Parks & Recreation

Boating and Rafting

Whether you’re looking for a lazy day on the lake, a quiet trip down a beautiful river, or a thrilling white water experience, you’ll find it on Carter County’s streams and lakes.

Watauga Lake is TVA’s highest reservoir, 1,960 feet above sea level.  Its 100 miles of shoreline are mostly undisturbed forest, with steep ridges rising more than 1,500 feet above the lake.  Fed by rivers originating in the high mountains along the Tennessee-North Carolina border, it is one of the cleanest lakes in the U.S. – and one of its most beautiful.  Well-served by marinas and public boat ramps, it’s perfect for boating, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, skiing and fishing.

At the base of Watauga Lake is TVA’s smallest lake, Wilbur, a tiny jewel surrounded by the steep cliffs of the Watauga Gorge, perfect for kayakers, canoeing and float fishing.  It’s a winter haven for hundreds of waterfowl.

The Watauga, Doe and Elk Rivers and Laurel Fork Creek are all famous for their whitewater, with everything from gentle Class I and II floats on the Watauga below Elizabethton to challenging rapids and falls on the Watauga and Elk in the high mountains bordering North Carolina.

Rafting is offered by several outfitters.  Choose between a quiet float by beautiful farmland, forests and towering cliffs interspersed with Class I & II rapids – perfect for a family outing – and more-challenging runs in the mountains.

And for paddlers looking for a bigger challenge,  do we have the whitewater for you!

Fishermen come from everywhere to fish the famous trophy trout section of the Watauga River – more here.  And the easily-accessed Doe River Fishing Trail is earning a reputation for native brown trout and rainbows.

For more information:

Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts
Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce
Elizabethton/Carter County Tourism Association
Watauga Lake – blue-green jewel in the mountains website
Kayaking the Doe River
Kayaking the Watauga River
Kayaking the Elk River
Kayaking the Laurel Fork

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Thanks to American Whitewater , Lakeshore Marina , Kirk Eddlemon, Watauga Kayak  and Joshua Dalton for use of photos.