Take a gamble on the Oconaluftee

For those who haven’t been to Cherokee lately, please attend to the following plug: It’s well worth checking out. The last several years have seen the addition of new art galleries, book stores, and Smithsonian-level exhibits (at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian) added to the kitschy strips of souvenir shops. Many street signs and venue marquees are now subtitled in the Cherokee native language. On 4th of July weekend there’s the big annual powwow—see tribes across the nation dance and drum their way to major prizes: Admission is about a tenth of what you’ll pay to be entertained at a music festival, and it’s way more culturally enriching than reality TV. Or simply take a little swim in the Oconaluftee, which will cost you zero. This is a trout-happy, beautiful waterway that offers several swimming spots through the main downtown route. Tubes and inflatable kayaks are available for rent at many places, or just pick a spot and get in (as long as you know you swim at your own risk; it’s shallow in many places, but it’s still a river with a current). Behind the Drama Inn is an especially picturesque spot, and the Oconaluftee Island River Park has been refurbished in recent years and offers lots of shade and picnic tables. And do you know a river with a better name? Just saying it promotes relaxation. I always feel better after a dip in the Oconaluftee. (Photo of the river provided by Kevin Adams: www.kadamsphoto.com)

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