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Canoeing & Kayaking

Oconaluftee and Tuckasegee Rivers, east of Bryson City, NC
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Copyright 2001 Alfonso Vazquez-Cuervo - See Terms of Use

Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Al Vazquez
  • Date Submitted: 7/2001
  • Location: East of Bryson City, North Carolina
  • Class: Class 2 at typical water levels and flows
  • Distance Paddled: about 1 mile one way
  • Water Level: the Nantahala Power Dam just upstream of the put in regulates water flow with no regular recreational releases
  • Water: fresh
  • Wildlife: heron, trout, and the occasional tuber
  • Special Regulations: none known


  • Directions: Take Route 19 east of Bryson City. Or you may also take Route 74 and exit at Hyatt Creek Road north to reach Route 19. Proceed east on Route 19 to its intersection with Route 19A (to Whittier) on the south (right) side. Continue on Route 19 east about 200 feet further and take the single lane gravel road on the south side of Route 19 down the hill along the Oconaluftee River. In about 100 yards, stop at a pullover space for one car where you can unload beside a dirt slope to the river. Since the road is narrow, we went just up the hill to the dam area to turn around to proceed to the parking area at the takeout. If you get to the Heart of the Smokies Cabins (where we usually stay), you're just east of the gravel road to the entry.
  • GPS: N 35 degrees 26.819' W 83 degrees 22.604'
  • Fee: none
  • Description: sloped gravel and dirt bank
  • Parking: none; unloading only
  • Facilities: none there, but stores and gas stations nearby on Route 19.
  • Handicap Access: dirt ramp

Exit (for one way trip)

  • Directions: The take out is at a public, county park on the south side of Route 19 just west of the intersection with Coopers Creek Road and Hyatt Creek Road.
  • GPS: N 35 degrees 27.171' W 83 degrees 23.624'
  • Fee: none
  • Description: large paved steps down to the river
  • Parking: adjacent unpaved
  • Facilities: picnic tables and trash containers onsite
  • Handicap Access: none to the water

What We Saw

This paddle is a nice warm up for Nantahala whitewater. And it's also a nice tubing run (to warm up for the upper portion of Deep Creek :-). We like this run especially because we normally stay at the Heart of the Smokies Cabins whose front yard is the put in area.

You'll be within view of the Oconaluftee dam just upstream of the put in. Near any controlled dam, always be prepared for the possibility of a sudden release of water that can raise river levels and currents quickly. In the summer, however, we've never seen such a release from this dam. We have seen some changes in water levels and flows, however.

The Oconaluftee River shares it's name with the Oconaluftee Cherokee. Yonaguska (ca 1760-1839), chief of the Oconaluftee Cherokee, lived nearby and opposed removal of his people from their homeland..

The short paddle will take you on flowing flat water, small rapids, and beautiful trees on the Oconaluftee to it's intersection with the Tuckasegee River about 1/3 mile downstream on river left. Tubers notice the warmer waters of the higher Tuckasegee River as it drops into the Oconaluftee. There is also a small island where the rivers merge where we walk and fish among the boulders.

The Tuckasegee River winds along flowing flat water along cabins overlooking the river on the right under a cool canopy of overhanging trees. Where the river branches, take the branches on river right to proceed to the take out point.

Along rapids, beware of strainers and debris that can accumulate, particularly on river right as it narrows.

We passed the rapid shown at left just upstream of a bridge. The takeout was on river right shortly after the bridge.

It's also possible to continue on the Tuckasegee River farther down. There is another public takeout several miles down on river left on the north west side of the bridge where Route 19 crosses the river. This area appears to have some pullovers, however, in areas where the river widens.

And I was also told there are some Class 3 or 4 rapids on the Tuckasegee River upstream of where it joins the Oconaluftee if the water level is up.