Rafting the Nolichucky River

The Nolichucky has its source from two rivers in the Appalachian Mountain chain and is named from the Cherokee Indian word meaning changing waters. Part of its course marks the boundary between Tennessee and North Carolina. This day it would be running at 1,400 cubic feet per second which was a higher flow due to recent rains.

It was a muggy hot day but the water splashing us from the waves on the river cooled us perfectly for the ride. Soon after getting acquainted with the raft and the other paddlers, we entered the first class IV rapids. Surprisingly, we made our way between the rocks and over a 2- to 3-foot waterfall without getting ejected from the float. One stretch of rough water was -mile in length and started with a class IV at the top with several less dangerous ones in the middle and ending with another class IV at the bottom.

The rafts ran the difficult strip in pairs so that if anyone turned over the other close one could help with the rescue. Once again, we all got through the churning course in great style. It was a less demanding spot that got us in trouble when we tried to float over a submerged rock sideways and came to a sudden stop throwing the only member of our crew who couldn't swim over the side. She had the most terrified look on her face which I could see submerged under the water on the downstream side of the rock. Her son sitting behind her was able to extend the paddle handle for her to grab pulling her back to the raft and then grabbing her life jacket to drag her back to safety.

In a quiet flat water area we pulled the rubber vessels over for a lunch on the rocks. Fried chicken strips wrapped in aluminum foil were still hot and really tasted good when accompanied by the pasta and fresh peach slices. After lunch we ran the last of several class III flows before taking out at the USA base camp on the river's edge.

I was thankful that our guide had steered us safely through the 9-mile course and during the easy floats had entertained us with jokes and folklore.

Editors Note: George Robertson is a physician with Family Medical Associates, PC, in Lebanon.