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How Did the Pigeon River Get Its Name?

February 11, 2014 March 23rd, 2020

rushing water bubbling over stones creating whitewaterFor those visiting the Smokies, some of the most memorable views are of the striking blue haze surrounding the mountains and the clear, rushing water of the Pigeon River. The easiest way to see the best views of the Smoky Mountains and the Pigeon River are with Smoky Mountain Outdoors’ Gatlinburg white water rafting adventures.

Though most know that the Smoky Mountains were named for the blue haze that regularly settled around the hilltops, fewer know the long and diverse history of the Pigeon River, including how it received its unique name.

History of the Pigeon River

The Pigeon River was named after the passenger pigeons who used the water as a guide for migration each year. The birds used the river valley in North Carolina as a part of their trips each and every year until their extinction around 1914.

The Pigeon River is a dam-controlled river running along the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The river’s dam was completed in 1930 and is 180 feet high. Originating in North Carolina and emptying into the French Broad River, the Pigeon River runs nearly 75 miles through Denton and Newport, Tennessee. In 2003, the the Upper and Lower Pigeon River became the fastest growing white water rafting river with more than 60,000 rafters visiting and growing yearly.

The western bend of the river has helped to provide the Smoky Mountains with corn and wheat at the Old Mill in Pigeon Forge. Built in 1830, the Old Mill became a central meeting place for the community for early area settlers and is now a national historic site.

Today, the river is one of the most popular places to visit while in the Smokies because of the rapids variety and unique scenery.

Gatlinburg White Water Water Rafting

Smoky Mountain Outdoors provides trips down both the Upper and Lower Pigeon River. The Upper section of the river features medium to difficult rapids for an exciting and thrilling adventure. The Lower Pigeon River contains gently flowing water with small waves and gorgeous views.

With rapids ranging from class 1 to 4, rafting on this river allows all ages to enjoy nature together in an two hour long trip through the Smokies. Regular water releases from the dam ensure there are great water levels throughout the rafting season, from May through September.

Take advantage of our winter special and reserve a Gatlinburg white water rafting trip now to save 40% on a spring adventure through the Pigeon River. You can also reserve your trip by calling us at (800) 771-7238 where our reservationists can assist you in planning one stop in your own Smoky Mountain adventure.