Need a thrill? Looking for a fun way to spend a summer afternoon? Braving the Ocoee (and doing so successfully) on a whitewater raft could put you in the same category as the Olympians that accomplished the same feat during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
The Ocoee River gives rafters all over numerous opportunities to get together with a group of friends and work the rapids with trained guides.
WHAT IS WHITEWATER RAFTING?
No amount of experience is necessary to have a good time.
• Whitewater rafting is a challenging recreational outdoor activity using an inflatable raft to navigate a river or other bodies of water.
• This is usually done on whitewater or different degrees of rough water, in order to thrill and excite the raft passengers.
• The activity as a leisure sport has become popular since the mid-1970s. It is considered an extreme sport, as it can be dangerous.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Grab a guide and go!
• There are no fewer than 25 different companies that specialize in whitewater rafting, with any number of tour guides prepared to take interested riders along for the ride of their lives.
• There are trips taking off every 30 minutes starting at 9 a.m. daily, with a break for lunch and the last trip taking off around 5:30. Riders are encouraged to show up an hour before their scheduled trip, with all ages welcome for either individual, family or group excursions.
• With prices starting at $30 for individuals or group rates starting at $27.50 per person for groups of 10 or more, rafting has become an extremely affordable trip for everyone.
• Sunscreen is suggested on the waters, regardless of whether you're riding in 100-degree heat or when the temperature is in the 60s. It gets hot on the water!
• In the summer, cotton, a cooler material, is suggested, as are some sort of swimwear, a towel, and a couple pairs of clothes and shoes. When cooler, fleece, polyester or woolen products will keep you warmer when wet.
• Spray jackets are available for rent at most locations; wool socks help as well.
IT'S A FUN THING TO DO
Why go whitewater rafting? The question is, why not?
• It is an exciting way to see the great outdoors.
• It's a challenging (but fun) way of testing your strength, endurance, reflex time and ability to think on your feet.
• A great opportunity to bring friends closer together through group activity.
• It's cheaper than going on a cruise -- and you're closer to the water.
• It's a sheer adrenaline rush!
• Once you accomplish the rapids, it gives you bragging rights and makes you much more attractive to the whitewater groupies everywhere.
WHERE TO GO
• No matter where you live, there's a place to raft that's closer than you think.
• The Ocoee River provides the experience of a lifetime, spanning three states on both Class III and Class IV rapids for a course that is rated one of the best in the country.
• The Nantahala River in western North Carolina offers both Class II and Class III rapids, which while treacherous still are family-friendly.
• The Cartecay River in Ellijay, Ga., provides guided river trips and an exciting experience on both Class I and II rapids.
• At times, the East Fork Little River in northeast Alabama provides ample opportunity for rafting. Water levels can be too low, as the river depends on creeks that run into it, but when runnable, the river provides Class II and III rapids.
Source: Gaye, Little River Canyon National Preserve.
KNOW YOUR RIVERS
Some things you know and others you don't.
• The Ocoee was the site of the kayaking events in the 1996 Summer Olympics.
• The Ocoee River turns into the Toccoa River once you cross into Georgia.
• Rapids are classified into six categories, with Class I rapids considered a smooth ride and Class VI rapids only suggested for seasoned experts. Class III and IV rapids give riders an exciting ride with low risk.
• The "Blue Hole," a popular area swimming spot, runs alongside the Ocoee.
• Some rafting adventures include lunch served riverside.
Source: Lindsay McManus, photographer at Ocoee Photos
-- Compiled by staff writer Gene Henley