Nantahala/Guide Assisted 2:45pm

Trip Details

2:45pm Trip
Difficulty: Class 2
Minimum Age: 7 yrs

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Price: $23 - $31

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. 

At the rafting center

Rafters should check in at our rafting center 30 minutes prior to your reserved  trip time.  Remember, we are in the Eastern Time Zone. You should bring your reservation confirmation that you will receive by email with you to check-in along with your signed waiver of liability (form is on our website). If you are a group leader it is not necessary for all members of your group to come in for check-in.

You should lock all personal belongings (towels, dry clothes) up in your car and leave the keys  in our office before time for your trip. 

The U. S. Forest Service requires us to  instruct you not to take anything on the river with you ,i.e. bottled drinks, snacks because they do not want it to end up in the rive which creates litter that they will have to clean up. 

Safety orientation

At trip time, our trip leader will gather the entire rafting group together and each rafter will be fitted with the appropriate gear for the trip, i.e. personal flotation devices(called PFD's which you know as life jackets) and paddles. Once everyone has their equipment, the trip leader will give the group a pre-trip safety orientation which will  involve tips on how to properly sit in the raft, how to hold your paddle and safety tips.

On the bus

When the safety orientation is finished,  everyone will board the Thunder buses for a  20 minute ride to the river put-in where we launch the rafts. Bus ride times will vary depending upon traffic in the Gorge. You may take bottled drinks or snacks to consume on  the bus ride. You may not be riding on the same bus back from the river that you went up in so don't plan on leaving any belongings on the bus.

On the river

At the put-in, rafts are unloaded and rafters can help carry their rafts down a short ramp to the river. Rafters who booked a non-guided tripwill be launched first and head down the river. If you have booked a guided trip, your guide will introduce him/herself and give you additional instructions on paddling, what kind of commands you will hear, etc. If you have booked a guide-assisted trip you will be guiding your own raft but will be following one of our guides who has been assigned to keep an eye on you and to assist you if you encounter any kind of difficulty.

Shortly after you get your raft in the river, you will run Patton's Run, a class II rapid, which will be the first splash of your 8 mile river trip. About 2 hours later you will be approaching Nantahala Falls, the only class III rapid on the river and the big splashy ending to your rafting trip. Our photographer will take your picture as you surge through Nantahala Falls.

You will come out of the river at the take-out  and rafts are loaded back on the buses.


Back at the rafting center

You will have about a  5-10 minute ride back to the rafting center where your keys are waiting for you at the front desk. Enjoy a hot shower and change into your dry clothes. Cold bottled drinks and snacks are available at our center. Check out our colorful array of fun tee shirts and view your photos on a large flat screen television. There's usually a lot of laughter and general hilarity as photos are viewed. You can order a CD of your pictures and we will get it ready for you while you wait. If you don't wish to wait, identify your photos and pay for them and we will mail them to you the next business day. Our photos are not available online so be sure to look at them before


Note:  During the summer months, Saturdays can be extremely busy and trips can take longer because the river is crowded. 

Nantahala River Rafting Center Directions


10160 Highway 19 West
Bryson City, NC 

Many people have the idea that a rafting trip involves a long, tiring bus ride of several hours to a remote wilderness area. While this is often true for western river trips, it is not the case with our conveniently located rivers.  We are located in easy to find, easy to get to locations with an abundance of nearby places to stay and eat while visiting us. Our location is convenient for day trips if you are looking for a quick way to rejuvenate your spirit.  Our Nantahala rafting center is about 75 miles from Asheville, 150 miles from Atlanta and 125 miles from Chattanooga.

Rolling Thunder's Nantahala River rafting center is located about 15 minutes southwest of downtown Bryson City, North Carolina. 

Caution: GPS devices are not always dependable once you get into the mountains.  Cell phones are also undependable once you get into the mountains so don't wait until the last minute to call us for directions. You are more likely to enjoy a stress-free drive to our center and to arrive on time if you  are clear about your driving directions before leaving home.


