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White Water Rafting on the Pigeon River Thrives: An Incredible Comeback Story

April 16, 2015 March 17th, 2020
Happy group white water rafting on the Pigeon River.

It’s extremely difficult for anyone to look at the gorgeous waters of the Pigeon River today and believe that it was once considered a hopeless site of horrific pollution. The Pigeon River’s revival is one of the most inspiring ecological comeback stories in the country. As hundreds of guests join us to go white water rafting on the Pigeon River this spring, we wanted to share a bit of information about how the river has transformed itself from a lost cause to a national treasure.  

A Troubled HistoryRapids for white water rafting on the Pigeon River.

For most of the 20th century, the Pigeon River’s waters carried a terrible odor and ran a horrible shade of brown. Trouble for the river began due to severe runoff from a paper mill plant, and it was determined that the water contained many harmful chemicals that included chloroform, furan, and dioxins.

The pollution killed off most of the river’s inhabitants, such as
common mussels, snails, and most of the fish population. None of the local animals wanted to drink from the river, and no humans wanted to risk having even a bit of the water splashed on them. The river was in such bad shape that it was considered biologically dead as a result of the pollutants.

Dramatic Recovery

Things began to drastically improve for the river in the early 1990s when the paper mill plant began to rely on much more modern methods of operation that greatly reduced the discharge of toxic chemicals into the river. As the waters improved, mussels and snails were gradually reintroduced to the river and were soon able to multiply and remain healthy.

Since the year 2000, more than 20 species of fish have been successfully reintroduced to the river, and studies done in 2007 showed that dioxin concentrations in fish samples had decreased an incredible 99 percent since 1990. Today, the Pigeon River is healthy and regarded as the third most popular white water rafting river in the entire United States.

(See Related: Pigeon River Ranked #3 Among Top White Water Rafting Rivers in the U.S.)

Trout swimming in the Pigeon River.Enjoy White Water Rafting This Season

Come enjoy an exciting day of white water rafting on the Pigeon River with us at Smoky Mountain Outdoors, and you can see for yourself how healthy and beautiful this river has become! If you are looking for lots of excitement, sign up for our Upper Pigeon River Rafting Trip. Featuring class 3 and 4 rapids, this 6.5 mile journey is one wild ride. For a gentler rafting experience, consider our Lower Pigeon River Rafting Trip. With mostly class 1 and 2 rapids, this trip is ideal for families with young children. For the best of both worlds, you can experience the upper and lower parts of the river with our Rafting Combo Package.

No matter which of our trips you choose, no prior experience is necessary, as you will be in the very capable hands of our professional rafting guides. Make your reservations today, and you can round out your perfect Tennessee vacation with the rafting experience of a lifetime!