The Outdoorsman Triathlon – “The Nation’s Oldest Triathlon”TM – Bryson City, NC
(an American Canoe Association-sanctioned race)

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, National Champion athletes, USA Triathlon ranked athletes, and three generations of family participants. The event is sponsored by The Outdoorsman Triathlon Charitable Trust, 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 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 45th Annual Outdoorsman Triathlon will take place September 26-27, 2020. For additional information contact Ed Sharp ( edsharp14@gmail.com ).

2019 Outdoorsman Triathlon

Dear Outdoorsman Triathletes,

Once again you have braved the raw elements of the Smoky Mountains to compete in the Nation’s Oldest Triathlon! As with most years, there is always something new to contend with. This year it was the great landslides of 2019 resulting in the additional challenge on the run....Read More »

2018 Outdoorsman Triathlon

Hi Outdoorsman Triathletes,

Thanks to all our volunteers (Sue Havens, Sue Dillery, Mary Garland, Paul Wolf, Jamie, Karla “Dog Whisperer” Havens, Scott Dillery, Keith Havens, Jim Ross, Kathleen “Dog Wrangler” McNamee, Zaak “Dog Mover” Havens, Dodge Havens, Jim Hall, Kade Havens and all those helping carry competitors’ canoes up the hill!) and our wonderful sponsors...Read More »

2017 Outdoorsman Triathlon

Hi Outdoorman Triathletes!

To those who braved the hurricanes, the results from the 42nd Outdoorsman Triathlon are now available at https://outdoorsmantriathlon.org/2017-race-results/. A couple notable events at this year’s race included two of the Race Founders, Payson Kennedy & Russ Callen, competing and the third founder, John Burton, showing...Read More »

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  https://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 »

Albion High School graduate wins men's individual event, part of runner-up relay team for triahtlon

Zane Havens, a 2008 Albion High School graduate, captured the men’s individual event and was part of the runner-up relay team for the Albion College Canoe Club at the Outdoorsman Triathlon in Bryson City, N.C., on Sept. 23-24.

The triathlon included a 1-mile swim, 4-mile run and an 8-mile paddle through...Read More »

Area Marine Scientist Finishes 5th In Smoky Mountains Triathlon

The Middle-Atlantic Paddlers Association, sparked by Gloucester County’s Lyle Varnell, dominated the competition at the nation’s oldest triathlon in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina recently.

Varnell, a 32-year-old marine scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at Gloucester Point, finished fifth in the prestigious Nantahala Outdoorsman...Read More »

ODL teams win

Students and faculty of Southwestern Community College’s Outdoor Leadership program placed in the 36th Annual Outdoorsman Triathlon held near Bryson City recently. The 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.

The SCC faculty...Read More »

Ex William and Mary Swimmer Wins N.C. Triathlon

Bruce Hartzler, a former William and Mary swimmer who now resides in Washington D.C., recently took first place in one of the oldest triathlons in the United States – the 15th annual Nantahala outdoorsman Triathlon in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina.

Hartzler won with a time of 2:07.30.

Teammate Kirk Havens,...Read More »