Kayaking/Canoeing in or near Smoky Mtns

I am looking for anyone who has kayaked or canoed in or near the Smoky Mtns National park. I am planning a trip the week after 4th of July at Gatlinburg, TN. We are looking for semi calm waters to get out and enjoy. And any where close that we could camp as well. I know there are people who have done this without the outfitters. Please respond if you know of any great places.

Paddle On!


Fontana Lake
I paddled and camped Fontana Lake in July 2006, and was a great trip. You will see motorboat traffic, although not that heavy especially early morning and evening.

You can camp at several backcountry sites in Smoky Mountain National Park that are right on the lake. I no longer have my park map, so I can’t tell you the site numbers.

I camped the night before launching at the Tsali Recreation Area of the Nantahala National Forest, and launched and returned to that boat ramp.

There are a lot of other people familiar with other lakes in the area.

French Broad River
Try the lower sections of the French Broad. Very low current. Some of the upper sections around Hot Springs have whitewater class I-IV(?), but the lower sections are very flat.

Lake Fontana. You might come across one or two boats. But you can paddle out to an island that has a campsite with bear food traps. Beautiful water and scenery.

Lake Fontanna, many rivers nearby
Lake Fontanna Borders the park on the Southern end.

Here’s a link to a trip report on this site, it’s got some great advice:


The Tuckaseegee river is also nearby, not sure about camping, though.

The Nantahala is also close if you want to play in some moderate whitewater.

Lake Calderwood, accessed where
hwy 129 crosses the river below the dam. Unlike Fontana, Calderwood stays at or near full pool almost all the time… no gigantic bathtub ring. Few powerboats. No development. Long, narrow lake.

Tuckaseigee… Really no camping
except with outfitters. There is an outfitter at the top where the East and West forks join. There are some outfitters below the “gorge” beneath Dillsboro. Otherwise one will be camping on private land. The calmest section, small rapids only, is between the outfitters downstream of Dillsboro and the town of Whittier. Only whitewater types should try going from Whittier to Bryson City as there are a few strong class 2s, and one serious class 3 hidden away just upstream of where the Oconaluftee joins the Tuck.