Upper Pigeon River Whitewater Rafting Trips

Upper Pigeon River

Trip Details

Difficulty: 3
Minimum Age: 8 yrs

Online Special!
$30.00+taxes & fees

 Welcome to Rafting in the Smokies, your best choice for Pigeon River whitewater rafting trips since 1978. The upper section of the Pigeon River boasts 12 Class III and 3 Class IV thrilling whitewater rapids! Accompanied by one of Rafting in the Smokies friendly, professional river guides, you’ll be escorted down 5.5 miles of lively rapids with equally engaging nicknames such as Too Late, Vegamatic, Razor Blade, After Shave, and Lost Guide. No Experience Necessary! This trip is open to anyone 8 years old or older (or 70+ lbs).  Life jackets/personal flotation devices (PFDs) and helmets are provided and required for all participants, our PFDs are adjustable to 56″. Expect big splashes and bumpy waves during this 1.5 hour trip of spectacular whitewater adventure on the Upper Pigeon River!

The scenery surrounding the upper and lower sections of the Pigeon River is just as breathtaking as the rapids. Skirted by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee National Forest, Martha Sundquist State Forest and the Appalachian Trail, the Pigeon has carved its rocky riverbed through some of the most dramatic country in East Tennessee.

Rafting in the Smokies has the longest operating season and the most amenities available on site. The Pigeon River is dam-controlled with scheduled water releases from Memorial Day through Labor Day on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Saturday. Reservations are recommended to ensure that you and your party secure the date and time of your choice. Walk-in guests are welcome.

If someone in your group needs a little less adventure, we can accommodate! Let us help you plan coinciding whitewater and float trips. The portion of the group rafting the Lower Pigeon Float Trip can be scheduled to coincide with the other portion of the group’s Upper Pigeon Whitewater Trip.

Although surrounded by spectacular mountain wilderness, the Rafting in the Smokies Pigeon River Outpost is the most accessible outpost in East Tennessee!  Just take Exit #447 to Hartford, off I-40 near the Tennessee/North Carolina border and you’re there! It’s that easy! Located only 45 minutes from Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville, and Knoxville, TN, and Asheville, NC. Make this river rafting trip your next whitewater adventure!Summary:

No Experience Necessary!
What to Expect: Big Splashes & Bumpy Waves, Maximum 6-7 People Per Raft + Guide
Minimum Age: 8+ or 70+ lbs
Maximum: Must be able to fit into 56″ PFD
Difficulty: Class III & IV
Location: Upper Pigeon River
Length of Rafting Trip: 5 miles/Approx. 1.5 hours
Safety: Trained Guide in EVERY Raft, Life Jackets/Helmets Provided & Required
Price: $42.00 Per Person Plus Tax
Reservations Recommended: Open Memorial Day to Labor Day – Rain or Shine!
Trips Available: Guaranteed water days are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Based on lake levels, we may have trips available other days. Call for availability 1-800-776-7238.

FREE On-site Amenities Include: Our 10-acre island featuring a nature trail, barbeque grills, picnic area, beanbag toss games and a playground.

Nominal Charge: Professional Photo of Your Adventure, Gift Shop Items, Meals
Combo Packages Include: Family Float Rafting, Ziplines, Ropes Challenge Course, Horse Back Riding


This 1:00pm trip meets at the Pigeon River Outpost in Hartford, TN at 12:15 PM

12:15 PM – After arriving at the Outpost please lock all personal items in your vehicle and promptly check in. Make sure not to leave your signed waivers in the car. We will keep your keys while you are playing on the river. 

12:45 PM – After all participants have checked in you can explore the outpost but stay within the sound of the music on the speakers. The office will announce your trip over the speakers when it is time to assemble for your river orientation and safety talk by the trip leader. You will meet your guide and he will help you choose your life jacket and other gear. You will then board the bus for the short 5 mile ride to the put in at the Powerhouse. Your guide will point out various rapids and interesting facts along the ride to the put in at exit 451 on the North Carolina state line.

1:15 PM – For your safety when you arrive at the put in you will be asked to remain on the bus while we unload rafts.  Once the rafts are on the ground your guide will again give brief paddling techniques and helpful rafting tips.  When everyone is ready all rafts are boarded for the trip downstream.  The action starts right away on the Upper Section of the Big Pigeon River!  Within a short distance you will be running “Powerhouse”, which is a Class III plus rapid.  Make sure you are smiling as you approach this rapid for great photo opportunities.  After this, the rapids come in close succession with “Big Rock” and “Full of Water.”  You will go through many other rapids such as ‘’Big Bend”, “Roller Coaster”, “Lost Guide”, and “Duck N Run”.  Enjoy a nice calm spot of swimming after “Accelerator”.

