The spring rains have raised the river levels all around, making some options more challenging than usual and causing some restrictions on the types of floats and outings offered right now. Things change though, so check each website for the latest. Some of these facilities can get a bit crowded and several do not appear to be operating under any specific safety protocols for check in, etc. so please manage your personal space & safety on your own. And as with everything these days, call before you go!
Editors Note: these photos are taken from prior years’ social media posts and do not reflect current masking guidelines or COVID safety protocols.
Nantahala River, Bryson City, NC – the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) has everything your outdoorsy heart could desire: tubing, rafting, kayaking, flat water activities, ziplining, mountain biking, shopping, food, and music. Everything but the Treetops Adventure Nets is open at limited capacity and things are booking up. However we saw some available rentals, so get on it today!
Oconoluftee River, Cherokee, NC – a Cherokee area favorite, this river is calm enough for you to really take in the beauty of the Smokies around you. Book your trip through Smoky Mountain Tube and Raft.
Tuckasegee River, Bryson City, NC – climb aboard their British-style double decker bus and let Tuckasegee Outfitters worry about the details of your tube trip. They also offer kayaks, rafts, and extreme tubing- yikes!
Cape Fear River, Lillington, NC– about 3 hours from Charlotte, book through Cape Fear River Adventures for a 5 hour trip down a calm, deep waterway. Since this is a coastal river rather than a rip-roaring, rapid-ridden mountain river, the water is much slower and lends to a longer, more leisurely float. They also offer kayaking, rafting, SUP-ing, and canoeing trips. Safety protocols here.
Dan River, Stoneville, NC– just north of Greensboro and about 2.5 hours from home, you’ll find this island-rich river calling for you to jump in, take a ride, and enjoy a picnic on your own mini private island. Dan River Adventures can help you with logistics, you just have to pack the sandwiches. Safety protocols here.
New River, Boone, NC– said to be North Carolina’s oldest river, the New River is the perfect place for a mountain adventure during your next trip to The High Country. With water depths as shallow as 2 feet in some areas, opt for a hard-bottomed tube for this trip. In just 2.5 hours, you’ll be ready to conquer the New with the help of Zaloo’s Canoes in Jefferson. Zaloos is open at a limited capacity with the following protocols:
- “We have gone to great lengths to disinfect our facility and vehicles.
- We will have to require patrons to wear a mask or bandana while in our facilities and vehicles.
- Please be patient as vehicles will be disinfected after each trip.
- There will be a limit of 12 people allowed inside our retail space at a time.”
Green River, Saluda, NC– A scoop girls’ favorite under-the-radar mountain town is Saluda. With excellent hiking at Bradley Falls, biking on the surrounding roads or mountain trails, and charming (but small!) downtown, Saluda gives you the best bang for your adventurous buck. Green River Cove Tubing and Wilderness Cove Tubing and Camping (safety protocols here) have a few options for your route with peaceful flatwater and mild rapids alternating through your trip plus a few rope swings along the way. At just 2 hours away and situated right between Greenville and Asheville, you can afford to spend time refueling at one of the excellent restaurants for which both towns are known. Extra credit if you stop in to my favorite, Hotel Domestique, for a bite at Restaurant 17. It has the most swoon-worthy views in the SC foothills. If that’s not enough excitement for you… or you’re just looking for a creative way to dry off after your river float, check out The Gorge for a zipline canopy adventure (safety protocols here).
Catawba River, Marion/Fort Mill, NC– 2 hours away and just east of Asheville, this would be a perfect bookend to a trip to our favorite funky mountain oasis. Catawba River Outdoors even offers fancy “river recliners” for your floating comfort. Luxurious. Doesn’t look like they’re doing much for safety, so be prepared to handle your own!
French Broad River, Asheville, NC– a very popular river for tubing, you’ll have plenty of options for your floating trip. Plus, it’s in one of our favorites- Asheville- so your post-tubing reward meal is sure to be top-notch. New Belgium Brewing’s tasting room is a post-float favorite located just off the river. For a one-stop shop, Asheville Outdoor Center offers trips down the river and libations after in their on-site tap room (limited availability and special processes for COVID. Book your trip early to save your spot.)
There’s a gem mine here for your budding gemologists. Zen Tubing is another favorite of locals and visitors alike. Due to COVID, reservations are required.
Wilson Creek, outside of Blowing Rock, NC– a great option for all of your leisurely floating dreams comes from Wilson Creek in Pisgah National Forest. Starting at Mortimer Recreation Area, you’ll want to focus more on a leisurely bop around one of the calmer areas rather than an actual float trip. This is a great place to camp out for the day, tie your float to a tree, and bask in the sunlight, not so much if you’re aiming to get your heart pumping over some rapids. Lots of beautiful waterholes, though.
Deep Creek, Bryson City, NC– Deep Creek Tube Center & Campground is 4 hours from Charlotte but feels like a world away. The upper river is great for families looking for a truly lazy river while the lower river has a few rapids if you dare. For beautiful scenery (hello, waterfalls!), you can’t get much better than this location. For a weekend full of activities, they have camping, cabins, and a gem mine on-site for when you’re done on the river.
Saluda River, Columbia, SC– 2 hours away, you can make your own adventure by putting in near the Columbia Zoo and floating toward downtown. Remember this will require some planning and strategy (you’ll need 2 cars- one at the start and one at the end or a very understanding Uber) in addition to your own gear (see gear recommendations below). Palmetto Outdoors offers shuttles and gear if self-service isn’t your thing as well as guided bike, kayak, and walking tours to round out a weekend trip to SC’s capitol.
James River, Scottville/Buchanan, VA– a little over 4 hours from Charlotte, this Charlottesville area river is a popular pre-game before touring the area’s wineries or trekking the arduous (kidding) VA wine trails. Twin River Outfitters (hellooo glamping options… I love Virginia) (safety protocols here) or James River Runners can get you set up and on your way.
Shenandoah River, Luray, VA – take a mellow 3-5 hour journey on the South Fork of this scenic river. The Shenandoah River Outfitters will take excellent care of you whether you choose to tube, kayak, or canoe. Reservations suggested. Unwind after your trip on their campground or in one of their on-site cabins or cottages.
Little River, Townsend, TN– for a weekend outing worth the 5.5 hour trip, Smoky Mountain River Rat will not only arrange for your every floating need, but will also put you on the river section that best suits your tubing goals. There are both lazy trips with swimming and rock jumping as optional stops as well as something a little more exciting… that means rapids.
Toccoa River, McCaysville, GA – in the gorgeous Georgia mountains with trips bookable through Rolling Thunder River Co. The company also offers whitewater trips if you’re looking for more adventure.
Chattahoochee River, Roswell, GA– 5 hours from Charlotte, but just north of Atlanta, you can count on a fun afternoon with Shoot the Hooch. They even run a shuttle from Sweetwater Brewing! Sweetwater Blue pairs fabulously with tubes.
Before you hit the water, I can’t stress the importance of planning accordingly and the right gear:
- Map with a plan for your float if you’re going sans-tubing company
- Tube (duh)
- Air pump (perhaps not as obvious, but VERY important)
- Sunglasses (preferably attached to more than just your earlobes)
- Ziploc to keep important items dry (phone, keys, etc.)
- Towel with dry clothes to keep in the car
Some river luxuries you might want to invest in are:
Waterproof bag (when a Ziploc won’t cut it)
Rope and karabiners to keep your crew intact/attached
Bug spray (or these awesome deet-free bug repellant wristbands)
River-friendly shoes like these super cute waterproof Birks
Happy floating! Don’t forget to tag us in all of your Summer adventures- @scoopcharlote