Nolichucky Gorge

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Located in one of the deepest gorges on the East Coast and offering some of the best paddling in the region, Nolichucky Gorge is a great place to spend a day paddling.

Written by

Joanne O'Sullivan

Destination Distance From Downtown

37.1 miles


4 of 5 diamonds


Time To Complete

1 hour +/-


All Seasons

Fees Permits



Located in the one of the deepest gorges on the East Coast, the Nolichucky is a beautiful river, offering intermediate class III and IV rapids along a 9 mile stretch of river. At the start of the run, paddlers are greeted with a series of straightforward class III rapids downstream of the put in. Over the course of the first four miles, the river averages a moderate 66-foot-per-mile drop. 
The first major drop is a chute known as On the Rocks—a fun, bouncy run with a clean line straight down the middle. After this drop, paddlers will be met with a set of waves and a big, inviting hole called Jaws. This is a great play spot for those who feel so inclined (although be mindful of water levels, as anything above 2,000 CFS can be a little unnerving). 
After another notable drop—the somewhat dangerous class IV Quarter Mile rapid—the river begins to mellow out for the rest of the way, becoming a relaxing class II and III paddle. 
There are several outfitters in the area, but if you're bringing your own boat, park at the campground as the outfitters will tow. You can ask there for directions about different put ins and get a shuttle from here. Many boaters also choose to stay at the campground, which has hot showers and toilets. 
Although the river is just over the border in Tennessee, it's consistently ranked in the top five for Western North Carolina paddlers. 

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Nolichucky Gorge

1 Jones Branch Road
Erwin, TN, 37650
36.098064, -82.431126

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