Located in the Cherokee National Forest, the Ocoee River flows through a stunning gorge surrounded by scenic wildlife. The river’s 93 miles are home to one of the nation’s most popular whitewater rafting adventures with over twenty continuous rapids and numerous play spots. Thousands of people visit the Ocoee River each year. The economic importance of the river is estimated, according to a recent University of Tennessee study (sited here), 43.8 million dollars annually providing over 600 jobs.
"With so many unprecedented changes and limitations due to COVID-19, we have felt more dedicated than ever to providing our friends, families, neighbors and guests with a safe place to enjoy the outdoor adventures they rely on for unforgettable experiences and memories." Says Lamar Davis, owner of Outland Expeditions who has provided river trips on the Ocoee for over 35 years. He continues, "The nation-wide shut down at the start of our typical season made for a slow start, but we were blown away by the incredible turn out once we opened up with safety protocols in place."
Mr. Davis also reported zero COVID cases among guests, office staff or guides. Another outfit on the Ocoee and the Nantahala River, Rolling Thunder River Co also boasted a stronger than expected year. "We didn't know what type of season, if any at all, we would have," explains Charles Miller, owner of Rolling Thunder. " We're thrilled with how things ended up this season and that we were able to run our trips while keeping enhanced safety measures in place for our guests and employees."
Both are optimistic for a strong 2021 season. "In the end, many people are still hunkered down and haven't scratched that adventure itch!" says Mr. Davis. According to the Tennessee Department of the Environment and Conservation’s report on Ocoee River usage reports, over 200,000 visitors come to the Ocoee River each year. "We are hoping for 250 to 300,000 in 2021 so all these outfitters, hotels, transports and restaurants can get a much needed boost next year."
To learn more about Ocoee River rafting, visit the websites of either Outland Expeditions at www.outlandexpeditions.com or Rolling Thunder River Company at www.rollingthunderriverco.com. To learn more about sustainability and economic impacts of Tennessee rivers, visit Tennessee Valley Authority at https://www.tva.com/.