Rafting in the Smokies is close to many mountain ranges and forests. Did you know that RITS is within about an hour’s drive from the Martha Sundquist State Forest, the Cherokee National Forest, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Pisgah National Forests? We thought we’d share some not-so-well-known facts about our nearest forest neighbors.
Martha Sundquist State Forest
If this forest is new to you, that’s not a surprise. This land was bought in 2001 from the International Paper Company and holds 2,001 acres. It was named after the wife of Tennessee’s former governor, Don Sundquist. The forest has limited road access and a few trails. The majority of the Martha Sundquist State Forest is bordered by the Cherokee National Forest. You’ll be able to spot a nice assortment of trees, such as eastern hemlock, magnolia, maple, birch, and white pine. As the area is so new, you’ll find it to be an exceptional place to experience the great outdoors in a private setting (10 miles away from most civilization). They also offer nicely spaced campsites if you plan to stay the night.
Cherokee National Forest
Did you know that there is a southern and northern region of the Cherokee National Forest, and it’s split in the middle by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? The Cherokee National Forest’s northern district is technically home to the Pigeon River recreation zone and Rafting in the Smokies as well as 20,000 species of plants and animals. It was once used as hunting and gathering grounds by the Cherokee Indians. There are over 600 miles of foot trails. Camping sites vary from primitive to those with electricity and bathhouses.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Most commonly associated with Rafting in the Smokies, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park butts up against the Cherokee National Forest on its north-eastern and southern sides, the Pisgah National Forest on the north-eastern side, and the Nantahala National Forest to the south. It has been home to prehistoric Paleo Indians, early settlers, and industrialists. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps was established and has helped keep the legacy of the park alive, creating stonework that still is in use today, such as the Chimneys Picnic Area.
Pisgah National Forest
Covering over 500,000 acres of land, the Pisgah National Forest is located in North Carolina and surrounds Asheville. This tract of land was the first to be procured as part of the Weeks Act of 1911 (allowing the national forest system to exist). It’s home to stunning beauty, such as the gardens of naturally-occurring Catawba rhododendrons that cover the Roan Mountains.
If you have time on your trip to the Smokies, we highly recommend you visit these spots that keep history, nature, and cultures preserved for us today. Enjoy what the forest has to offer with one of our packages or individual activities.