Wild and Scenic in North Carolina

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Proposed Rivers

Nolichucky | Wilson Creek | Linville River | North Fork of the French Broad River | Big East Fork of the Pigeon River | Whitewater River | Mills River System

The Nantahala is probably the most canoed river in North Carolina. Through its spectacular gorge, giving rise to its Cherokee name meaning"Land of the Noon-Day Sun", the waters tumble in a mad rush to Lake Fontana. But to ride this rollercoaster, you have to wait until the spigot is turned on each morning, and then outmaneuver the crowds of other rafts, canoes, and kayaks.

The American Canoe Association is pushing a proposal to make sure some of its brethren are never tamed like the Nantahala, however wild a ride it might offer when the waters are flowing. Seven North Carolina rivers are recommended for Wild and Scenic River designation. Thanks to the ACA for providing us with a rundown on these rivers!

Nolichucky--The recommended segment of the Nolichucky is a popular stretch of whitewater that flows through a spectacular gorge in Cherokee National Forest. In this section the river Drops 35 to 60 feet per mile and has numerous class III and IV rapids. The Nolichucky Gorge is also renowned for its scenery, characterized by huge boulders, impressive rock outcroppings and steep slopes rising more than 2,000 feet above the river.

Wilson Creek --Born as a small trout stream, Wilson Creek drains the eastern slopes of Grandfather Mountain and eventually plunges into a spectacular gorge containing some of North Carolina's hottest whitewater. Canoeists and kayakers are most attracted to the area in the spring when water levels are the best. Wilson Creek and its tributaries also contain some of the best trout fishing in North Carolina.

Linville River --The Linville River originates near the Blue Ridge Parkway and a few miles later plunges 85 feet over Linville Falls into the extremely rugged Linville Gorge. The river flows through the Linville Gorge Wilderness for 17 miles, during which it drops 1,880 feet and offers one of the most difficult stretches of whitewater in the eastern United States. The surrounding wilderness terrain is spectacular and offers visitors a wide variety of hiking trails by which to access and enjoy the river and its many waterfalls.

North Fork of the French Broad River --The North Fork of the French Broad River drains a protected watershed along the eastern edge of Nantahala National Forest. This is a beautiful stream that tumbles over several impressive waterfalls and into a spectacular gorge. The gorge contains a very challenging and popular Class V whitewater run.

Big East Fork of the Pigeon River --The proposed segment drains a very unique environment, mostly within the Shining Rock Wilderness. The East Fork's tributaries, Dark Prong Creek and Yellowstone Creek flow through a high elevation, Canadian type area of heath balds and Hemlock forests. If designated, these headwaters would represent the only such high elevation streams in the entire National Wild & Scenic River System. The streams contain 4 significant waterfalls and numerous cascades. They then combine to create the East Fork of the Pigeon River.

Whitewater River --The Whitewater River is an extreme gradient river which boasts the highest waterfall (411 ft.) in the eastern United States. The river lives up to its name, offering extreme kayaking in the spring. The Whitewater River is also a superb trout fishing stream and can be accessed by a number of hiking trails. The river is currently under special management by the USDA Forest Service as an outstanding resource.

Mills River System --The Mills River System contains a wide variety of characteristics. Much of the South Fork of the Mills River is very remote and wild, carving its way through rocky bluffs, dense forests, and thickets of Rhododendron. The North Fork segment and Mills River segment offer alternating wooded and pastoral scenery. The entire system is rich in historic and cultural values and the South Fork offers excellent overnight canoe camping. There is good trout fishing throughout the proposed segments.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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