Foaming white rapids rush down the Ocoee River as birds chatter from within the leaves of towering trees. For more than two decades, this has been the home of Adventures Unlimited, an environmentally sustainable full-service resort rolling with 30 acres of campgrounds, cabins, and whitewater-rafting facilities. Landscaping and gardens highlight native plants and animals, vehicles run on biodiesel fuel, and any construction efforts use sustainable materials or rocks that everyone was always tripping over anyway. The family-operated adventure company launches groups on whitewater-rafting trips through the tumultuous currents of the local Ocoee and Hiwassee Rivers or further afield in Costa Rica. To facilitate dry-land exploration and provide an energy outlet for serial finger painters, they also recently opened an outdoor wooded paintball field supplied by a full rental shop.
Ocoee Zipz lines up seven exciting ziplines over a mile-long course that runs next to the mighty Ocoee River, with each line featuring a Wizard of Oz-themed name and opportunities to observe native fauna, such as raccoons, deer, and tropical penguins. Mount the 30-foot Cowardly Lion and soar on the wings of a zipper to Dorothy, whose cables will usher you onward to several other stations, finally ending with a 65-foot soar across the Wizard. As you whip along at speeds of up to 45 mph, flying monkey guides ensure that the trip progresses smoothly and safely.
Each trip from Big Frog Expeditions lasts approximately three-and-a-half hours, and provides all of the necessary whitewater equipment––Coast Guard–approved personal-flotation devices, paddles, and helmets––to pit you against Mother Nature's flowing water tresses on the Ocoee River. Today's deal includes transportation to the launching site, pre-trip orientation, and a gearing-up session before you hit the aqueous road. Big Frog's professional guides will climb aboard the self-bailing raft and help you steer through the thrilling sights and frothy spumes of continuous class III and IV rapids. With today's Groupon, you can choose between exploring the Upper Ocoee River or the Middle Ocoee River from the available rafting dates on the calendar.
Staff Size: 25?50 people
Average Duration of Services: 2?4 hours
Brands Used: NRS
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Parking: Parking lot
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: Middle section of the Ocoee River
Recommended Age Group: Adults
"We offer a window to the outdoors that many could not experience without a guide," says Rob Benson, manager of Big Frog Expeditions. He and his staff give visitors to southeast Tennessee a closer look at the area's beauty during guided whitewater-rafting adventures, kayaking trips, biking outings, and hiking excursions.
The guides?who are CPR- and first-aid-certified when necessary and who participate in swift water rescue classes?take locals and out-of-towners to little known waterfalls and high ground with breathtaking vistas or help groups easily navigate Adventure Class rapids on the Ocoee River. After the outdoor jaunts, guests can unwind at Big Frog's outpost, which feature 27 platform tents, volleyball and basketball courts, and hot showers, which is what every camper desires apart from a hookup for their cotton-candy machine.
Launching into the Ocoee River, Sunburst Adventures' rafts of whitewater adventurers bump and glide over currents with gradients up to 50 feet per mile. An experienced guide mans the helm, offering instruction and zany anecdotes, as rafters navigate past bushes and trees and around three risky undercuts for a challenging, yet safe, excursion. Sunburst's carefully selected team of enthusiastic rafters has been taming the rapids of the Ocoee and sharing their love for the sport and the great outdoors since 1976. Groups of experienced and novice boaters quickly become familiar with a good soaking as they tackle roaring rapids such as Hell's Hole and Godzilla attempting to bend their boats in two as they jostle their way down the river's 10-mile stretch. For a more leisurely way to enjoy the natural splendor and warm waters of the river, aquatic types can tube the Lower Ocoee, which is known for expressing much calmer waters ever since it kicked its pot-of-coffee-a-day habit.
Staff Size: 2?10 people
Average Duration of Services: 2 hours
Brands Used: Crescent and Emotion kayaks; Walker Bay 10 and Compac 16 for sail; Sunchaser 20 pontoon
Parking: Parking lot
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: Lake Arrowhead - the mountain hideaway
Recommended Age Group: 25+
When and how did you first develop a passion for your work?
When I was in Vietnam with the US Army. For relaxation, special services provided sailboats for us to use. When I returned from overseas and started managing Sears stores, it was a great therapy to get out on the water.
What?s your favorite part of your job?
Watching the faces of my customers change after a lesson or rental. They are so much more relaxed. It is like a mental massage for them. It is a great stress-buster to get out on the water.
Have you ever been a patron of your own business? If so, what was the most enjoyable part?
Being part of a class and enjoying in the team-building fun.
Is there anything else you want to add that we didn't cover?
My dad was a naval commander. I was born in the Oakland Naval Yard. I built my first boat when I was 8 years old. My wife and I both hold a 50 ton US Coast Guard Sailing Captains License. We have spent 150 days in a 25-foot sailboat circumnavigating Florida. I love the peace being on the water brings.