Business owner invites local leaders to explore kayaking opportunities already on Watauga River

Published 8:45 am Wednesday, September 18, 2019

To the Editor:
I’m Teresa Nidiffer, owner of Watauga Kayak Tours and Outfitters LLC. We have been in business for over 21 years in Elizabethton, the only locally owned and operated outfitter on Watauga River. We pay local and state taxes.
We love showing people our beautiful Watauga River, and bringing business to Elizabethton and Carter County.
It’s a little funny NOT that people want to know about the water activities on other rivers, but most have never been down the Watauga River rafting or kayaking. (I think it would be best for them to explore what we have here — then go to other places that do the same)
I have also guided on the Nantahala River.
The Nantahala pulls water from 150 feet below the dam making it very cold water, the Watauga pulls water from 200 feet below the dam making it very very cold water making them close to equal on water temperature.
I love this interest in our natural resources, but comparing the Nantahala River to Watauga River is outrageous.
The Nantahala is a class 2-3 river, where the Watauga is a class 1-2 river meaning it has rapids that attract many where the Watauga does not…by American whitewater standards. If only interested in kayaking, well we also do that, but kayaking does not bring in $$$ and to build a kayaking water park at the ball park just for that may not bring in daily money, but events could be held there and possibly bring in money to the city and county. Plus, when building this it is very important to also keep a section where a novice can easily paddle thru to bypass the larger rapids.
The overall concept to enhance the river to meet the standard of Nantahala would be great, but a major task which could be done. This would indeed draw many more people in the area to raft and kayak on Watauga, but these enhancements are a must on the upper six miles of river starting at Wilbur Dam.
If the city expects to do anything close to the Nantahala the rapids must be enhanced on the UPPER PART of the river from at least the dam to Hunter bridge. This is the section where all local and out of state and other rafters/kayakers start……NOT the middle or lower sections of Watauga River near the ball park. It’s great to put something for kayaking at the ball park but if you want to bring in more activity on the river its enhancement should be on the upper river. Even though we do raft in the middle and lower sections of Watauga on occasion, it is not the preferred river sections for rafting companies. (We are one of the few that rafts in those sections.)
If the city expects other rafting companies to raft the middle section of Watauga River which is very unlikely…they have a specific time they are on the river and this section would increase the time but not their income. Also, for the two rafting companies that have property on the Watauga River — it would not be beneficial since our take outs are miles above the ball park.
Not to forget we would be bypassing the best known rapid — Bee Cliff on the upper section.
Think about out-of-state river usage fees for current activity.
We all want to bring more money into Elizabethton/Carter County and we have a way.
I’m thinking about what would help the entire county. Consider both enhancements at the ball park and the upper part of the river.
P.S. We need free safety training for private individuals that paddle the Watauga River. This year, alone, I’ve seen over 50 people without pfd’s (life-jackets), and we have assisted or rescued many private individuals this year and in years past.
(I have many older jackets that are in great shape for boaters that need one FREE. Just let me know by contacting us at while supplies last)
Thank you. I just had to vent, when I saw the front page.

Teresa Nidiffer
Watauga Kayak

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