the NOC.
  • Description: dirt and stone slope
  • Parking: unpaved
  • Facilities: restrooms, restaurants, outfitter shops at the NOC takeout


  • Directions: Just after Lesser Wesser falls, near the restaurant, you'll see a public takeout sign (see photo at right) beside a low stone wall on river right (facing downstream). There is temporary parking for loading of boats only.
    If you go with an outfitter, make sure you know exactly where their particular takeout is. There are a number of outfitters that service the Nantahala and each has a different takeout area.
    The NOC takeout is on river left on a large beach area. Other commercial takeouts are on river right in generally the same area. Look for boats like yours.
    DO NOT go beyond the foot bridge over the river as that leads to Wesser Falls, a very dangerous rapid.
  • Fee: none
  • Description: ramp to loading area
  • Parking: unpaved, across the street and across the river at the NOC
  • Facilities: restrooms (but no showers), restaurants, shops at the NOC takeout

What We Saw

The Nantahala was a great way for us flatwater paddlers to get a taste of whitewater.

We watched the NOC video about the trip, then decided to rent a double ducky for my wife and me and singles for the boys.

The NOC supplied paddles and somewhat smelly wetsuits. We supplied neoprene booties.

Out we went on the 9:30 shuttle to the put in just above Pattons Run, a Class II rapid that begins the trip.

Other than Pattons run at the beginning and Lesser Wesser falls at the end, there were only minor rapids in between separated by sections of moving flatwater.

This is a very civilized whitewater run. We passed a "Pizza by the River" ramp shown above about 5 miles into the trip. There were camp grounds along the way and much of the route ran along the highway where there were several places to stop if one was so inclined. Per the Closewaters Principles, don't stop at private campgrounds, especially those with signs telling you not to stop.

We kept a group of guided rafts in view about 100 yards in front of us most of the trip. Having watched the excellent NOC video introduction to the run, negotiating the rapids was exciting, but we knew what to expect and what to do. We tried to approach rapids on the inside of turns but stayed away from rocks or trees.

At about 6 miles, we stopped and pulled our boats up on the landing upstream of Lesser Wesser Falls (see photo at right) and took a short walk up the path to scout Lesser Wesser Falls. The NOC told us if we decided not to try the falls, we could leave the duckies there and walk back a short walk back across the footbridge to the take out and rental return.

Lesser Wesser falls shown at left is a Class III rapid consisting of two large steps oriented 45 degrees to the river.

We approached mid river and turned the duckies 45 degrees to the left entering the falls to get more perpendicular to the steps and avoid a large rock to the right of the falls (which a number of rafts hit).

It was exciting fun and we had no problem in the duckies.

A guy with a throw line was ready to help those who ended the falls apart from their boats, which is not an unusual event.

Soon you'll see the buildings of the NOC shown in the photo at right. The river is easy here as it widens, but watch out for rocks in the shallower water that can snag a raft or ducky in front of a large audience.

At this point, head to the public take out on river right just beyond the first large building or to the designated commercial takeout area for your particular outfitter. We headed to the sandy beach on river left to the NOC return and our parking lot.

All of us really enjoyed our Nantahala family fun.