Cheoah River Area

National Forests in North Carolina, Near Asheville, North Carolina

Cheoah River Area does not offer reservations through Please take a look at the area details below for more information about visiting this location. Enjoy your visit!


The Cheoah River, located near Robbinsville, NC, is a nine-mile section of waterway between the Santeetlah Dam and Lake Calderwood. Typical water flows average 250 cubic feet per second (cfs), but approximately 20 times per year Brookfield Renewable Resources, Inc. releases water from the dam to mimic natural flood events to benefit a variety of endangered and threatened species that live in the river ecosystem. A secondary benefit of these releases is the recreational opportunity created by the release of approximately 1000 cfs of water, resulting in a Class IV-V whitewater run while water is being released. The US Forest Service currently permits three authorized outfitters to provide rafting opportunities during river releases, and many private boaters also use the river during these releases. 

There is one primary put-in access site, two secondary access sites, and a river takeout site located at Magazine Branch on Calderwood Lake. The Cheoah River is unusual for rivers of its volume in the Southeast in that its gradient is relatively constant. This means that it is unusually continuous, more so than anything else with a similar volume of water in the Southeast. It is a whitewater run that should only be attempted by advanced to expert paddlers with the proper safety equipment and watercraft with a minimum of four internal air chambers or hard bottom canoes or kayaks, and only after careful consideration of all river hazards. The Cheoah River is one of the most difficult, technical rivers in the Southeast during high flow events. The rapids are large and continuous, with numerous hydraulics, rock ledges, vegetation, and other river features that can make self-rescue and extraction difficult. Do not attempt to float the Cheoah River during high flow release events unless you possess expert boating skills, are experienced in self-rescue in Class IV-V whitewater and using the proper gear and safety equipment, and only after a careful analysis of the river features and your own personal skill level.

Fishing on the Cheoah River is considered excellent for smallmouth bass by either fly-fishing or spinning reel with light tackle. The Cheoah River also offers brook trout, rainbow trout, and largemouth bass. Hiking trails in the vicinity include the Appalachian Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail, and numerous hiking trails in the nearby Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness. The Tapoco Lodge, built in 1930 by the Aluminum Company of America as part of hydroelectric efforts in Graham and Swain counties of North Carolina, is located on the banks of Cheoah River. 

Additional information regarding Cheoah River high flow events can be found on the Brookfield Renewable Resources, Inc. website