Last Updated on June 9, 2023
Rivers are an essential component of our region’s lifestyle. They offer a continuous source of enjoyment for the people who live here, as well as visitors from near and far. People of all ages enjoy fishing, paddle sports, and just quietly walking through greenspaces alongside the banks. Throughout the summer, it’s common to see streams of tubers floating lazily down our local rivers.
If you’re interested in learning more about river tubing in WNC, here is everything you need to know.
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Our top 5 rivers for tubing in WNC
No matter where you are in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll find happiness near a river. It’s possible to tube down many large rivers and smaller streams. But some routes are time tested for fun and relaxation. Here are our top rivers for tubing in WNC.
Located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Bryson City, Deep Creek is the most popular place for river tubing around. Rent a tube, find a national park campground and picnic area, and enjoy the perfect day outdoors. All sections of the creek are not created equal. Some put-in spots along Deep Creek require time on the trail to reach, while others have rapids.
French Broad River
One of the five oldest rivers in the world, the French Broad River is accessible year round from many points along its 218 miles. In Asheville, a variety of launch points are accessible from city parks and landing spots. Much of the French Broad is appropriate for wading and swimming, but swimmers should be cautious of fast-moving currents and eddies.
The gentle rapids of the Lower Green River flow through the lush forests of the Green River Gorge near Saluda. However, the river dam is released regularly, so tubing times are scheduled with the best water levels. Rent a tube and float a mile or all day. Great camping spots await you back on land.
The trip along the Oconaluftee River near Cherokee is all nature. You’ll float through numerous swimming holes, over fun Class I & II rapids, alongside an awesome rope swing, and more. Get out and play along your route. One tubing route takes you just under the southern end of the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway. Keep traveling south to float through town.
The Tuckasegee is the ideal river for first-time rafters and tubers, families with young children, and those who want more of a relaxing river trip. As the river drops and winds through six reservoirs, it is warmed to 65–70 degrees. Warm water combined with Class I & II drop and pool rapids make it unique for these mountains.
7 River tubing safety tips
More than likely, your tubing experience will be fun, relaxing, and a great diversion from any daily worries. However, as with any outdoor activities, it always pays to plan for contingencies. Here are a few tubing safety tips to keep in mind.
Review water levels and quality. Many efforts have been made in recent years to ensure the cleanliness of local rivers. However, local water quality still varies, especially after large rain events. If you’re booking a tubing adventure with one of the companies listed below, they will let you know if the river is not safe that day. If you’re tubing on your own, don’t forget to check before you depart.
Dress for adventure. Most popular tubing routes are gentle. But if water is running too high or too low, it could affect your experience. Ask if your tubing company provides lifejackets, or bring your own. Wear water shoes or old sneakers, as well (not flip flops!). River bottoms can be rocky or muddy, so footwear is a must.
Leave your valuables. Keys, wallets, cell phones, jewelry. These things don’t mix with the river float experience. It’s best to leave as much as you can in the car. Some float companies provide lockers, while others guard your keys for you.
Bring your sunscreen. Depending on where you jump in and where you want to end your tubing journey, you could be on the water for an hour or all afternoon. Wear plenty of sunscreen and apply regularly throughout the day.
Stay hydrated. As we mentioned, you’ll get a lot of sun on the water. Many river tubes, especially those you can rent below, feature cup holders. If you plan on being on the water for a few hours, consider renting a cooler float. Hydration is key. Do not bring glass containers or styrofoam coolers.
Check the weather. It’s never a good idea to be on the water if thunderstorms are rolling in. Make sure you have a good window of time with clear or overcast weather for your tubing trip. And if you are on the water when bad weather rolls in, pull over to the bank and wait it out!
Plan your exit strategy. There are some great destination points located along our rivers. For instance, if your goal is to get out at New Belgium Brewing, plan your starting point so that you’re on the river for the right amount of time before you reach it. If you’re floating on your own, make sure you have a plan for getting back to your car.
10 River tubing companies in WNC
There are many tubing companies throughout Western North Carolina. As you are planning your tubing adventure, check for seasonal hours and COVID-19 policies.
Asheville Outdoor Center
Providing a quality experience since 1992. Tubing, rafting, canoes, and more. Walk-and-Tube or “Tote-N-Float” options available.
521 Amboy Road, Asheville | (828) 232-1970 | ashevilleoutdoorcenter.com
Beer City Tubing
Brand new! Equipment rental (deluxe inflatable tube), free parking, shuttle service. Stop at Sierra Nevada Brewing’s river takeout.
501 Glenn Bridge Road, Arden | (706) 664-4942 | beercitytubing.com
Cherokee Rapids Tube Rentals
Equipment rental, shuttle to starting point. Type I & II rapids along the Oconaluftee River; minimum age is 4 years.
P.O. Box 2427, Cherokee | (828) 736-4231 | cherokeerapids.com
Dillsboro River Company
Equipment rental, shuttle, parking, bathrooms. Snacks and amenities available. Class I & II rapids on the Tuckasegee. Minimum age is 4 years, or minimum weight of 40 pounds.
18 Macktown Road, Sylva | (828) 507-2428 | northcarolinarafting.com
French Broad Outfitters
Equipment rental, cooler floats, shuttle to starting point. Fish while you float!
230 Hominy Creek Road, Asheville | (828) 505-7371 | frenchbroadoutfitters.com
Green River Cove Tubing
Family owned and operated since 1982. Equipment rental, shuttle service, parking. Children must be 42″ tall.
5200 Green River Cove Road, Saluda | (828) 749-3781 | greenrivercovetubing.com
Lazy Otter Outfitters
Adventure Tubing currently not available.
10 Banner Farm Road, Mills River | (828) 756-1386 | lazyotteroutfitters.com
Silver Creek Tubing
Equipment rental, free shuttle, free parking, snacks. Tent sites also available at Silver Creek Campground.
5373 Green River Cove Road, Saluda | (828) 894-2331 | silvercreektubing.com
Wilderness Cove Tubing and Camping
Equipment rental, parking, bus ride. Rates vary by length of trip. Children must be 42″ tall, and the minimum recommended age is 7 years.
3772 Green River Cove Road, Saluda | (828) 749-9100 | nctubing.com
Equipment rental, cooler carriers, free parking, and shuttles. Reservations now required. Minimum age is 4 years.
608 Riverside Drive, Asheville
1648 Brevard Road, Asheville
(855) ZEN-TUBE | zentubing.com
Want to create your own WNC river tubing adventure? Here are 23 of the top outdoor outfitters in Western North Carolina