Meaning “Land of the noon-day sun,” Nantahala is not only the name bestowed on the river, but also the proud moniker for the surrounding gorge, which stretches for several miles. Originating from Nantahala Lake, a hydro project reservoir, the water cascades down from an elevation of 3,000 feet. As it flows into the region, the river becomes highly-regarded haven for fly fishermen and whitewater enthusiasts alike.
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During the championships, more than 500 freestyle kayakers from 45 different countries will dig through their bag of tricks for the ideal medley of moves — cartwheels, full flips and near vertical turns alongside other specialized maneuvers with names like “Roundhouse,” “McNasty” and “Donkey Flip” — in hopes of capturing a world title. Thousands of spectators will line the river, cheering on those aiming for glory.
Kayaks used in these events are much shorter and lighter than traditional boats, something that ultimately creates more mobility for the rider to perform and work their way through the routine. At the helm of the festivities will be the “The Wave,” an underwater apparatus that generates waves and holes for competitors to work within.
The backdrop for the festivities will be the Nantahala Outdoor Center, headquarters for the championships. The world-class Nantahala Adventure Resort, tucked along the side of the steep gorge, includes plenty of amenities such as restaurants, pub, a full-service bike store and outdoor gear shop. The facility also straddles the Appalachian Trail, with day-hikers heading for the hills and thru-hikers taking the opportunity to wander in for a bite to eat or respite from the arduous journey.
But not all the action is in the Nantahala Gorge. Bryson City is kicking off the event with the Opening Ceremonies Parade, and following that with a full week of music and festivities, including a Big Air Competition, BMX show, rafting/boating trips and more.