By Leif Palmer
With another winter behind us, it's finally time to bring out the swimsuits and shorts and head for the great outdoors. And no place on earth offers as much fun in the sun as the Great Smoky Mountains. Whether you're the adventurous type or you prefer quiet communing with nature, you'll find exactly what you're looking for in this amazing vacation spot.
You don't have to travel far to experience the thrill of whitewater rafting. The Great Smoky Mountains are home to some of the fastest, wildest rivers east of the Mississippi. Everyone from rafting rookies to experienced oarsmen will find a trip tailored just for them.
Newcomers to whitewater rafting might choose a leisurely afternoon excursion. You'll enjoy the stunning scenery of the Great Smoky Mountains while taking a quick dip in the clear waters of the Lower Pigeon River, or spread a picnic atop a flat rock at water's edge.
More experienced rafters will find the class III and class IV rapids of the Upper Pigeon River as exhilarating as any you've encountered. Huge waves crash over your raft, drenching you and your fellow adventurers, just before you plunge down a heart-stopping waterfall. A brief pause to marvel at the natural wonder of the area, then you're picking up speed again as you head into the next rapids. Hold on tight, because this is a true whitewater rafting adventure.
If navigating the many rapids of the Upper and Lower Pigeon Rivers doesn't appeal to you, perhaps a quieter exploration of the area's waterways is more your style. Tubing and kayaking on the Little River is a fun family activity even the youngest members of your group will enjoy. Along the way you'll find swimming areas, rope swings, and plenty of other old-fashioned entertainment for the whole family.
Of course, true water lovers won't want to miss an opportunity to explore one of the area's premier attractions, Dollywood's Splash Country. With more than 30 acres of water slides and wave pools, everyone in your family is sure to find a favorite way to spend the day.
Your kids will love the interactive Bear Mountain Fire Tower. They'll man the water cannons to do battle with their brothers and sisters, slide down the poles between levels, and race along the seven water slides before getting drenched as the giant bucket lets loose its 1,000 gallons of cool water.
Grownups will enjoy a day at the “beach” while the kids ride the waves at the 25,000-square-foot wave pool. Whether you decide to take a dip or simply relax poolside, you'll feel like you've spent the day at the shore. The only difference is you won't find any sand in your shoes at the end of the day.
You don't have to travel to the coast to enjoy some warm weather fun in the water. The Great Smoky Mountains offer plenty of wet and wild excitement for the entire family. Whether you prefer a lazy trip down a mountain river, or the thrill of a whitewater rafting adventure, you'll find it in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, TN. What are you waiting for? Grab your swimsuit and head for the mountains.
If you happen to need a place to stay during your water vacation, find a rental cabin and start planning your next adventure!
About Leif Palmer
Leif Palmer loves residing in east Tennessee. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.