When you think of going snorkeling, rivers aren’t the first place that come to mind. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission decided to change that. Coming in late spring of 2023, access to ten rivers in western North Carolina will offer snorkeling, including the Bryson City Island Park in Swain County. It’s a great way to cool off during the heat of summer, and you might even see river wildlife you’ve never seen before in their natural habitat. Rainbows, browns, and brook trout are some of the fish that swim the rivers of the Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains. Crayfish (or crawdads according to local and Appalachian slang), lizards, and the seldom seen hellbender (the largest salamander in North America) lurk beneath the cool water. And if you’re lucky, you might even see a puppy dog–commonly known as the spotted salamander or orange mud puppy. It won’t be hard to spot this orange lizard with black spots, but it is a rare find and a delight to see.
Some have voiced the concern that you may not see much in a river since it’s not as clear as, say, somewhere in the Bahamas. In actuality, river water is clear enough to see the pebbles on the riverbed. As long as you don’t churn up the water, or it hasn’t rained hard, river water visibility will be crystal clear, so you can spot aquatic wildlife easily–even from the riverbank. One of the most peaceful activities is to sit beside a river and watch the fish swim in and out of rocks as you listen to the rush of water flowing ever onward. After observing for a while, jump in and snorkel.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has chosen these western North Carolina river basins to begin snorkeling activity:
French Broad River
Little Tennessee River
Remember, when you visit our beautiful mountains and rivers in western North Carolina, leave them as they are, and be respectful of the area wildlife. “Leave no trace” is a slogan well-worth heeding. Without the animals, plants and trees, we would not exist. Thank you for choosing Carolina Outfitters as your guide to adventure! Book with us, and have a wonderfully fun white water rafting trip! Also, be sure to snorkel before you leave!