The North Georgia Zoo's 30 acres have been home to some unlikely friendships. A prime example: three wolves, who grew up alongside a basset hound, now happily greet zoo visitors and even allow a few pats and scratches. These sort of animal encounters introduce zoo-goers to many exotic creatures, including camels, kangaroos, and snakes. The grounds even house the working Paradise Valley Farm, an area ripe for petting with potbelly pigs, miniature goats, and other livestock. And while not all of the zoo's 80 species are huggable, several programs let visitors peer into the habitats of everything from a white handed gibbon to a mountain lion or zebra.
Alligators, fennec foxes, lemurs, and other animals make appearances and refuse to sign autographs during guided tours, which travel by foot and wagon. For a more in-depth education, zookeepers offer a shadowing program, during which participants help feed, clean, and train various animals.
In 1975, four friends with hearts full of the great outdoors decided they needed a place to get gear indoors. This quest for adventuring equipment lead Bubba Sloan, Gerald Marshall, Denny Mays, and Ned Buxton to found High Country Outfitters as a gear shop for all manner of activities performed under the sun. These days, Bubba runs the retail side of things in Buckhead, while Gerald continues to captain daring cruises down the Ocoee River's relentless rapids. The store kits out customers for safe communing with nature with tools and togs from manufacturers including The North Face, Patagonia, and Big Green Egg, whose verdantly painted smoker grill creates hot meals in the midst of a long trip or particularly boring wait in the airport. Meanwhile, guides lead expeditionary parties along on waterborne trips down the Middle and Upper Ocoee’s burbling banks, recapturing the sun-dappled fun that inspired the store's creation in the first place.
At Benton Sporting Clays, marksmen take aim at airborne clay pigeons from 14 fully automated shooting stations and a tournament-grade clays tower. A fully covered five-stand shooting station protects shooters from wind, rain, and real pigeons avenging their clay cousins. Between sessions, shooters traverse the expansive grounds to try different stations in one of the facility's comfortable carts. Members enjoy benefits such as year-round shooting, waived cart-rental fees, and discounted clay pigeons at the range’s fully stocked pro shop.
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.
"My Avian Jewels are my attempt to preserve nature's artistry and call attention to the inscrutable beauty and value of all bird eggs and their environment. The beautiful and ephemeral nature of a bird's reproductive process has inspired me to devote my energy to making these 'jewels' for the purpose of a more permanent collection, thereby supporting conservation and hopefully the preservation of the bird species." – C.E. Blevins
These words illustrate C.E. Blevins's passion for birds and nature itself, which led to the founding of the C.E. Blevins Avian Learning Center. The center is home to his collection of handmade bird-egg replicas and real migratory bird nests, and it helps educate the public on the importance of migratory birds to a healthy ecosystem. Trained nature interpreters lead tours that teach students and other guests about bird migration, the study of nests, and the relationship of birds and their habitats through hands-on activities. The center also includes a 4-acre nature trail with grassland, woodland, and wetland habitats.
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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.