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What do you mean they turn the river off?

February 13, 2015

Raft Outdoor Adventures’ home is on the Pigeon River, which flows from western North Carolina into East Tennessee. We enjoy the river and the Smoky Mountains year round, so many people are surprised to learn that the water moving down the river is “turned off” for half of the year! While we go out on the Upper Pigeon River each day, we only have certain guaranteed rafting days. This is because of the Walters Hydroelectric Plant and Dam in Waterville, North Carolina.

The Walters Plant began providing hydroelectric power to the area in 1930. The plant garnered widespread attention during its construction (1927-1930) because of its remote location and the difficulty getting building materials to the river.  There were no railroad lines or roads to the site at the time of construction. Even though the plant was completed 80 years ago, the building remains relatively unchanged to this day.

Because the Walters Plant provides hydroelectric power, there are scheduled water-release days from April to September each year. Over 130,000 people use these scheduled water releases for recreational activities such as white water rafting. The water that is released from the dam powers many of the rapids people enjoy on their rafting trips with us.

The Upper Pigeon River section begins near the plant’s powerhouse, and features Class III-IV whitewater rapids during scheduled release days. With the releases powering the rapids the scheduled release days guarantee raft trips between April and September. We still have great trips on non-guaranteed release days, but the level of rapids and conditions will vary.

The Lower Pigeon River float trips are entirely dependent on the release schedule. Because of this, float trips are only available on guaranteed rafting days.

Although guaranteed release days don’t start until later this spring, contact Raft Outdoor adventures to enjoy the Pigeon River year round.

Read more about the Walters Hydroelectric Plant.

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