This blog discusses kayaking the Nantahala River; Using our PHATCAT pontoon raft on the Nantahala River; watching Dane Jackson and friends, including very young children, kayaking; and learning how to Oar Raft.


On Day 1 of our trip (September 22) we kayaked the Nantahala River with Shane Whitley. We caught as many eddies as we could and practiced ferrying. Good practice for Day 2, when we took out our PHATCAT. Anyway, while we were getting out for a break at the Ferabi put in, we saw a bunch of kayaks lined up, some of them with little (like 5 years old) kids in them. Shane said, “Hey. That’s Dane Jackson.”

If you don’t know who Dane Jackson is, well, he is the son of Eric Jackson. Eric is a world-champion freestyle kayaker, kayak designer, slalom kayaker, founder of Jackson Kayak, and a Professional Bass Tournament angler on the FLW Tour. After spending many years designing kayaks for various manufacturers, Eric founded Jackson Kayak in October 2003. Since then, Jackson Kayak has grown to the number one position (2007) in whitewater kayaks and is still the best-selling brand world-wide today (2018).

So, it’s no wonder that the little kids were awesome. How awesome? I videoed them coming down the river and then stopping at a little play wave. As you can see, the kids were incredibly AWESOME! Here is a video. You never know what is going to happen on the river!

Also, here is some video of our first day. A little bit of action at Nanty Falls.


On Day 2, we took out our PHATCAT.

We had, fortunately, taken R2 Raft lessons last year, so we knew the basics. Using raft paddles is similar to using kayak strokes. If the person on the right does a sweep stroke, the raft will turn left. If the person on the right does a “pry” (similar to a stern draw), the raft will turn right.

So, getting mentally right for using raft paddles was not a big deal.

Other than a rock spin at Patton’s Run, we had no issues until we got to the Falls. That’s actually pretty impressive (IMHO) because the Nantahala is full of rocks that can catch you, slow you down and spin you. Anyway, when we got to the Falls, we went right into the wall at the top, did a 360 spin and then made it down no problem Here is a video of out first day on whitewater with our PHATCAT.

Oar Rafting

Getting mentally right for oar rafting, for me at least, was a problem.

First was the philosophy of dealing with obstacles, such as a curve in the river. The diagram below shows two approaches: yellow is the approach you would take in a kayak, and red is the approach you would take in an oar raft. Essentially, in a raft, you go towards the wall that defines the curve and row backwards to avoid the obstacle below. In a kayak, you would follow the flow and simply bypass the obstacle.

The second mental issue I had was how to use the oars. If you want to go forward, which you would want to do most of the time in whitewater, you PUSH the oars forward. If you want to go backward, you PULL on the oars. That part was simple.

Turning was another issue. If you do a “push” stroke on the right side only, the raft will move to the left. If you do a pull on the right side only, the raft will turn to the right.

My problem was this:  when you want to turn left in a kayak, for example, you do a sweep stroke on the right by putting the blade of the paddle out in front and pulling on the paddle. But that is actually the wrong way to look at it. You can look at it like this: you do a sweep stroke on the right by putting the blade of the paddle out in front and pushing with your left hand. Yes, the paddle blade goes backward, but the same thing happens in a raft when you are using oars.

If finally figured that out.

Here is one more thing about oar rafting: it is HARD work. If have tremendous respect for the people who use oars to take BIG rafts down river on multi-day trips.

One last thing: we did Nanty Falls in an oar raft!