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Wednesday, 15 June 2016 20:09

Blueway Trails of the North Carolina Smokies

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Four rivers — the Little Tennessee, Nantahala, Oconaluftee and Tuckaseegee — flow through the NC Smokies and into Fontana Lake at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, creating a spectacular “Blueways Trail” throughout the region.

These rivers and their watersheds encompass the Nantahala National Forest and the two most visited units of the national park system, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. All of these rivers have offer fishing, canoeing and kayaking, tubing, and a host of recreational opportunities. Check the county travel and tourism websites for particulars in each county. 


The Oconaluftee, considered “sacred waters” by the Cherokee, and known as the “Luftee,” is a beautiful, freestone river that drops 2,000 feet over 10 miles and flows through Cherokee before joining the Little Tennessee on the way to Lake Fontana. Wading, tubing and canoeing are all popular here. However, the Luftee is most famous for its abundant healthy rainbow, brook and brown Trout. 

Little Tennessee

The Little Tennessee and its immediate watershed comprise one of the richest archaeological areas in the Southeastern US. Known to the avid fisherman for its small mouth bass, this river is a popular spot for canoeing, fishing and floating. Travelers and locals alike enjoy the town of Franklin’s Little Tennessee Greenway as it winds along the river.


The Nantahala offers river rafting and kayaking through family-friendly rapids and is a popular spot for the amateur as well as the Olympic paddler. It features eight miles of Class II rapids before splashing through the exciting Class III whitewater of Nantahala Falls. It is also recognized as one of the area’s premier trout streams. So good in fact, that Trout Unlimited included it on their list of the Top 100 Trout Streams in the U.S.


The Tuckasegee, known as the “Tuck,” originates In Jackson County and runs through Cullowhee, Sylva, Dillsboro and Bryson City on its way to Fontana Lake. A float trip on the Tuck is an exhilarating way to experience fly fishing in the southern Appalachians, and the river is so popular for fishing the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce has produced its own WNC Fly Fishing Trail map for the Tuck. The river has areas that are as wide as many western rivers, offering plenty of room for back casting. The Tuck is also a popular river for tubing, floating and canoeing. 

For more information about the WNC Fly Fishing Trail, visit