Rafting On Pigeon River, Tennessee

By Bonnie and Bill Neely

Whether it is your first time or you are veteran kayak or raft enthusiasts, THIS is the adventure for you!  Smoky Mountain Outdoors is located just 45 minutes East of Gatlinburg in Hartford, TN.  The company has been guiding people safely down the Pigeon River since 1993 and has one of the highest safety records in the South East.  The upper river trips offer class 1-4 white water rapids full of excitement. The lower river has class 1 and 2 white water, so it is a gentle float to enjoy the beautiful scenery of these incredible mountains with thick forest on each side of the water.

We are grandparents, and I am not as daring as Bill. I almost backed out at the last minute in anticipation of terrifying rapids, but I was so very happy I didn’t.  The white water rapids in the upper river, even the Class 4 rapids, were so exciting and fun.  With our expert guide Stephanie we were quite safe and the river seemed perfectly tame.  We asked if this is typical of the Pigeon River and were assured the water flow is controlled by the Duke Power Dam and is consistent. The rafting trips are not possible on Fridays and Sundays because of the water levels. We were so happy that we had planned our trip for a Thursday in the summer.  However, the rafting takes place year-round in any kind of weather. One guest asked about lightning and our guide said, “You are safer in a rubber raft than anywhere else you could be in a lightning storm.”

There are many different companies operating raft adventures in this area, but the raft and kayak traffic on the water is never high. We chose Smoky Mountain Outdoors because of its excellent safety record and equipment and well trained guides. Every raft has certified guides trained in Standard First Aid and CPR and there is a strong First Aid case strapped securely to each raft. The rafts are of a much higher quality than some we have experienced on other rivers.

Each guide has practiced and trained on about 20 trips learning to know the landscape and twists and thrills of the river before taking any passengers. Guests range from young children to elderly people but must be fit for the 90 minute journey and able to paddle. Each is issued a certified life jacket and helmet. Before boarding the guides check every individual to be sure the gear is properly secured.

We had so very much fun, and the excitement was just enough to be thrilling but not frightening. We were given instructions ahead of the trip of how to handle emergencies and with each twist and turn Stephanie called out how many times to paddle or hold back. It was never tiring and certainly not constant work, as many of our experiences on other rivers have been….It was GREAT FUN!!  We highly recommend Smoky Mountain Outdoors as the company to choose for your rafting in Tennessee.

You will get wet so wear clothing for that, and shoes must be enclosed and secured to your feet.  There are clean dressing rooms and bathrooms for changing and a locker for car keys only, so you will leave your clothing and towels etc. in the car. Bring a waterproof camera, hat and sunglasses strapped on, and waterproof sunscreen. There is a good picnic area with a grill snack bar. And perfectly situated just beside the rafting launch is the lovely, clean Pigeon River Campground with hookups and cabins. Next time we are coming in our RV to further explore and enjoy the Great Smoky Mountains Outdoors.


1-800-771-7238   Call for directions or reservatons Se Habla Espanol 1-866-412-3727