2:45 PM – We arrive back at the River Outpost where you may view and purchase trip photos of a great day of rafting.  Bring a picnic and relax on our 10 Acre Family Adventure Island where you will find barbeque grills, picnic tables,beanbag toss games and a playground. There is also a nature trail and play area at waters edge! Enjoy the setting and share stories about your exciting rafting adventure with Rafting in the Smokies!

Driving Directions to Rafting in the Smokies River Outpost: our meeting place for all Pigeon River outdoor adventures!

We strongly advise following our directions as often as possible. GPS and online mapping services often misdirect our guests. Smoky Mountain terrain is often not GPS friendly. . . TRUST US. Our directions also give you the best route to avoid heavy traffic.

From Gatlinburg, TN: Go to traffic light #3 in Gatlinburg and take Highway 321 N/East Parkway. Follow 321 N all the way to 32 (approximately 15 miles). Take a left on 32 and go approximately 1 mile to the Foothills Parkway. Take the Foothills Parkway until you get to I-40. Take I-40 E and exit at the first Exit #447, Hartford Road. At the stop sign you will see our river outpost across the street. Rafting in the Smokies/Family Adventure is a log building with a red tin roof. Only 30-40 minutes, allow extra traveling time in case of traffic.

From Pigeon Forge, TN: Look at our map and find your lodging location, then take the closest street to Veterans Blvd. Follow Veterans Blvd. (away from Pigeon Forge) and travel until it ends. Turn right onto Dolly Parton Parkway/411, travel on 411 for approx. 18 miles until it ends. Turn right on 25/70 and take I-40 East. Travel approx. 15 miles to Exit #447 (Hartford Road). Turn left and our river outpost be on your right. Rafting in the Smokies/Family Adventure is a log building with a red tin roof. Only 45 minutes, allow 1 hour traveling time in case of traffic.

From Sevierville, TN: Look at our map carefully, as some cabins have a Sevierville address but may actually be closer to Pigeon Forge. If so, follow the directions above, otherwise, travel East on Dolly Parton Parkway/411 (approx. 18 miles until it ends). Turn right on 25/70 and take I-40 East. Travel approx. 15 miles to Exit 447 (Hartford Road). Turn left and our river outpost be on your right. Rafting in the Smokies/Family Adventure is a log building with a red tin roof. Only 45 minutes, allow 1 hour traveling time in case of traffic.

From Knoxville, TN: Take I-40 E to Exit #447 (Hartford Road). At the stop sign you will find our river outpost across the street. Rafting in the Smokies/Family Adventure is a log building with a red tin roof. Allow at least 1 hour traveling time in case of traffic.

From Asheville/Maggie Valley, NC: Take I-40 W to second exit in Tennessee, Exit #447 (Hartford Road). Exit and turn left. After going under the bridge you will find our river outpost on the corner by the BP Station and the Bean Trees Cafe. Rafting in the Smokies/Family Adventure is a log building with a red tin roof.

From anywhere else: Look at our map carefully or call 1-800-PRO-RAFT (776-7238) for directions.

How far are you from?

Asheville, NC 50 miles
Atlanta, GA 209 miles
Charlotte, NC 181 miles
Chattanooga, TN 168 miles
Cincinnati, OH 311 miles
Gatlinburg, TN 30 miles
Jacksonville, FL 488 miles
Pigeon Forge, TN 40 miles
Knoxville, TN 63 miles
Sevierville, TN 35 miles

We look forward to seeing you on the River! It’s the most fun you’ll have all year, we promise!

Maps and Directions

Directions to Rafting in the Smokies Pigeon River Outpost
PDF Map to Rafting in the Smokies

Q: Is there a guide in every raft?
A: Yes, every raft comes with a guide. Of course you may take an inflatable kayak and travel with our group on the Lower Pigeon River.

Q: Do I have to know how to swim?
A: No, you will be wearing a life jacket/PFD (personal flotation device) and we don’t recommend that you swim in whitewater. During your pre-trip Safety Talk, your guide will teach you what to do IF you are in the river… just remember lie on your back and keep your toes in the air! Your PFD is designed to provide you all the buoyancy you need.

