The Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tour will debut this month with a half-mile series of forest-enveloped ziplines, where people hang from a harness and slide along an overhead cable strung between platforms and trees. The course zigzags over 20 acres and takes about three hours to traverse. There are 11 zip line sections and various sky bridges to get from platform to platform.
Canopy Rangers accompany each group on a tour, coaching them on the techniques of the zip line as well as teaching them about the multiple ecosystems they pass through and the cultural history of the area.
The canopy tour is on the property of Wildwater LTD Rafting. The outfitter also has yurt lodging on the property called Falling Waters Adventure. Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tours is a stand-alone company but is a partner with Wildwater LTD Rafting.
Canopy tours are a popular tourist destination in South and Latin America, but this will be the first one to crop up on the WNC side of the Smokies. It will launch on July 10.
The canopy tour could mean a tourism boost for the Gorge, giving people a new reason to visit aside from the long-standing draw of whitewater rafting. The addition of mountain biking trails by Nantahala Outdoor Center has also expanded adventure offerings in the Gorge, along with the standard mountain fare of hiking, fishing and exploring.
The canopy tour should appeal to an variety of audiences. It combines the sheer rush of a zip line with ecosystem education — a genuine eco-tourism attraction.
Each tour-goer is equipped with a helmet, full body harness, trolley, gloves, and a tether safety line.
Wildwater Ltd. started its operations in 1971 on the Chattooga River. Since then the company expanded its whitewater rafting to four other rivers in the southeast and offer several outdoor adventure firsts: the first on the Chattooga River, the first to offer the Raft & Rail Excursion with the Great Smoky Mountains
Railroad and the first Yurt-specific lodging in the southeast.
Canopy Tour specs
To go on the Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tour you have to be 10 years old or 70 pounds. Maximum weight is 250 pounds.
Participants will move through the canopy tour in groups of up to 12 accompanied by two canopy rangers. Trip times are scheduled 45 minutes apart to allow for separation between groups.
Cost is $69 a person, with discounts for groups. 877.247.5535 or www.nantahalagorgecanopytours.com.