First whitewater releases hit the Upper Nantahala

out boaterPaddlers hungry to sample the newest whitewater run to hit WNC’s rivers will flock to the upper reaches of the Nantahala River this Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 29 and 30.

Duke Energy will release water from the Nantahala Dam into the upper reaches of the Nantahala River starting at 10 a.m. each day. Several hundred paddlers are expected to try out the new steep whitewater descent.

Duke Energy normally diverts the water from this stretch of river through pipes for several miles to a hydropower generator, but the paddling organization American Whitewater helped orchestrate occasional water releases from the dam to allow for paddling.

“Because this is a first, much effort has gone into planning for success,” said Fred Alexander, manager of Duke Energy’s Nantahala district. “Still, experience tells us we will all learn some things that will make the next release better.”

Starting next year, there will be eight annual release days on the Upper Nantahala: one weekend in late April, four summer afternoons, and one late September weekend.

Here’s some things people should know:

• Only highly skilled boaters should attempt to paddle on the Nantahala River. Fishermen are advised to avoid this region of the Nantahala River until water levels decline.

• Endless Rivers Adventures and the Nantahala Outdoor Center will provide free shuttles to boat launch areas. Shuttle pick-up will be located on Duke Energy property immediately adjacent to the national forest put-in along Wayah Road. Shuttles will also be provided to run multiple laps of the Cascades Section.

• American Whitewater asks that boaters please be patient with the shuttle system, as many paddlers will likely be looking for access to the upper river. The Wayah Road that follows the Upper Nantahala and Cascades is a very narrow road with limited roadside access and the community upstream is concerned about their ability to travel the road unimpeded.

• The Upper Nantahala consists of two distinct whitewater runs. The uppermost section is known as the Cascades and offers advanced and expert paddlers a relatively short Class V descent over numerous waterfalls and slides. The section from the base of the Cascades to the powerhouse is generally referred to as the Upper Nantahala and offers intermediate to advanced paddlers a longer Class III/IV descent.

• Western Carolina University students will survey participants Saturday and Sunday to help improve logistics for future releases. Paddlers can also email feedback to the Forest Service at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or to Duke at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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