Wahoo’s Adventures refers to itself as the “original” whitewater outfitter, having facilitated outdoor excursions on rafts, tubes, canoes, and kayaks for the past three decades. Whitewater-rafting tours take place upon the Watauga River, the Nolichucky River, and Wilson Creek Gorge, three waterways with differing levels of frothiness, much like three cappuccinos ordered by a family of bears. Alternatively, adults without rafting experience and children as young as 6 months can lazily drift down the New River while sprawled across tubes. As they pass rugged hillsides and scenic farmland, tubers can smell wildflowers, listen to chirping birds, and keep eyes peeled for Sasquatch footprints. Keeping clients safe is Wahoo’s main priority, which is why their experienced guides equip adventurers with high-quality life jackets, helmets, and paddles before taking the water.
River and Earth Adventures stands out from other wilderness outfitters by being completely operated by their own guides. Their fleet of seasoned cave, mountain, and water-navigating guides work in tandem with professional ecologists and geologists, focusing Blue Ridge Mountains excursions on environmental education as well as adventure. During all day trips, guides divulge area history and expound on forest and river ecosystems as well as geology in caves whose interiors rest at 60 degrees year-round to keep them free of snowman hermits.
Each trip also immerses adventurers in athletic activity, whether on hikes to summits and secluded waterfalls, spelunking through electricity-free cave tunnels, or rafting and kayaking down the Watauga River rapids. For those in search of extended excursions, guides lead children's adventure day camps and combination trips that further an environmental focus and bottle-cap collections through river cleanup projects.
While the Hampton family owns and operates French Broad Rafting and Ziplines, Mitch, Michael, and Korey Hampton have also had their personal share of ups and downs, both on the water and off. At age 10, they began exploring eastern Tennessee rivers with their grandfather, and they followed that passion for whitewater rafting into their business, which had been family-run for nearly 30 years. But then their dream was threatened. A fire swallowed the business, and the family lost everything. Slowly, though, with the help of family, friends, and staff, they rebuilt their company, learning patience and perseverance while finding comfort and strength in the support of their community.
Today, in addition to their traditional water-based excursions, the family also takes to the trees on their zipline course. Ripping through the clear mountain air, they've charted mid-air trails for zipline canopy tours that send guests soaring from tree to tree more swiftly than a caffeinated eagle. The course's ten ziplines stretch in distance from 75' to 1000', ensuring the guests have plenty of time to admire their sky-high view of the woods on adventures that also incorporate rappels, short hikes, and a rumbling jaunt on a hard-nosed utility vehicle.
With years and years of experience navigating the river's rapids, the Thomas family has some strong opinions about which watercraft provide the best experience. When they first got started, they weren't able to find any with all the features they wanted, so they decided to design their own. Paddle Inn's signature rafts were created specifically for riding the Nantahala River, and they boast a number of features intended to provide the optimal experience, including urethane undersides, which allow the rafts to easily slide over the occasional rock or kraken.
The rafts transports patrons down the river on guided trips and self-guided excursions aboard rafts in multiple sizes, as well as inflatable kayaks. These vessels can accommodate couples all the way up to groups of eight. After a trip, river trekkers can dry off by perching next to a crackling fire or spinning around in a circle really fast.
By the time customers climb atop tubes and kayaks from Saluda River Rafting Adventures and begin their sunlit floats down the river they may have already reached the halfway point of their outdoor adventure. That's because the rafting company's staffers also set up rustic riverside campsites that customers can rent the night before their river outings. In the morning Bubba the bus driver steers them through idyllic fields to their float site, passing horses along the way that approach the bus for carrots or advice on how to grow turn signals.
The horses are not just for feeding; staffers also lead camps?along with private and semiprivate lessons?that introduce youngsters to the equestrian arts. Alternatively, patrons can hone the more literal art of paint splattering on a lush Airsoft field, where soldiers armed with paintball guns fight in a sportsmanlike fashion, rather than by force-feeding each other paint pellets. Interested campers can also call to inquire about free rustic camping available for youth groups.
Staff Size: 11?25 people
Average Duration of Services: 30?60 minutes
Brands Used: American Red Cross-certified lifeguards
Pro Tip: All proceeds go to sponsor kids through our camp programs. Lifeguards are trained to mentor kids
Parking: Parking lot
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: 200,000 gln swimming pool, picnic area.
Recommended Age Group: All Ages