Friday, July 24, 2009

New Record Set on Bull Sluice

Chattooga River history was made this Wednesday, as one NOC guide, Chris guided all seven rafts in his trip through Bull Sluice rapid on Section III. As you can see, Chris even had an audience cheering him on from the South Carolina side of the river.

NOC's own Chris is better known by his nickname Gerbic. He undertook this fearsome rapid seven times, all by himself. The crowd of rafters, including his fellow guides cheered him from Georgia Rock as he raced up and down the shore, sprinting towards another raft of spirited crews, desperately trying to beat the Forest Service clock—seven rafts in an allotted 30 minutes. Raft after raft of gung-ho guests reveled with gusto in this epic sprint for glory.

With grit and fierce determination, Gerbic entered Bull Sluice Rapid knowing full well the challenge before him. The mighty Bull did not take kindly to this challenge. At one point, it reached out and with a shrug of it's broad shoulders, sent Gerbic and his raft into the maelstrom. As Burt Reynolds character said in the movie Deliverance, “You don't beat this river”. Undaunted by his setback, Gerbic swam to shore and resumed his all-out assault. Gerbic's cheering guests and fellow guides exalted in his accomplishment.

Ecstatic after his record-setting day, Gerbic topped it off by a victorious leap into the river.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Summertime on the Pigeon River

Yesterday was quite possibly the most gorgeous summer day we've had all year. As such, I headed to the Pigeon River, for some Class III-IV whitewater rafting.

The Pigeon River flows through a deep gorge that comprises the eastern border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I can't imagine a more perfect backdrop to match the mild summer weather and the exciting river run! We had big, puffy clouds all day and big splashy rapids to match.

The Pigeon River is a great day activity for anyone visiting Gatlinburg TN, or Asheville, NC. The river is easy to access via I-40 and the entire trip last under four hours, meaning you can still add other vacation activities. Most of all, it's a FUN river, with wavy whitewater from beginning to end.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Raft Guide Training on the Chattooga River

It's been a busy year on the Southeast's signature Wild & Scenic River, with ample rain and stout water levels since May. In addition to regularly-scheduled raft trips, NOC's Chattooga Outpost just wrapped up another year of raft guide training. For eager guides, this is one of the most intense whitewater training experiences in the nation. Here are some highlight's from the Class of 2009.

Pictured above is one of this year's training groups, or 'pods' as we call them. That's head guides Rob McCormick on the left with Carrie, Joel, Claire and Colin (Rob was quoted in last year's Blue Ridge Outdoors). Each group spends as many as three weeks sharpening their skills on both Section III and IV of the Chattooga River. Notice that there is one raft for every guide on that trailer.

Here, the guides-in-training take off from the 76 bridge for an R-1 adventure. This means each guide will paddle a raft alone, all the way down to the Five Falls section of the Chattooga. Doing so gives the guides a deep knowledge of how to use the river's features and current to their advantage.

This is Colin, steering his raft through Class IV Raven's Chute Rapid at a fairly high water level. If you've rafted the Chattooga River, you'll recognize this rapid from upstream by the massive, carved cliff that looms over the rapid from the Georgia shore. In addition to its raven-like appearance, the cliff's beach makes a decent lunch spot on rainy days like this one!

Claire guides through a meaty-looking Sock-em-Dog Rapid. At Sock-em-Dog, guides tie a 'dog leash' to the back of the raft to hold on to. Doing so keeps the guide from getting launched out of the raft! This 'dog leash' maneuver originated on this rapid.

Now Colin gets his turn to drop over the Chattooga's big Class V. Looks like Claire found the camera! In addition to paddling the rapids, the three-week session also includes covers areas like river knots and rescue techniques.

NOC has run trips on the Chattooga River since 1972. Our 38-year history of providing quality adventures has aided the development of our guide training program. This year, 13 new guides successfully completed training on the Chattooga River. Give 'em a hand next time you're rafting the Chattooga with NOC!

thanks to Chris Lakey for these photos

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Nantahala River Fog

Today we had some severe thunderstorms come through the Nantahala Gorge, and for the most part we dodged them. I was out on a "taxi squad" trip (when we have such a big day we pull extra guides from the offices), so I took some photos out on the water.

