Sheltowee Trace Outfitters’ founder, Rick Egedi, has navigated Kentucky’s waters since 1981. At his adventure center, he and his staff lead guided trips on area rivers, such as the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. Canoers, whitewater rafters, and tubers can float through placid, sun-dappled segments or conquer frothing rapids; alternatively, shorter trips ferry adventurers straight to the foot of the Cumberland Falls, where they can feel the waterfall’s spray and see that, despite conspiracy theories, it is not just water descending an escalator.
For landlubbers, the center’s activities range from trips up a climbing wall to geocaching excursions, on which visitors prowl through the surrounding greenery on a tech-savvy scavenger hunt using GPS tracking to turn up hidden caches of trinkets. During multiday outdoor trips, visitors can spend the night in nearby lodgings, such as quaint cabins and campgrounds, rather than sleeping atop nature’s waterbed—the puddle.
Beach Island Marina's fleet of houseboats, pontoon boats, and goldfish saddles lets visitors explore Norris Lake's tree-lined waters during single-day outings or extended stays. Back on land and nestled against the forest, wood cabins and RV campsites bring the comforts of home to natural waterfronts. For boat owners, Beach Island Marina also repairs vessels and stows them in 100-foot boat slips. Liven post nautical-navigations at the nearby Bubba Brew's Sports Pub & Grill located next to the marina on Norris Lake. Here, three bars, 25 flat-screen televisions, pool tables, and darts woo revelers who are eager for food, frosty beverages, and pints of pirate lore.
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.
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.
On the shores of Lake Hartwell, Harbor Light Marina's fleet of 16 new boats waits to cut through the water. Strictly maintained fishing boats, deck boats, and pontoons ferry fishermen or parties into the lake's middle or around its 1,000-mile shoreline, acting as suitable bases for catching striped bass or honing a cannonball. Icons of leisure, the pontoons vary in size to fit each guest's needs, the largest checking in at 28 feet—long enough to fit 16 passengers or set up an eye chart to test the captain’s vision. And all the vessels park in the marina's slips, alongside spaces rented out to other local aquanauts.