For nearly 4000 years the Cherokee Indians lived in the Nantahala area until white settlers started moving into the Appalachian Mountains. In 1838 the Cherokees were rounded up and sent on a long hard trip out to Oklahoma. This trip is known today as the Trail of Tears.
By the time the Civil War started there were several well-established communities of white settlers living on small farms. Like other parts of the Southern Appalachians, almost all were of Scots-Irish descent.
In 1929, the Nantahala Power and Light Company was organized as part of the nation’s rural electrification program; the abundance of water in the region was ideal for hydroelectric power generation. The Nantahala Dam was finished in 1942 with the last eight and half miles of the river being filled with water that only produced electricity.
In 1920 the Nantahala National Forest was established containing 133,894 acres. This paved the way for the tourist industry to open, offering white water rafting trips down the Nantahala. Today several rafting companies, including Carolina Outfitters, serve over 200,000 tourists every year. White water rafting is the primary reason tourists visit western North Carolina.
To learn more about the history of the Nantahala River and surrounding area visit the Carolina Outfitters blog and read A Short History of the Nantahala River.