In full disclosure, my info here is based on our company. We are an outfitter on 7 Southeastern Rivers - rafting outposts on the Pigeon, Nolichucky, Ocoee, Nantahala, French Broad, Chattooga and Cheoah Rivers. We also have a gear shop in Gatlinburg
- right at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to selling camping, hiking, paddling gear and apparel, we book rafting trips in the store as well.
Gatlinburg is touristy, but it's right next to the National Park, which is gorgeous and awesome - whether you're hiking, driving or paddling. If y'all are driving around Deels Gap, and venture into the National Park, then you should be able to escape the touristy stuff pretty easily.
May is a great time - slower tourist season in Gburg, so not as much traffic. Plus, our Southeastern waters are higher which makes for really fun rafting. Which river you pick depends on what experience you are looking for:
Nolichucky - scenic, wild, bigger rapids in spring, natural flow river. Bit of a longer drive from Gburg though.
Ocoee - not too far from Deels Gap. Classic roller coaster fun water. Dam released. Thought of as some of the best overall whitewater rafting in the country.
Pigeon - fun, not as big water as either the Ocoee or Noli, but close 40 minute drive from Gburg along the National Park. And honestly... the mills do make it smelly at times.
You can get more info on our web site on each river
, or give our guest relations folks a call and they can answer questions too (800.232.723
Hope this helps!
-Lauren at NOC