With spring starting off well here in the southeast I figured now would be a good time to give you a little bit of East Coast paddling tour. These are some of my favorite areas to paddle on the East Coast and highlight some of the top destination rivers. If you're thinking of taking a trip to the East Coast, or to another area of the East Coast, these would be good places to think about going. I'm sure I've missed some so feel free to add your locale in the comments section.
Western North Carolina/Eastern Tennessee/North Georgia
Whether you spending your time around Asheville, Chattanooga, or Knoxville this area of the southeast has plenty to offer. While its become famous for its Class V paddling with runs like the Bear, Green, Toxaway, and Ravens Fork all within easy distance it also has plenty of quality Class III-IV options. Rivers like the Chattooga, the French Broad, Wilson's Creek, Pigeon, the Obed, the Emory, and Nolichucky give the area something for every type of paddler.
When to go: The best times to plan a paddling trip to the southeast are in March/April and September/October. This gives you the best combination of weather (flowers in the spring, leaf color in the fall) and water.
What makes it tough: Rain. It's as simple as that. The southeast is at its best when its raining which makes it really hard to plan a trip a long way in advance. If you have to make advance plans time your trip around the numerous dam releases in the region (rivers like the Tallulah, Cheoah, and the Green) as this will give you something fun to paddle in case its dry.
What to do if it falls apart: Bring your bike. There are hundreds of miles of single-track of all skill levels with areas like Pisgah and Dupont being world-class mountain biking spots. Several shops in Asheville offer rentals as well.
The quick hit list: For the class V paddler set your sights on the Toxaway, Ravens Fork, Linville Gorge, the Bear, Horsepasture, West Prong of the Pigeon, and Overflow (if you get half of those you'll be stoked). For the class IV paddler take a look at Wilson's Creek, North Fork of the French Broad, Tellico, and Watauga. For the class III paddler go for the Nantahala, Section III of the Chattooga, Pigeon, the Ocoee, the Obed, and the Big South Fork of the Cumberland.
After protests from the state residents West Virginia is back to being Wild and Wonderful, and the center of that for kayaking is Fayetteville. There aren't many towns with the concentration and variety of paddling as Fayetteville. The Gauley, the New, the Dries of the New, Mann's Creek, Mill Creek, Lower Meadow, and Real Mann's are all with 30 minutes and offer some of the best playboating and creeking the East Coast has to offer.
When to go: Gauley season in September and October is a must. However a well kept secret is Fayetteville in the spring when the weather starts warming up (at least a little) and you often get the rains needed to bring in the world class waves of the New River Dries and all the creeks run. Think classic class V in the morning and the biggest air blunts of your life in the afternoon. Just be prepared for some cold weather.
What makes it hard: Again rain. Gauley season is easy as you've got the releases. If you're trying to hit the dries or some of the creeks it can again be hard to plan way in advance. However no matter what you'll always have the New River Gorge as an option.
What to do if it falls apart: Make sure you bring your climbing gear as an alternative option as the New River Gorge is home to some of the best routes in the country.
The quick hit list: Upper and Lower Gauley, New River Dries, Manns Creek, and Mill Creek. If you have time and the water's good you can check out some of the lesser known runs up by Morgantown and around the Cranberry drainage.
For a little New England flavor head on up to the Adirondacks of New York and the Green Mountains of Vermont. Long known as a great paddling destination by those in the area its quickly gaining popularity thanks to natural runs like the Middlebury Gorge, the New Haven, and the Grass. The area also boasts great dam release options like the Moose, the Beaver, and the Raquete.
When to go: Spring for the natural flow, when its good its really good. Late summer for the dam releases of the Raquete and Beaver.
What makes it hard: Brrrrrr. If you're shooting for the natural flow you'd better have a drysuit as it can be really cold.
What to do if falls apart: In the springtime bring your snow sliding equipment for a little spring skiing. In the summertime pack your hiking gear and get lost in the Adirondack park.
The quick hit list: Middlebury Gorge, Big Branch, New Haven, Grass, and if you're lucky John's Brook for the spring. Later on just check AW for the scheduled dam releases.
Anyone of these destinations if you hit it right will give you some of the best paddling of your life. The cool thing about each of these areas is that they offer a wide variety of other options if the kayaking isn't happening so bring your other toys. On top of it all each area has quality dam release options as well so you can guarantee some good kayaking action if you plan your trip during those times. Have fun out there and see you on the water!