Drought Hurts River Rafting Businesses

By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief
By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief

Townsend, Blount County (WVLT) - The areas drought is affecting more than local farmers.

Many people come to the Smokies and the foothills for fun things to do, but the drought is affecting water recreation.

WVLT Volunteer TV’s Blount County Bureau Chief Stephen McLamb met up with one business owner who had to close his doors because of the lack of rain.

Many tourists enjoy Little River in the Smokies to sit by the water or tube if you're in the water.

But this year's lack of rain is showing more rocks than normal.

"Did you go tubing yesterday?” McLamb asks.

“No, it was too shallow....too many rocks,” says Jared Crouse. “You get stuck."

While many people are enjoying the water anyway, water levels are important for tubing companies like River Rage in Townsend. They have a good business so they opened a second one downstream on Memorial Day.

"The water level below the dam and below Wares Valley Road is too shallow to float. We've only been open one day this year at that location,” says Travis Grant, River Rage owner.

So they closed it the next day.

"You don't really plan for a 118 year drought when you're going for your business model but things happen and you just roll with the punches,” says Grant.

Inside the National Park, The Sinks draws people who love to play in the water but the waterfall itself is usually a big draw for kayakers, but not now.

"They can check websites and find out what the waterflow is and they know when it's good and when it's not good and they don't show up when the water is this low,” says National Parks Spokesman Bob Miller.

And if you like to trout fish, you need to be good.

"The water is not very deep and any movement along the shore they can spot that movement really well so fish tend to be real spooky and they're not very easy to catch at all when the water is this low,” Miller says.

And for Grant's second tubing location, he says it will take a lot to open this year. "If we get a tropical storm that came through and dumped a lot of rain on us maybe, but right now when it rains the ground just soaks it up."

Just to give you an idea of how little rain they've gotten in the Smokies.

Miller says normally they have 32 inches of rain at Elkmont through June. This year they've had 19 inches.


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