The Outdoorsman Triathlon – “The Nation’s Oldest Triathlon”TM – Bryson City, NC

cropped-logo.pngThe Outdoorsman Triathlon is the nation’s oldest continuous triathlon and consists of a 1 mile swim, 4 mile run and an 8 mile paddle down the Little Tennessee River. Individual competition is held on Saturday and relays are held on Sunday.

In 1976 outdoorsman Payson Kennedy (founder of the Nantahala Outdoor Center), Olympic canoeist John Burton, and Georgia Tech professor Russ Callen issued a challenge to athletes to come battle the raw elements of the Great Smoky Mountains in an outdoorsman’s triathlon. This race even has in the rules that “assistance with changing clothes, putting on shoes, or supplying food or drink to competitors is prohibited. Competitors are on their own once they begin the race and can only receive assistance from race officials”. The rules governing the running section state “no form of locomotion other than running, walking, or crawling is allowed”. A news article in Triathlon Today concerning the Outdoorsman Triathlon stated that had these competitors been around 200 years ago “these mountains and gaps would now bear their names”.

Paddler Magazine described the event as one of the nation’s top multisport races.

Today the Outdoorsman Triathlon is the oldest continuously running triathlon in the United States and has seen Olympic gold medal athletes, World Champion athletes, and three generations of family participants. The event is sponsored by The Outdoorsman Triathlon Charitable Trust, First Citizens Bank of Bryson City, Rolling Thunder River Company, Nantahala Outdoor Center, Nantahala Village, Russ Callen, Dodge Havens, and Scott Dillery.

On Sunday, college athletes from around the country compete in the First Citizens Bank Collegiate Challenge Relay Race. This class is open to full-time college students (each team must have at least one women member) and the top three teams are awarded cash prizes to be donated to the college club of their choice. There are numerous spectator spots for viewing the race. The swim course is in a cove next to the Route 28 bridge and the run course travels past the church at the top of Needmore Road Hill. The canoe segment down the Little Tennessee can be viewed at the Swinging Bridge or the Route 19 bridge.

The race is always held on the last full weekend in September. The 42nd Annual Outdoorsman Triathlon will take place September 23-24 2017. For additional information contact Ed Sharp ( edsharp14@gmail.com ) 540-752-5400,

2016 Outdoorsman

Hi all,
To those who braved the gas shortage and low water on the Little Tennessee (3rd lowest level over the 41 year period), the results from the 41st Outdoorsman Triathlon are now available at  http://outdoorsmantriathlon.org Race Results / 2016. A couple notable...Read More »

The 2014 Outdoorsman Triathlon and a 3rd place finish.

It just so happens the starting line of the oldest continuously running triathlon in the United States is a few kilometers from the doors of our school. This race has seen Olympic gold medal athletes, World Champion athletes, three generations of family participants… and me.

In 1976 outdoorsman Payson Kennedy (founder...Read More »

Paddle, swim and run against the elements in Outdoorsman Triathlon

The Outdoorsman Triathlon is coming to the Little Tennessee River in Swain County this weekend, Sept. 25 and 26.

The nation’s oldest continuous triathlon started in 1976, when outdoorsman Payson Kennedy, the founder of the Nantahala Outdoor Center, and Olympic canoeist John Burton, issued a challenge to athletes to come...Read More »

Fall Outdoorsman Triathlon

Triathlon Today Magazine 12-89

Fall Outdoorsman

By George Chalupa

Bryson City, North Carolina (9/23-24)

An innocent blue sky poised over the gorge on race morning. Little evidence remained of last night’s attempt by Hurricane Hugo to flatten the Carolinas. The ground was wet, the river was up, and trees along the ridges and gaps...Read More »

Triathletes In Training

Triathletes in training
Athletes conquer intramurals

By Emily Thompson,
Staff Writer

“I was thinking, when the hell is this gonna be over,” Matthew Baran, South Lyon sophomore. “I almost threw up. There was a point where I almost stopped, but I kept thinking, I am going to finish this,” Katherine...Read More »

Karla Havens Overall Champion

Outdoorsman Triathlon (29-30 Sept 2001)

MAPA hosted the 26th Annual Outdoorsman Triathlon, the Nation’s oldest triathlon and considered one of the most grueling races for the distance, on September 29/30 in the Nantahala Gorge area of Western North Carolina. For the first time in the event’s history, the overall race championship...Read More »

Gender Change at Outdoorsman Triathlon

In a remote corner of western North Carolina is a valley gorge where athletes have been gathering for more than a quarter century to compete in the nation’s oldest triathlon, the Outdoorsman Triathlon. They come quietly to compete not for glory, money or endorsements, but to test themselves against the...Read More »

SCC ODL team places in Outdoorsman Triathlon

Thursday, 13 October 2011

From left, Southwestern Community College Outdoor Leadership faculty team Jimmy Leithauser, Paul Wolf and Stephan Hart won the Men’s Master division in the 36th Annual Outdoorsman Triathlon, the nation’s oldest continuous triathlon.

Students and faculty of Southwestern Community College’s Outdoor Leadership program...Read More »

Canoe Club Dominates Outdoorsman Triathlon

Zane Havens, ’12, paddles to the finish line of the relay event.BRYSON CITY, N.C.

The Albion College Canoe Club dominated the Outdoorsman Triathlon contested Sept. 24-25 near the Smokey Mountains.

The top four individuals in the college men’s division and the top three...Read More »