Nolichucky Wild & Scenic Designation Effort

by Wesley Bradley, NOLI Instructor


Did you know that only 0.35% of the rivers in the USA are protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act? Over the last year and a half many in our river community have come together to support a grassroots movement to change that on the beautiful Nolichucky River Gorge. The idea was set into action by Curtis England in May of 2017 with an online petition to grow individual support: https://www.change.org/p/designate-the-nolichucky-as-a-national-wild-and-scenic-river?fbclid=IwAR3Q5nlwSjWgtNcWTdzzRqw8zc2c7p5kFEiN6-WnaGQdt5Og8lEXbLCuY-o.

By August of 2017 the petition had already reached over 10,000 signatures. A new goal for 20,000 signatures was set and surpassed in only a couple of months. The overflowing support of the petition was part of the first phase of the plan that Kevin Colburn, National Stewardship Director for American Whitewater, developed to gain community support for the designation. Kevin has had a passion for this cause for many years and he is playing a key role in building support for Nolichucky Wild & Scenic designation.

The cause got a great promotion that received a lot of attention in early Nov of 2017 at the Green Race Pre-Party with the video release of “This is the Nolichucky” from John Grace, Owner of Amongst It.



2018 marked the 50th Anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. This made for the perfect time to build a movement around the iconic Nolichucky Gorge. Many more individuals, businesses and organizations rallied to the cause to continue growing local support. A new endorsement webpage has been setup to help bring together all who want to Support Wild and Scenic Designation for the Nolichucky Gorge: https://www.noliwildandscenic.org/endorsements/. Folks from: USA Raft/Mountain River Guides, NOLI – Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute, Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts, Overmountain Chapter Trout Unlimited and Tennessee Scenic Rivers Association were instrumental in spreading the word to the community and reaching out to local, state and federal elected officials to come experience the Nolichucky.

In Sept of 2018 the group hosted a VIP rafting trip for Tennessee District 4 Representative John B. Holsclaw, Jr. down the Nolichucky River Gorge. John Grace was there again to help capture this great day on film and produced a second video “This is the Nolichucky Part II” recently released.



Over the course of the past 18 months conversations with elected officials at the state and federal levels keep encouraging us to grow local support. With the Nolichucky Gorge being in two states (NC & TN) and three different counties (Mitchell, Yancey and Unicoi) it is important that we continue to reach out to these communities to grow support within. These efforts have led to good support from the Tennessee side thus far and the focus is currently on working with many locals in North Carolina to continue to grow support there.


Our goal is to get a bill passed through Congress and protect this river for not only the local communities, but for all of those who like to fish, paddle and play in the water.

Help us keep the Nolichucky River wild and free for future generations to enjoy it the way we do!


Learn more about how you can support this effort here: https://www.noliwildandscenic.org/

Like the Facebook Page to keep up with current updates at: https://www.facebook.com/nolichuckyriver/

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