FacebookSkip to main content
January 17th, 2023
Group photo before whitewater rafting

Your Guide to the Ultimate July 4th Rafting Weekend in Gatlinburg

June 19, 2014 January 17th, 2023

July 4th is fast approaching, and there is no better place to celebrate Independence Day than the Great Smoky Mountains! In addition to the famous July 4th Midnight Parade and an amazing fireworks display, the city of Gatlinburg also hosts an annual River Raft Regatta. This unmanned raft race is one of the most popular 4th of July events in the area.

After the Gatlinburg July 4th River Raft Regatta we invite you to experience a totally different rafting experience at Smoky Mountain Outdoors. We’re running whitewater rafting trips throughout the day on Saturday July 5th, so you can enjoy a weekend full of wet and wild fun!

(See Related: How to Save Money at the Best Attractions in Gatlinburg)

Gatlinburg July 4th River Raft Regatta

The River Raft Regatta is one of the best Smoky Mountain traditions! On Independence Day, hundreds of visitors and locals alike will descend on the Little Pigeon River in downtown Gatlinburg to race their handmade and store bought rafts.

All of the rafts are unmanned, so the key to winning the race is having the perfectly designed craft. Anything that floats is fair game at the Regatta, so competitors can really let their imagination run wild! The River Raft Regatta is completely free to enter.


Prizes are awarded for the top 3 handmade rafts and the top 3 store bought rafts. There will also be special awards for the youngest participant, the oldest participant, and the most creative raft. Do you think you have what it takes to bring home a trophy?

Where and When

Registration starts at 10 a.m. on Friday July 4th, and the race officially begins at 12:00 p.m. The River Raft Regatta will start at the Christ in the Smokies bridge on River Road, and the race will end in front of Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. Check out the map below for directions:

Gatlinburg Whitewater Rafting

A day of whitewater rafting is the perfect follow up to the Gatlinburg July 4th River Raft Regatta! When you spend Saturday at Smoky Mountain Outdoors, you’ll get to experience the Big Pigeon River, the larger cousin of the Regatta’s Little Pigeon River. Starting in North Carolina and cutting through East Tennessee, this 75 mile long river is one of the most popular whitewater rafting destinations in the South.

Upper Pigeon River Rafting

Smoky Mountain Outdoors offers tours of both the Upper and Lower Pigeon River. Rafting the Upper Pigeon River is an exhilarating adventure, full of class 3 and 4 rapids. During your 6 and ½ mile journey, you’ll pass the Carolina Power and Light powerhouse and conquer over 70 rapids.

Lower Pigeon River Rafting

The Lower Pigeon River rafting trip is a smoother ride, but it is still a ton of fun! With roughly 50 class 1 and 2 rapids, this 5 and ½ mile trip is ideal for families with kids. We also offer a special combo trip, so you can enjoy both the Upper and Lower Pigeon River for one low price. Watch the video below to see one of our whitewater rafting adventure for yourself:

Ready to start planning your July 4th weekend in Gatlinburg? Visit our Reservations page to schedule your whitewater rafting trip today, or give us a call at 865-430-3838.