Rafting: A Trip of a Lifetime

By: Meaghan Dant

Chattanooga, TN–  Though summer time is in full effect, not everyone gets time off.  However, a day trip to Polk County is just what someone needs to get their mind off of work.

Even though Polk County doesn’t resonate with most people’s sense of adventure, a closer glance at the main attraction is a different story.

Rafting down the class IV Ocoee River will get your heart pumping and leave a smile on your face.  If some think this river too modest, a head on collision with a class IV rapid should change their mind.  There are over 20 class III and IV rapids on the Middle Ocoee, and never a dull moment.

Cherokee Rafting is one of nearly 30 companies in the Polk County area waiting to take visitors down the river.  Experienced guides lead rafting trips down the river to have a journey like no other.

Guides at Cherokee Rafting are trained for three months or longer.  “We start training in March and do not allow the trainees on the river until we are 100% sure they can handle anything that comes their way,” guide of 15 years Blake McPherson said.”

Blake also said that every guide is trained in first aid and CPR, and many have higher levels of medical training.  Before each trip, all rafters are instructed to put on a helmet, life jacket, and are given an oar to assist the guide in getting through the rapids and down the river. 

Before venturing onto the river, a guide leader informs everyone of how to properly use their equipment and what to do in an emergency.  After the brief discussion, everyone piles onto a school bus and heads toward the starting point of the rafting journey.

Rafting the Middle Ocoee is great for beginners and the experienced.  The trip takes approximately two hours while you travel down five miles of river.

First time rafter Brittney Preston admitted she was a little timid about rafting the class IV river.  “Before I went rafting I was a little nervous, but after we got the boat in the water I was having a good time.”

Even though people raft for different reasons, McPherson believes the nature aspect draws intrigued guests to the river year after year. 

The wide array of majestic scenery along with breath taking views leaves visitors to the Ocoee in awe.  ” Everyone goes rafting for a different reason, but I have never had a disappointed guest,” McPherson said.

McPherson also feels that the incessant amount of team work is another reason people journey to the river.  “The camaraderie aspect is huge,” Blake said.  “Everyone works together while rafting.  If you take your boss out on the river, they will do as much work as anyone else.”

Rafting is not all fun and games, however.  With the sun beating down on your back to paddling through class III and IV rapids, you will be tired by the end of the trip.

The combination of a great guide, the water, and the excitement of doing something new equals a fun-filled day exploring the Ocoee.

Preston said she would definitely recommend rafting to a friend.  “I absolutely had a blast and would recommend it to anyone; my experience on the Ocoee was one of a kind.”

Though you’re tired and soaked by the end of the trip, the exhilarating adrenaline rush one gets by rafting the Ocoee is something everyone should experience.

To find out more about rafting and other outdoor adventures, please visit the Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association.

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  1. My first rafting experience when i was 17 is one of my favorite. Very unforgettable. You can feel a sudden rush of adrenaline when you are touching the cold water.

  2. Very cool trip report! I spent several days on that river when I was in-between semesters! You guys should come out west and raft Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River with us sometime!