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Whitewater Paddling

The Chattanooga region holds great and diverse whitewater paddling opportunities, for beginners and experts.

To the east, the Appalachian Mountains hold iconic whitewater streams like the Ocoee, Hiwassee, Cartecay, Nantahala and Chattooga.

Closer to home, the ridges of the Cumberland Plateau offer some of the best steep creek boating in the Eastern U.S.

Photo of Suck Creek courtesy of American Whitewater


Any whitewater paddling should not be attempted without the proper training and instruction. Even Class I moving water holds hazards that can cause serious injury or death. For more information on how to get started, please contact Outdoor Chattanooga at (423) 643-6888.


The Rapid Learning Whitewater Program

Outdoor Chattanooga hosts the Rapid Learning Whitewater Program year round. Adults and kids ages 8 and older can build a solid base of paddling skills to carry them to whitewater streams all over the country. Equipment and instruction are included. Beginners are encouraged.


American Whitewater offers the region’s best river database.

Walden’s Ridge Whitewater has the best local knowledge of the Chattanooga area’s steep creeks.

International Scale of River Difficulty

Complete Descriptions at American Whitewater

Class I Rapids (Beginner)

Fast moving water with riffles and small waves. Few obstructions, all obvious and easily missed with little training.

Class II Rapids (Novice)

Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily missed by trained paddlers.

Class III Rapids (Intermediate)

Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to avoid and which can swamp an open canoe. Complex maneuvers in fast current and good boat control in tight passages or around ledges are often required; large waves or strainers may be present but are easily avoided.

Photo courtesy of American Whitewater

Class IV Rapids (Advanced)

Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise boat handling in turbulent water. Depending on the character of the river, it may feature large, unavoidable waves and holes or constricted passages demanding fast maneuvers under pressure.

Photo courtesy of American Whitewater

Class V Rapids (Expert)

Extremely long, obstructed, or very violent rapids which expose a paddler to added risk. Drops may contain large, unavoidable waves and holes or steep, congested chutes with complex, demanding routes. Rapids may continue for long distances between pools, demanding a high level of fitness. 

Photo courtesy of American Whitewater

Class VI Rapids (Extreme or Exploratory)

These runs have almost never been attempted and often exemplify the extremes of difficulty, unpredictability and danger. The consequences of errors are very severe and rescue may be impossible.

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