Thursday, December 20, 2012

NOC to Offer New Whitewater Rafting Trips on the Chattahoochee River

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Big news! Last week NOC announced plans to open its eighth whitewater rafting outpost in Columbus, Georgia. The outpost will offer trips on a 2.5 mile section of the Chattahoochee River touted as "the longest urban whitewater course in the world." The trips will be the southernmost whitewater rafting trips available in the Eastern United States and will likely have an extended season thanks to the warm climate. Here's the whole scoop:

An NOC raft explodes out of the hole at the bottom of Cut Bait rapid on the Chattahoochee during a high-water  scouting run in Fall 2012. Photo by Mike Haskey for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

Coweta Falls: Before the construction of the Eagle and Phenix and City Mills dams in 1866 and 1907 this section of whitewater was known as "Coweta Falls." Like Great Falls on the Potomac, the rapids in Columbus are caused by a fall line, a geological boundary where a harder upland rockshelf transitions to a softer coastal plain. When a river drops over a fall line the elevation change often creates an opportunity for whitewater rapids, like in Columbus. The removal of both dams will be complete in early 2013, restoring the river to its natural state and revealing rapids long hidden below the city's reservoirs. Because only one dam has been removed so far, NOC has yet to actually see the entire run.

Rapids: Get ready for everything; NOC expects to offer trips for all skill levels on Class II to V rapids. Why such a wide range? Because the rafting experience varies with the magnitude of flow running through the rapids. At lower levels the river isn't as pushy or powerful, though it still flows quickly and makes for fun, splashy rafting. The water levels in the Coweta Falls section depend on upstream hydropower facilities; if those are running all-out, the big flows on the Chattahoochee will produce major Class V rapids rivaling the Gauley, New and Colorado rivers. We expect the flows to follow a standard daily schedule offering family/beginner trips in the morning and big-water/high-adventure trips in the late afternoon. 

A Fall 2012 NOC scouting trip paddles through Cut Bait at a moderate water level on the Chattahoochee River  between Columbus, Ga. and Phenix City, Al.

Columbus: NOC will be the exclusive outfitter of Columbus, Ga., and we will be one of only two permitted outfitters running the Coweta Falls section of the river. Beyond rafting, NOC's planned Columbus Adventure Center will provide gear and apparel from leading manufacturers, advice for do-it-yourself outdoor activities, and reservations for additional outdoor adventures.

Learning a New River: Throughout the company's 40-year history NOC has led early commercial rafting operations on nearly every major whitewater run in the Southeast. Most recently NOC started commercial rafting operations on the Cheoah River near Robbinsville, N.C.the nation's most challenging commercially guided whitewater rafting trip. The Chattahoochee's large flow variations and its unique urban environment provide NOC's guides an exciting opportunity. Full scouting runs will begin as soon as the dam removal is complete, and then NOC will begin training staff for a summer 2013 opening.

How to Reserve a Trip: Reservations to raft the Chattahoochee will be available by phone and at Trips are not on sale yet though. NOC must first complete a thorough evaluation of the river at all release levels before we are able to provide essential trip planning information including age restrictions, exact rapid difficulties, fitness levels and trip length. Updates on the Chattahoochee will be available via NOC's monthly enewsletter and this blog.

One Last Note: All of us at NOC would like to say how excited we are to be in Columbus. NOC operates in many communities that embrace outdoor recreation, and we don't know anyone more fired up for whitewater paddling. The restored Chattahoochee will be a great recreational opportunity in a great city! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

2013 Frosty Foot Fest: 50k, 30k and 8k Trail Races at Tsali

Foot Rx Asheville presents the 2013 Tsali Frosty Foot Fest on January 12th and 13th. The event will include 50k, 30k and 8k running races on the world famous Tsali Trail System, which includes over 40 miles of trails winding along scenic Fontana Lake. Click here to register!

NOC's Erika Brock registered for the 30k race because she was "looking for a new challenge close to home." Erika has run three half-marathons, but the Frosty Foot 30k will be her longest race yet. She is fortunate, she says, to be able to do about half of her training at Tsali. Last weekend's nine-mile run on Tsali's Right Loop was her longest training run for the Frosty Foot so far. "I did a couple of variations to make it work out to nine miles," Erika said. She chose the run because it happens to be the very beginning and the very end of the 30k race. Erika, who does much of her training on her own, enjoys listening to head phones while on the trail, mostly "fast-tempo music," she said, "for motivation." She confessed that the music she listens to while running is much different from what she listens to when driving or just hanging out. When I pressed her for band names, she blushed and ended the interview. For the record, NOC is cool with whatever is on your I pod, so long as it gets you up and out and training for sweet races like this!

Go Erika! Go Michigan State!

