By Leif Palmer
Summer has arrived in the Great Smoky Mountains, and it's time to get on or in the water! Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Wears Valley are the perfect places to kick off your summer vacation, so grab your beach towel and let's start planning.
Dollywood's Splash Country has nearly two-dozen water rides that range from interactive water playgrounds for little ones to thrill rides with big drops for the adventure seekers. Take a daring ride on RiverRush, Tennessee's only water coaster, and you'll race through hairpin turns, tunnels, plunges and splashes. Drop through a wall of water into a splash pool on Big Bear Plunge, then twist and turn on the exciting Mountain Scream extreme body slide. Later the whole family can relax at Little Creek Falls and take a scenic float on the Downbound Float Trip. The park has lockers and shaded retreats, and plenty of shops and restaurant options.
Whitewater Rafting is an exhilarating way to cool off when the temperatures climb. Tennessee's Big Pigeon River runs near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the beautiful Cherokee National Forest. The river has Class II and Class IV rapids with names like "Vegematic" and "Lost Guide," but there are tamer options - including family-friendly float trips. No experience necessary!
Boating in the Smokies is the perfect way to take in the peaceful beauty of the mountains. If you have your own boat, you'll enjoy Fontana Lake, a 29-mile-long body of water that lies between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Nantahala National Forest. Fontana is deep, so expect to catch plenty of walleye and muskie and smallmouth bass. If you want to rent a boat, Douglas Lake has a full-service marina including fuel, cabins and picnic areas. Douglas is near Sevierville, Tennessee and offers majestic views from the shorelines. Bring your boat to Norris Lake and spend your week fishing for trout and camping along the edge of Norris Dam State Park or Big Ridge State Park. There are lots of forks in this lake, so it's easy to find a secluded anchorage.
Fly Fishing - Whether you are an expert or a novice looking for a guide, plenty of trout are waiting for you in Tennessee's clear streams. For the full experience, hire a local guide who can teach you this disappearing art.
Tubing is the best antidote to a busy schedule. Slow down and experience the beauty of the Smoky Mountains and nature parks with a gentle tubing expedition down a mountain spring. Near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, the Little Pigeon River is the perfect river for a relaxing float.
If you're looking for a relaxing vacation or a thrilling adventure, the Great Smoky Mountains have plenty of water fun for everyone. Recharge and reconnect with a fishing, rafting or tubing trip, or just leave your everyday worries behind and play like a kid at Dollywood's Splash Country water park.
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.