My trip was perfectly timed; we got off before the storm came through, but we got the cool, almost spooky Nantahala River mist anyway. My attempt to explain this phenomenon is very dependent on the wikipedia entry for condensation, so give me a break if I'm wrong, but I think what makes the mist (or technically fog since it's so thick) is the cold river water cooling the nearby air past its dew point. The Nantahala is pretty much always hovering between 50 and 55 degrees, so it often produces this fog in the summer or after rain.

No matter the science, it's just cool to be out in it. I've only been in the river fog a few times in three season, but I'm not a full time guide either. By the way, if it looks cold, it's not really. I was comfortable without a splash top on, but many of the guests on the trip smartly wore an NOC provided splash jacket because rain was in the forecast.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer's Un-official Start on the Chattooga River

So it wasn't the first day of summer, but it was a great way to kick off the Memorial Day weekend. Here's a video shot from a raft trip on Section III of the Wild & Scenic Chattooga River, on the border between North Georgia and Northern South Carolina. We were lucky enough to be joined by great students from the Hammond School, on their senior trip.

The Section III trip option flows through a beautiful section of river, and is available to kids as young as 8 years old. As you can see in this highlight reel, there are lots of opportunities to get out of the raft, splash around and swim on Section III. The Chattooga's remote location and protected wilderness really give you a feeling of being 'out there' (while in the hands of the best guides around). It's no surprise this river has remained a favorite for so many years.

Check back with us later this week for another Chattooga-related story about rigorous guide training on the more-intense parts of this river!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Whitewater Film Fest at NOC Nolichucky

Come enjoy "An Evening of Whitewater Kayaking Films" with our friends at Rapid Transit Video on Tuesday, May 26 at 8:30pm. This event is held right on the shores of the Nolichucky River, at NOC's Rafting Oupost as part of RiverLink's Paddling the Nolichucky multi-day expedition.

Here's an article about the event in today's Asheville Citizen Times:

Entrance to the Film Festival is $7 and goes to benefit RiverLink's work. RiverLink's expedition will spend two weeks paddling the Nolichucky monitoring the water, educating citizens and raising awareness for this great natural resource. If you'd like to get involved, visit them here. We hope you'll join us in supporting a great cause on one of our beloved rivers!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Asheville Citizen-Times Announces "Unofficial Start" of Rafting Season

Technically we've been rafting since March, but I'm willing to concede that for most rafters—not necessarily whitewater aficionados—the rafting season begins on Memorial Day like any other summer activity. The summer doesn't always offer the optimal water levels or the big Class V runs (the Cheoah only has one summer release this year, June 20-21), but obviously it's fun to go rafting without having to wear neoprene or a bunch of Under Armour or capeliene.

This article discusses rafting the Pigeon, Nolichucky, French Broad, Ocoee and Chattooga, but it omits the Nantahala, the second most rafted river in the Southeast—perhaps because Karen’s been there, done that.

I’m quoted here. Notice my use of the word “superexciting.” That’s eloquence money can’t buy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Guest Blogger: Adventurous Barbara

Barbara from Riverbank's Outdoor Store sent this post over, and I liked it so much I'm reposting it here. Feel free to submit your rafting blog entries, and we'll try to get them up.

Monday, May 18, 2009

High-Action Video Postcard: Cheoah River

Hey rafting fans! Our Cheoah River photographer Pat McDonnell multi-tasked this weekend, shooting both stills and video to capture the high-water excitement on this Class V river. Don't try this at home, folks. The guides and the photographer (capturing video while bicycling) are trained professionals!

There are still two chances to raft this river in 2009—May 30-31 and June 20-21. Find out more information here!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Big-Water Recreation on Northern TN Rivers

via NOC Nolichucky Raft Guide Jeff Clewell

"The calm before the storm. Guides Nathan and Jackie enjoy the scenery before the action picks up on the Doe River Gorge. Normally a pretty narrow and shallow river, the recent rains provided enough water for a raft to make it down comfortably."

"We saw the Nolichucky rise up to 4.5 feet, that's higher than I've ever seen it! Here Nathan and Jackie drop into the top wave at Rooster Tail."

