Whitewater rafting is a heart-pumping challenge that means steering an inflatable craft between rocks and down inclines of rushing water. Tackling what intimidates is an invigorating adrenaline rush.
The adventurers paddled the Upper Section of the Pigeon River, which boasts Class III and IV rapids. “It’s one of the most popular rafting trips in America and one of the best introductions to whitewater anywhere,” says Jon Felderman, owner of Big Creek Expeditions. The Pigeon River gorge cuts across the Smoky Mountains from North Carolina into Tennessee and is a picturesque playground for natural adventure seekers.
As shown in the video, the six-mile trip offers a variety of rafting experiences, from peaceful floats to aggressive rapids. “There are sections with a rapid change in elevation,” says Felderman. “Other sections have calm, slower water. You go through some rapids and drop pools, then flat water then more rapids then flat water” and so on, navigating through a total of ten Class III rapids and three Class IV rapids. The rapids have earned names like Lost Guide, Double-Reactionary, and Snapdragon, underscoring the seriousness of the challenges they present. Each trip down the river promises exciting surprises, as well as time to appreciate breathtaking views.
The Upper Section trip takes about an hour and a half on the water. The total experience lasts about three hours, allowing adequate time for check-in, orientation, gearing up, and changing into dry clothes afterwards.
Big Creek Expeditions requires all rafters on the Upper Section be at least eight years old. For a calmer introduction to the sport of whitewater rafting, anyone age three and older might prefer the scenic float trip that meanders five and a half miles in a calmer section of the river through Class I and Class II rapids.
All rafts can accommodate seven guests, who are led by a professional guide. “Our goal is to offer the safest trip possible and keep everybody in the raft,” says Felderman. “We have some of the best guides on the river, and they come back year after year. Big Creek Expeditions definitely has the most experience on the river, and the experience of the guide is the one thing that really makes a difference between rafting companies.” All guides are professionally trained and certified in first aid and CPR, and many have advanced certifications.
Gear provided to all rafters for the trip includes a paddle, helmet, and personal floatation device. In the busy season, Big Creek Expeditions may run down the Upper Section at least seven different times a day, sometimes up to 12 boats at a time.
Packages are available to combine whitewater rafting with another adventure, such as zip-lining at Legacy Mountain Zip Lines or horseback riding with Five Oaks Riding Stables, both in Sevierville.
While a whitewater adventure is an unforgettable thrill, there’s no need to rely solely on memory: Big Creek Expeditions photographers snap pictures of your group on the river and CDs are available for purchase after the trip.
Bragging rights for your success are a bonus.
Big Creek Expeditions
3541 Hartford Road
Hartford, TN 37753
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