From Knoxville

(Approx. 2 1/2 - 3 Hrs.) Go East on I-40. Turn right onto highway 66 to Sevierville. Follow signs to Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg. Continue on 441 South over the Great Smoky Mountains into Cherokee. In Cherokee, follow signs for 441 South. Eventually you will turn onto a 4 lane 441 S. Continue South on 441 and look for signs pointing to Bryson City. Exit onto the four lane 19S/74W. Go West 10 miles past Bryson City. You will see a sign entering into the Nantahala Gorge. Our Rafting Outpost will be on your right 1 1/2 miles into the Nantahala Gorge. Look for our Rolling Thunder River Company billboard. 

From Asheville

(Approx. 1 1/2 Hrs.) Head West on I-40 & go to exit 27. You are now on highway 19/74 West, approximately 50 miles from outpost. Follow signs through Waynesville, Sylva, and Cherokee. Continue on 19/74. 10 miles past the last exit for Bryson City, the 4 lane highway turns into 2 lanes. Stay in the left lane. You will see a sign entering into the Nantahala Gorge. Our Rafting Outpost will be on your right 1 1/2 miles into the Nantahala Gorge. Look for our Rolling Thunder River Company billboard.

From Atlanta

(Approx. 2 1/2 Hrs.) Head North on I-575, go 75 miles to Blue Ridge, GA. Turn left on highway 60 [There will be a Country Cupboard Citgo station on your Left] Go 1 mile to Spur 60. Turn right onto Spur 60 at the church. Drive 13 miles until the road ends. Take a right on 64/74 and head East [This is a 4 lane]. You're approximately 45 miles from the outpost. You will pass through Murphy and Andrews. In Murphy, the 4 lane changes names from 64/74 to 19/74. After Andrews 4 lanes go to 2. You will enter the Nantahala Gorge. You will travel along the river until it is out of sight. Keep going; Rolling Thunder will be 2 miles farther on your left.

From Chattanooga

(Approx. 2 1/2 Hrs.) Go North on I-75 to exit 20 highway 74. Follow Ocoee River signs. Stay East on 64/74 to NC/TN line. Continue East through Murphy & Andrews. In Murphy the road will change names to 19/74. This will be approximately 40 miles from our outpost. You will pass through Murphy & Andrews. In Murphy, the 4 lane changes names from 64/74 E to 19/74 E . After Andrews 4 lanes go to 2. You will enter the Nantahala Gorge. You will travel along the river until it is out of sight. Keep going; Rolling Thunder will be 2 miles farther on your left


What happens if it rains?

We go rafting rain or shine. You are going to get wet anyway. We guarantee it. In the event of a storm, we will usually delay the trip until it passes. In the mountains, storms can spring up suddenly and be gone just as quickly.

How long is the rafting trip?

You will be with us about three and a half hours for the entire process which includes a pre-trip safety orientation. Your actual time on the river will be approximately two hours. We run the full eight miles of the river. If you see a company advertising a much cheaper rate it is probably because they are only running half the river – not the full trip.

Do you have to have enough people to fill up a raft?

No, we have different size rafts which can accommodate from one to 7 people (sometimes 8 if some of the people are small children).

How deep is the water?

It varies. The river is not like a swimming pool. It can vary quite a bit from place to place.

Should we tip our guide?

Rolling Thunder’s exceptional level of service is not based on the expectation of a tip for guides. However, it has become a common practice to tip your guide. If you want to express your appreciation for their enthusiastic efforts it will be genuinely appreciated.

Can we take a cooler on the river?

Sorry but the only thing going on the raft is you. The U. S. Forest Service asks that we do not allow you to take even a bottle of water because they do not want the bottles to end up IN the river.

Will there be enough water in the river for rafting?

Since we run dam-controlled rivers only we are not dependent upon recent rainfall for rafting. This also gives us a consistent, predictable flow of water.


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. The Nantahala rafting center rents "neoprene" boots which help keep your feet warm.

In warmer weather wear 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.

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

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). 

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

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.

What 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 one this one!)
We sell waterproof  one-time use cameras at our center which is your safest option if you want a camera with you on the river.


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.

Places to Stay