Sunday, September 08, 2013

Nantahala Gorge ICF Kayak Freestyle Championship


Blairsville, Georgia  (high 84, low 62)

Al is out on his early morning walk/bear hunt, and I’m inside drinking a cup of coffee before he comes back to get me.  It’s 59 degrees right now and I can’t get over how wonderful these cooler temperatures feel.  I wish I would have realized years ago how nice the summers are up here.

The other day, when Al went for his early walk, he came back all excited that he had seem some big bear prints.  I went back with the camera, but the wet prints on the road had started to dry and you couldn’t really tell what they were.

bear prints

These were in the exact same area where we had previously seen the bear cross the road  into the corn field.  Al thinks the bear had just headed home when he came upon these prints. 

That’s why he was so eager to get back there before it even got daylight.   He did carry a walking stick and whistle with him this morning, and promised to walk around the park until daylight.  not sure I believe him though!   Me, I need a cup of coffee or two before I feel like an early morning excursion.

At lunch Thursday with Jeff and Barbie, Jeff mentioned the World Kayak Freestyle event that was taking place all week in nearby Bryson City, North Carolina.

It intrigued us, so we mapped it out and found it was 76 miles from our place.  We really wanted to stay home Friday, but since the event was winding down on Sunday, we decided Friday would be the best day to go.

So….off we went.   The website said parking was limited down by the Nantahala Gorge, but that you could park in town and there were free shuttles that would bring you down.

Another option was to take the Great Smokey Mountain Railroad,  for the special $10 pp price, and catch the shuttle back.  That sounded like a fun plan, but once I read more about it, I realized the one train of the day departed at 10:30 am, and we had just missed it.  That would have been fun taking the train down the mountain into the gorge.  This railroad is popular in the fall with the fall foliage rides.  We would like to do that someday.  We hear it is very nice.

Anyway, the ride north to Bryson City, North Carolina was beautiful.  It started out very foggy.   I’m not sure where the Blue Ridge mountains, that we have here end, and the Smokey Mountains begin, but they sure look smokey, don’t they?

foggy morning in the Smokey Mts

The fog started to burn off, and the sky became blue.

Ride to Bryson City NC

Ride to Bryson City NC

As we approached Bryson City, the road narrowed and we ended up following the Nantahala River the rest of the way.

Ride to Bryson City NC

There were a lot of pull offs where you could get a better look at the river.


Some areas were full of whitewater, some were flat calm, and some had rafters and kayakers flying by with the very swift currents.


The water is crystal clear and the bottom is lined with beautiful rocks.


As we got approached the little city at the bottom of the gorge, traffic picked up.  As we drove by, we could see the action taking place in the river.  Lots of people, vendors and of course kayakers.


Parking was very limited, so we ended up going into town to the local grocery store, where a free shuttle took us back to the action.

This event was not exactly what we expected.   We thought there would be kayakers racing down the rapids of the river, but instead they mostly stayed in one spot and did tricks.

I guess that’s why they called it freestyle.


There was a little eddy that allowed the people in their short stubby kayaks to do tricks without going back down river.

I guess these people were hanging out waiting their turn.  The eddy in front of the picture was where the action was.


There was even a live tv screen and an announcer telling you what was happening. 





Evidently this was quite a big event, with contestants from all over the world.

Just up river from the main event, the water was a little calmer and everyone was enjoying the water.  It was a beautiful day with the temperatures not getting out of the 70’s most of the day.


brrrrr….that water was cold.



And where there are ducks, there are duck butts.

duck butt

and double duck butts.

double duck butt

We hung around for a while, but once you saw one person doing tricks, they all looked alike to us.  It was interesting, and I’m glad we did it, but we don’t feel the need to watch any more freestyle kayak events.  As it turns out, the Nantahala River has only class II and III rapids.  There are some nearby rivers with class IV and V rapids.   We will watch for events on those rivers.

We took more time going home and stopped quite often along the river.  What a beautiful area.  I think it’s a little prettier than where we are.


We even stopped at a gem mine, but decided against spending the money to go through a bucket of rocks looking for gems.  We’ve done it in the past and always found gems, but it can get a little pricey.  It is a lot of fun though and we’ll probably end up doing it soon as there are a lot of gem mines around.


Another stop was this neat swinging bridge.   It was pretty stable until Al got to the other side, then my side really started bouncing.  It was a bit unnerving.  Two ladies got on but quickly backed off when they started bouncing.


swinging bridge


What an amazingly beautiful area.

leaving Bryson City NC

I am finding myself behind in my blog posting, so I’ll have to get caught up with the “almost” bear sighting, and wonderful farmers market.

Gotta get ready for my morning walk, the nag is coming back to get me.  :)


  1. If Al is going to continue to stalk bears make sure he sees the video - "Did You Hear about the Morgans".

  2. Love the nag comment. That's how I would feel about it also. I think I would have to agree with the kayak performers. Once would be enough for me. I'm sure it takes great skill but it all looks the same to me. Beautiful river though. I love those rapids.

  3. Never heard of free style kayaking before.

  4. I guess the bears free style, too. Just not so much in public, or when you're out looking for them! :c)

  5. The problem with looking for bears, at least as I see it, is you just might find one!

  6. So sorry you missed the train ride. Sounds like it would have been more fun than seeing short white water kayaks flipping themselves over and over.

  7. What a wonderful fun day.

    I think I would enjoy watching the kayakers but wouldn't want to do those rapids.

  8. Looks like a beautiful drive, even if the kayaking was not that exciting.

  9. Geez, I don't think I'd go out looking for bear on foot. Sounds kind of dangerous. I hope he carries bear spray.

    Yes, I like the "nag comment," too. Funny! (Sorry, Al.)


Please feel free to leave comments. We love to read them! To contact me directly you can send e-mail to