Kayaker drowns in Oconaluftee River near Smokemont

Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers were assisted by emergency responders from Tribal EMS Cherokee Fire and Rescue in the recovery of drowned kayaker, Megan Thompson, age 34, of Cleveland Heights, OH on Thursday, February 24, 2022.

At 2:18 p.m., park rangers were notified by Thompson’s companions that she had disappeared underwater and not resurfaced along the Oconaluftee River near Smokemont Campground. According to witnesses, Thompson floated over swift rapids before being penned between a fallen tree and the riverbank. At 2:57 p.m., emergency responders freed Thompson’s body and removed her from the river where she was pronounced dead by the medical examiner.

While rare, drowning is the third leading cause for death in the Smokies, following motor vehicle accidents and plane accidents. This is the first fatality in the park in 2022 and the 61st drowning on record. Please visit the park’s website for more information about water safety at

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