Paddle The Cheoah River

North Carolina Cheoah Put-In

Added by Rob Giersch

One of North Carolina's best big water runs with a creek like feel

The Cheoah River is a dam controlled section of whitewater that has become one of the "bucket runs" for Western, North Carolina. Located near Robbinsville, NC, the Cheoah is a non-stop class IV+ classic of constant gradient that delivers a Southeastern whitewater experience like no other.

There are a number of spots to put in depending on length of time and section of river you want to run, but the most popular is O'Henry's which is located on Hwy 129 across the highway from the put-in. From here you can run shuttle to the takeout on Cheoah Lake.

Based on years of advocating by American Whitewater and Western, NC Paddlers, the TVA has agreed to annually scheduled releases for recreational use. To date the schedule has been reliable but make sure you check the latest news before heading to the put in.

Many compare the Cheoah to its neighbor the Ocoee, but be conservative in that comparison. While volume of rivers are similar, the Cheaoh contains a great deal of trees and undergrowth that when combined with stickier hydraulics, can make for dangerous swims if a paddler does not have a solid roll.

There are many offset holes and pushy runs along the course of the entire river, but Bear Creek Falls is the major rapid where boaters test their skill and mental fortitude, and spectators/photographers can see the best action. Paddlers can take the middle chute for a giant boof off of Bear Creek Falls proper or run the slide off the right shoot which breaks the falls up into two smaller drops. Either option requires courage.

The lower portion of the Cheaoh runs past Tapoco Lodge where boaters can lodge over the weekend when open, and relax riverside with a beer and watch others run "Yardsale".

Plan the day right and you can run 2-3 laps on The Cheoah in a given day.

Release dates can be found here:

Tapoco Lodge reservations can be made here:

Pack List

  • Boat
  • Gear (skirt, paddle, helmet, PFD, cold weather gear depending on time of year)
  • Safety gear including throw rope and whistle
  • Water and snacks
  • Camera in a waterproof bag or case
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Kayaking, Photography, Rafting

Skill Level:



Year Round




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How to Get There

5 months ago

The Cheoah River has firmly established itself as a Southeast whitewater classic.

This is not a beginners run despite being mostly class 3+. The continuous nature of the rapids and growth of sycamore tree saplings in the river bed make this a fun run for experienced class IV paddlers. For non paddlers there are outfitters offering rafting trips down this section. The Dam visible at the end of the run is the one used in the last version of "The Fugitive" It is a scheduled release so check to make sure it's running before going.

5 months ago

Added by Rob Giersch

Humble urban and outdoor adventurer who escapes to the mountains and rivers whenever possible, trusty camera by my side.

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