When a person thinks of adventure, often the images are of taking to the great outdoors with great abandon, enjoying every challenge that nature has to offer. In the case of white water rafting in the Smokies, one of the best pieces of advice that we can give is to allow one of the local guides to help you. Even if you have been rafting before, it's likely that you are unfamiliar with the rafting spots around here, and you'll enjoy a safe and fun trip with a guide who knows what to expect.
Another great reason to work with a guide is that he or she is experienced when it comes to planning a fun trip for rafters of all ages. The guide usually works for a local outfitter so they'll know what safety and rafting gear is needed for everyone in your party.
Rafting makes a super activity for most any occasion, or no occasion at all. Some people take to the water as a fun honeymoon adventure, others bring along a bunch of school friends for a group rafting trip, and still others like rafting as a way to get totally out of their element -- it's a challenge, but still very safe with a guide.
There are a few pretty standard things to know about white water rafting in this area, regardless of the outfitter or guide you use. Usually rafting season runs from around Memorial Day through Labor Day. Some outfitters specify that kids should be at least 8 years old (this isn't always the case; check with the outfitter you select for their specific rules). Most often a rafting experience will include some prep and training time and an hour on the water. The outfitter will provide the rafts, personal flotation devices, paddles, and helmet.
When researching white water rafting in either Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg, take a look at the different packages the outfitters offer. Some package rafting with other fun activities like zip lining or scenic tours. For example, some people may enjoy a morning rafting and an evening on the zip line course. Check on the type of rafting trips that are offered; some packages take people over class I or II rapids; others take rafters over class III and IV rapids. Usually you don't need experience for either of these types of trips; but you may wish to start out on the easier rapids first and work up to the more challenging ones; it's up to you and what you think the people in your party will enjoy.
To get started with planning your rafting trip, you can take a look at the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau's site for more information: http://www.gatlinburg.com/things-to-do/attractions/outdoor-activities/whitewater-rafting.aspx
The Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism provides these details to get you started: http://www.mypigeonforge.com/things-to-do/
When you go rafting you'll have fun riding the rapids, but you'll also be amazed at some of what the guides can teach you. They'll share a lot of history of the Little Pigeon River (many rafting trips take place on this river) and outfitters are noted for pairing guides perfectly with their guests. So whether you will have a raft full of teens, parents and kids together, or a bunch of experienced rafters, your guide not only ensures fun and safety, he or she is there to deliver some great Tennessee lore and even a few jokes to make your day on the water special.
And just when you were about to go book your rafting trip; we'll toss you a variation to add to the challenge. Some of the outfitters here offer inflatable kayaks. Ask around about this as this is a different experience; you get to handle your own boat, but your guide still escorts you down the river. Beginners and experienced adventurers both have loved their inflatable kayak trips!
Never gone rafting before? Here are some items to bring with you:
Want to get in on some whitewater rafting fun on the cheap? Try our Free Fun Pass; it has more details: http://www.diamondrentals.com/guest-services/free-fun-pass/
Next we'll have a post about tubing to complete this wild water adventure series -- don't miss it!