Q: How do I get back to my car?
A: For the Upper Section Trip you will take your gear and hop aboard our bus to the Put-In at the Powerhouse, then raft back down the river to the Outpost. For the Lower Section Trip you will begin your trip from our River Outpost and our bus will be there waiting for you at the Take-Out to transport you back to the Outpost. Don’t forget Rafting in the Smokies is the only outfitter on the river with a wheel-chair shuttle bus for our guests with disabilities.

Q: Is there nearby lodging?
A: We offer nearby lodging through our sister company Wildwood Acres Cabin Rentals. You can also visit the Area Links page for additional local lodging information.

Q: How far are you from Gatlinburg?
A: Our River Outpost is located in Hartford (exit 447 off I-40) about a 45 minute scenic drive from Gatlinburg. Our Reservations Office is located approx. 1 mile from downtown Gatlinburg on Hwy 321 North/East Parkway next door to the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce. The Pigeon River offers the closest whitewater rafting to the Great Smoky Mountains.

Q: Can I go if I am a bit overweight?
A: Our largest PFD’s can accommodate a chest measurement up to approximately 56″. If you are not sure, we have a PFD at our Reservations Office in Gatlinburg that you can try on prior to your trip.

Q: If I am pregnant can I go?
A: No!

Q: Do you have a minimum age for children?
A: For Rafting on the Upper Section children must be 8 years old or weigh at least 70 lbs. Children must be at least 3 years old for the Lower Float Trip. For Rope and Ziplines, children must be 5 years old and weigh 45 lbs.

Q: Do you have a group rate?
A: We make group outings the highlight of the memories made while enjoying the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Groups rates are available for groups of 10 or more. Advance reservations are required.  Please check our Groups Specials page for additional information.

Q: What are the times of your trips?
A: The water level on the Pigeon River is dependent on a hydroelectric power plant. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the water level is consistent so we raft Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday between 11AM and 5PM. Earlier in the spring and later in the fall, trip availability is based on rainfall and power generation needs. Please call for up-to-date information during this time period.

Q: What do I wear?
A: The best thing to wear is shorts and a t-shirt made of quick-dry, synthetic material. Cotton jeans are not the most comfortable clothing for a rafting trip – you will get wet! You must also raft in shoes that will stay on your feet: No flip-flops, Crocs, or bare feet. The County River Officer REQUIRES secure footwear. We recommend sneakers, river sandals, or water shoes. During the cooler times of spring and fall, we offer nylon spray jackets and pants for your comfort. Wet suits are also available for an additional charge. Your sunglasses will need to be secure – if you don’t already have a sunglasses strap we have them for purchase in our gift shop. Don’t forget to bring a dry change of clothes and a towel! We have changing facilities complete with hot showers.

Q: Can I bring a camera on the rafting trip?
A: We allow Go Pro Cameras as long as they are on one of the helmet mounts. The helmet with mounts are available for rent for only $5.00.  Our professional photographer takes several photos of your raft trip. You can view these and purchase them on a souvenir flash drive after your trip.

Q: Do I need to bring anything on the trip with me?
A: No. We provide you with all the top-notch equipment you need for a safe and fun rafting trip. We recommend that you lock your valuables in your vehicle. We have a safe place for you to store your keys. If you are wearing glasses or sunglasses, make sure you have a strap on them for security.

Q: What about inclement weather?
A: We raft rain or shine – getting wet is half the fun! If there is lightning in the area, our river managers or trip leaders may delay the trip until the storm has passed. We love liquid sunshine!

Q: What if I have to cancel?
A: We have a 48-hour cancellation policy. As long as you give us at least a two-day notice of your cancellation, there will be no charge to you. If you are making your reservation within the 48-hour period prior to your trip date you waive your right to cancel.

Q: Is there more to do than rafting?
A: There’s lots to enjoy in the great outdoors with us! We offer vacation packages that include zip lines, a ropes challenge course, and horseback riding (off-site). And while you’re visiting us take time to enjoy our Family Adventure Island accessed by a 150-ft suspension bridge. Our 10-acre island features barbeque grills, picnic tables, beanbag toss games and a playground. There is also a nature trail and play area at waters edge!

Q: I’m looking for that perfect gift for someone special, can you help?
A: Giving the gift of an outdoor adventure is the perfect way to say, “I care and I think you’re cool!” We offer gift certificates for all of our outdoor adventures: whitewater rafting, leisurely float trips, inflatable kayaks, ziplines, ropes course, and horseback riding.