"A lot of the smaller, more technical features of this rapid get washed out at higher water, but the waves certainly get a lot bigger. This is Nathan and Jackie getting soaked by the big waves."

"French Broad River manager Steven Sherrill drops into the slide in the middle of Bodysnatcher Rapid on the Doe River. The Doe is a favorite of many local paddlers, and it's close enough for us to run after a day of work."

"This is me, your Nolichucky River guide taking my last stroke at Stateline Falls on the Watauga Gorge. Consistent rains have made this creek runnable for the past three weeks! Quite a treat for paddlers."

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday High Water Higlights

Nantahala rafters were in for a treat today, as an entire week of rain helped to swell the Nantahala River to levels we haven't seen in a few years. You can really see that there is literally water everywhere, not only in the riverbed. Small waterfalls pour off rock outcroppings, feeder streams are churning into the Nantahala and it is absolutely beautiful. Here are some highlights I caught with the camera this Friday afternoon.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Water, Water Everywhere

Hey, just wanted to point out the great water situation up here! Here's what I'm reading at around 1:30 on Thursday:

Chattooga: 2.17 ft (probably about 2 feet on the bridge).
Nantahala: 1,370 cfs (Looks high from here. AW says normal power generation is at 700 cfs).
French Broad: 4,180 cfs
Cheoah: 1,530 cfs
Nolichucky: 6,900 cfs (Where I wanna be!)

Here's a photo of a swollen Big Wesser about 150 yards from my office:

Hopefully I'll get to run the Cascades and the Upper Nantahala after work!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

French Broad Rafting Video

So while the rest of us were chained to our desks on Tuesday, these guys were rafting on the French Broad, and boy what a trip! Great weather, great water and great fun. There's footage of the whole river here, but especially Frank Bell's Rapid. This great trip is only 25 miles from Asheville! (I think it was running somewhere between 1,300 and 1,400 cfs.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Great Weather, Great Whitewater!

Spring is definitely here, arriving with fantastic weather and great water levels for whitewater rafting. A few of us here in the office were anxious to get outside, so we headed to NOC's Nolichucky River outpost. Here are some video highlights of our trip. They're a bit bouncy—it's hard to keep the camera still through some of the Noli's great rapids!

This time of year, it's hard to beat the Nolichucky's cool whitewater, breathtaking scenery and fun, wavy rapids. We made some friends who came rafting on their Senior Class Trip, all the way from Pennsylvania. Everyone had a blast, with a little extra time for a short waterfall hike.

If whitewater is a good remedy for spring fever, Nolichucky River rafting is a great prescription!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Raft Guide Rescue Rope Throwing

Part of being trained by the best raft guides includes rescue rope throwing, an essential skill for both raft guides and kayakers. Being able to hit your target can be critical in a rescue situation. Just ask the guy in the water! Here, students in NOC's Raft Guide School learn and practice on the Nantahala River.

Instructor Will Norris looks on as raft guide hopefuls toss their yellow rescue ropes into the Nantahala for a few practice throws. It's best to throw underhand or side-armed when throwing rescue rope. An overhand throw can get slowed down by wind or caught up in branches.

This beach is a great place to practice throwing. When on the water, it's important to make sure you're standing on a secure rock. You want to ground yourself and control your body as much as possible, to avoid being pulled into dangerous water yourself.

Rescue rope throwing is all about timing. Wind, current speed and whitewater hazards all need to be assessed within seconds. Remember to look downstream for a clear path to pull your swimmer to safety. Here, instructor Will Norris paddles a duck to simulate a moving target for the novice rope throwers.

Learn more about rescue rope throwing with NOC's kayak paddling school this summer.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Samantha Brown Ducks Nanty Falls!

Fans of the Travel Channel's Samantha Brown will be delighted to hear that the active host of many a travelogue made her way to the Nantahala Gorge this past weekend!

Samantha and crew arrived at NOC after an overnight hike to LeConte Logde with the guides from A Walk in the Woods in Gatlinburg. (One of this blogger's favorite hikes in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.) What troopers! They eagerly took to wetsuits and whitewater, with a late afternoon raft trip on the a portion of the Nantahala.

Samantha began her Nanty adventure in a raft with our own Wayne Dickert. Before long, she was shredding the river in a ducky. When it came time for Class III Nantahala Falls, Samantha made it look easy, sailing through with a few strokes and a big smile.

