kids enjoying the nantahala rafting trip

Nantahala – General Information

General Information


The Nantahala River is a dam-controlled river which means you will get a consistent, predictable flow of water and not be disappointed by a lack of recent rainfall. This is absolutely essential for a great whitewater experience. No last minute cancellations due to lack of rain.


Our Nantahala River rafting trips go out 7 days a week beginning in early April and ending in early October. Check out our Calendar page for an exact schedule. Saturdays are the busiest day of the week and July is the busiest month for Nantahala rafting trips. Just so you know….Whitewater rafting in North Carolina attracts hundreds of thousands of rafters each season. Many trips are booked well in advance so we recommend that you reserve your space as soon as possible. However, we will be happy to take you rafting on a walk-in basis if space is available.


For those who are more experienced or just a little more daring, we offer Funyaks (aka “duckies” ) which are one and two person rafts – sporty little inflatables which notch up the level of adventure for you on the Nantahala. You will get wetter and colder than in a large raft but you’ll also have a bouncier ride. We recommend renting a wetsuit to wear if you are going down the river in a Funyak. People going down the river in the large rafts usually do not need to rent a wetsuit.


We have many options on the Nantahala River. For this reason, we have a page dedicated to pricing. Go here for detailed pricing information.

Raft Types


Since Nantahala River rafting is a beginner’s level whitewater experience we have different types of rafts for your recreational pleasure. Keep in mind: The smaller the raft the more adventurous the experience. A “thwart” is the round “pillow” in a raft which runs crossways and provides a seat for the rafter or a back support for the funyak paddler.


Anywhere from 4 to 7 people can enjoy paddling this raft down the river. These rafts have three thwarts. These are the most stable of our fleet of rafts – virtually impossible to turn one over.


This is a two person raft and involves teamwork. The person sitting in the rear of the raft will have a one-sided paddle and is primarily involved in steering the raft. The person in front will have a two-bladed paddle and is primarily involved in propelling the boat. You are also 50 percent more likely to turn over in one of these than in a large raft


Funyaks and duckies are the same type of raft – jut different names for the same thing. A single funyak is for one paddler who sits in the floor and rests their back against the thwart. These rafts are our smallest and “tippiest” of the fleet. We strongly recommend wetsuit rentals for paddlers going in these single or double funyaks because you are sitting in cold water for a couple of hours. You are also 50 percent more likely to turn over in one of these than in a large raft.


About half the size of a regular raft, this is ideal for two to three people. It weighs less so it more maneuverable but also “tippier” which means it is easier to turn over.


A HyPro stands for high performance funyak. It is a single funyak with leg straps and foot pegs which allows you to do more aggressive maneuvers in the river such as “surfing” a rapid. It gives you more control in challenging Nantahala rafting situations.

Guide or No Guide

The Nantahala River alternates between calm spells of sparkling flatwater to over 20 named rapids. This feisty river is a particular favorite of families with younger children. Our rafting trips run the full length of the river which will take you through eight miles of this area’s most scenic terrain. You will meet an array of lively rapids such as Root Canal, the Isle of Dumping and Tumble Dry.

Almost anyone can participate in the fun of paddling and maneuvering their own raft down the Nantahala. Children are required to be at least 7 years of age or weigh at least 60 pounds in order to raft this river. The daring can also notch up the level of adventure by going down the river in a one or two person “funyak” instead of a large raft.

You can choose from several rafting options on this river:

  • Raft with Guide which guarantees a guide in your raft; allows you to relax and let a pro be in charge
  • Guide Assisted (or Follow A Guide) lets you captain your own raft but enjoy the extra confidence of having one of our guides nearby in case you encounter any kind of difficulty.
  • Non-guided Raft Rental allows experienced rafters to handle their own rafts with no assistance from us.

The Nantahala River runs 7 days a week during the rafting season. Your trip will take about three and a half hours for the entire process with about 2 hours on the river.

What to Bring

Protective Footwear

  • For your safety, all rafters must wear securely fitted shoes.
  • Tennis shoes, water shoes or sandals with heel straps are fine. Flip flops or bare feet are not acceptable.

In Warmer Weather

Quick drying shorts and a tee shirt. You don’t want to wear heavy clothes such as sweat pants or blue jeans. Quick-drying materials such as nylon are a good choice.

In Cooler Weather

If the weather is chilly, try to wear polypropylene or synthetic fleece fabrics. Cotton is not a good choice during cooler weather.

Wetsuit Rentals

The Nantahala Rafting Center rents wetsuits and neoprene “booties” which are good for chilly weather trips or for small children who generally get colder than adults. We strongly recommend a wetsuit rental for people going in the “funyaks”(they will be sitting in water for the duration of the trip).

If it Rains

In the event of rain, we will provide rain jackets free of charge.

Eyewear (Glasses or Sunglasses)

If you feel you must wear glasses of some kind, at least secure them with a string or head strap. We sell head straps at our rafting centers as well as inexpensive sunglasses.

Other Things to Bring

  • Bring a towel. You will get wet!
  • Dry clothes and shoes.
  • Plastic bag for your wet clothes.

What NOT To Bring On The River

  • Valuable jewelry
  • Cell phones, wallets or expensive cameras
  • Car keys (trust us on this one!)


When you choose to go down the river non-guided you are basically renting the equipment (rafts, funyaks, paddles, PFD’s) from us and are therefore solely responsible for the return and condition of all equipment. Cost to replace a lost paddle, for example, would be $20. You have the option of purchasing equipment insurance for $1.00 per person which will cover loss of paddle or damage to raft.  It does NOT cover loss of raft.

Camping & Lodging

Our Nantahala rafting center is located in Bryson City, an area of western North Carolina which offers all types of accommodations. You will find a wide array of cabins, motels, bed and breakfast inns and hotels near our center.

Our Nantahala rafting center has a campground for those who are looking for a great outdoor experience. Our campsites at the Nantahala have pea gravel tent sites, picnic tables and fire pits. They are conveniently located near the bathhouse which has hot showers. The camp sites are located around the perimeter of the campground so that your tent will remain shaded during the day. We are a family oriented facility so we do not allow alcoholic beverages in our campground.

Rolling Thunder also has a large bunkhouse for groups who want to extend their stay in the mountains overnight. The bunkhouses can sleep up to 72 people and has a full kitchen.

Those who want more traditional lodging can check out the following links to accommodations in the Nantahala area.








The Nantahala River has an abundance of information that can be overwhelming. We hope this resource has helped! If you have more questions, please reach out!  If you’re ready to book, check out our Nantahala rafting page.

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