Check us out this summer on Samantha Brown's Passport to Great Weekends on the Travel Channel!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Chattooga Spring Runs

The Chattooga River in GA/SC is running at spring levels, which means the water is big and the rafting is thrilling! That's what we love about this Wild & Scenic River—it has many moods, and each offers a distinct adventure. Check out some pics from one of our first trips of the year:

Seven Foot Falls isn't quite seven feet at this water level!

Even Long Creek Falls is looking big.

NOC Guide Hazel rocks it through Corkscrew Rapid.

There's still time to get in on the spring whitewater of the Chattooga, and all of our rafting rivers. Click here for more information.

Thanks to Roz for these pictures!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Nolichucky Outpost Update

by Steven Sherill, Outpost Manager

Up here at the Nolichucky, we have been taking advantage of the good water with several staff trips. On Sunday, we had our official opening day with two different trips. The mild weather was great for March! Both went well as everyone seemed to have a great time and there were no swimmers.

Most trips this time of year are on weekends, so we fill our time with a lot of spring cleaning. We have gotten a lot of yard work done as well as replacing the refrigerator at the outpost kitchen. It's a little early for training, but I'm looking to get some new guides on the water in the next few weeks. Other than that, we're watching the water level rise with all this rain!

We hope to see you this spring on the Nolichucky.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fantasy Island Day

It's day three of Raft Guide School today, which means it's Fantasy Island Day, or Groundhog Day. However you call it, the raft guides spend all day running Nantahala Falls in its various lines.

Guide hopefulls start by running the falls.

Then, they have to negotiate their raft up the stairs at the photo deck.

Veteran NOC instructors then give feedback on each run of the falls.

Finally, it's a group raft haul back to the concrete beach to do it all over!

Thanks to fantastic weather, it's a great March day on the Nanty!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Training on the Cheoah River

Check out some pictures from this weekend's Cheoah River release! A group of NOC guides began their extensive training on this extreme river in far western North Carolina. The limited water releases on this river means training starts early, no matter the weather. Their instructors are veteran NOC guides who have been working this river since releases began back in 2005.

Getting ready to hit a big wave.

The guides get feedback from instructor Will Norris.

Running the big one, Bear Creek Falls.

The next Cheoah release weekend is April 4-5.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

French Broad Outpost Spring Update

NOC’s French Broad river guides had their first day on the water Monday, when they led a group of 50 down the river, and another 18 guests on Wednesday. Both groups were treated to unseasonably warm weather, and plenty of whitewater. Today, our second session of Raft Guide School Students are testing their mettle on the free-flowing French Broad River.

Outpost manager Eli Helbert says that the outpost is continuing preparations for a big season in 2009. “We're doing some spring cleaning,” said Helbert. "We're also excited to be updating our fleet of rafts with 12 bright yellow boats."

The NOC Hot Springs outpost (takeout) will be the location for the Headwaters Institute interpretive presentation on April 30. Area specialists will talk about the natural history, flora and fauna of the river basin. The following day, NOC’s French Broad guides will lead a river clean-up to proceed the French Broad River Festival.

We hope you'll join us at the French Broad this year!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Nantahala Rafting Underway!

Last Saturday we took our first guests of the season down the mighty Nantahala! It was warm, bright and sunny with temperatures in the middle 70s--it was even warm enough for some swimming. Just a perfect day all the way around.

Right now is the perfect time to see the Nantahala Gorge come back to life from its winter hibernation on an uncrowded river. Any day now the Gorge will burst into color as spring flowers emerge and tree buds pop open. Robins are building their nests. Woodpeckers are drilling new holes in trees. Herons are fishing from the shallow gravel bars and mallards are showing our raft guides how its really done on the water, navigating rapids and catching eddies as if they were born with webbed feet.

Rivers End Restaurant is now open daily from 8:00 am through 7:00 pm for a pre-rafting breakfast or an after river feast. You can't go wrong with our home-made pizzas with the dough made from scratch or our worldfamous chili or half-pound Wesser Burgers made with pure Angus Beef.

Spring time is a great time on the river, and we hope to see you soon!