Tsali Frosty Foot Trail Race Details

50k (Jan 12): 200 runner limit - registration is $60 before December 12, $75 thereafter
30k (Jan 13): 200 runner limit - registration is $40 before December 13, $60 thereafter
8k (Jan 13): 100 runner limit - registration is $25 before December 13, $30 thereafter

What comes with your race registration:
  1. A sweet Mountain Hard Wear Race Shirt and swag bag. Guaranteed to beat any race shirt you ever received! 
  2. A solid run through some of the best trails in Western North Carolina.
  3. Aid stations stocked with GU & Bonk Breaker Bar products and some other tasty treats!
  4. FREE tasty treats from Flat Rock Village Bakery and chili from Green Sage Cafe at the finish-line celebration
  5. Awards Ceremony at Nantahala Brewing Company - enjoy awesome beer, swag, and raffle items, including a Timex GPS watch for each of the 3 races.
  6. Memories of a great race you'll never forget!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

4 Reasons to Book Early

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As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm! Unfortunately NOC does not have a worm for you, but we do have 4 benefits to booking early:

Early Bird Rafting Special
If you book your rafting trip before November 21st with offer code THX12, you will save 15% on your reservation. There is no catch to this deal, all trips are still staffed with our professional guides on our beautiful southeast rivers. For more details about how to secure your reservation and save some money, click here.

Most Popular Dates
Holiday weekends are a great time to get out on the water with friends and families making them our most popular weekends. By booking now you can secure your favorite dates before it is too late and they are booked up!

Kick Start Your Summer
Why wait to book your trip to wash away your end of summer blues, when you can book in the beginning of summer and kick start the season!  The end of summer tends to be much more busy, so beat the crowds and consider booking in the earlier months to get in the summer swing of things.

A Full Season of Activities
By planning a trip in the early summer, this gives you an opportunity to fill your summer with a variety of trips on different rivers. Or you can get hooked early in the season to grow and explore endless outdoor opportunities with NOC.

Monday, October 8, 2012

North American Championship Recap

Last weekend, NOC hosted the 2012 ACA Open Canoe Slalom Nationals & North American National Championships on the Nantahala River. Open canoe paddlers from all over the country, as well as Canada flocked to the Nantahala Gorge for three days of racing on the fun and challenging Nantahala Falls Course. They competed in a variety of disciplines, encompassing various lengths of crafts, composite and plastic boats, and tandem and single classes. Many of these competitors see each other regularly on paddle trips in their hometowns. Others are old friends who see each other once yearly at only this event.

The mood was a unique mixture of serious competition--with whitewater athletes walking the course, scouting lines, and discussing runs, penalties, and strategies--and family reunion, as this tight-knit group of friends and river-family caught up on old news and shared new memories after yet another year.

Race organizer MJ Simpson found time to compete in tandem events with both of her young sons. Simpson volunteered to organize the 2012 event in part, she said, because she met her husband, David Simpson, at an Open Canoe Nationals in Carltin, MN, so she felt she owed the event a good turn. “We’re even now, OC Nationals,” Simpson joked at the awards ceremony on Saturday evening at NOC’s Pourover Pub, to the laughter and applause of her fellow-canoeists.

Open Canoe slalom is a test of speed, river-running skills, and agility, and paddlers strove to excel in all three areas over the course of the weekend. In speed, the unrivalled champion was Jordi Domenjo, a coach at Colorado’s Alexander Dawson school, and a top kayak slalom athlete from La Seu D’Urgell, Spain. Domenjo posted a top time of 129.14, seconds ahead of the second place finish by Eli Helbert of Asheville, North Carolina, who came in at 155.05 in the OC1 Open X class.

There were only a handful of clean runs posted over the course of the weekend, a rare distinction since Open Canoes are long and it takes significant skill to navigate them through the slalom course at all, not to mention the difficulty of passing through each gate without tapping (or whacking) one. Among those competitors who managed at least one clean run were Carole Westwood, Adrian Nye, Dooley Tobras, and even the C2 team of Andrew Westwood and Paul Mason, among others. Course designer David Simpson also posted a clean time on Sunday morning, much to his relief. “It would be a sad state of affairs if the course designer couldn’t clean his own course,” he said.

The location of next year’s Open Canoe Nationals has yet to be determined, but one thing is clear, this dedicated group of paddlers will make the long drive, canoe trailers in tow, ready to give it their all, once again, for that so-often-elusive clean run.

View Full Results here:

Day 1 Slalom Final

Day 2 Slalom Final

Day 3 Slalom Final

More Pumpkins Than Ever: NOCtoberfest 2012

NOCtoberfest is here! NOC celebrates fall with a beer garden at Slow Joe's Cafe every weekend in October starting at 4pm. Come enjoy the outdoors during the day and sample beers from Weihenstephaner, Bitburger and Maisel's Wesse by the river when you're finished.

The Main Event
Join us on Saturday, October 27th when we celebrate the close of the 2012 Nantahala River rafting season with a full load of fun activities*. The day's top events include the spectacular Great Pumpkin Pursuit, a fantastic five-mile trial run, free live music and a hilarious costume party and pumpkin decorating contest..

Crazy pumpkin from NOCtoberfest 2011
Why all the buzz about the Great Pumpkin Pursuit?
One of the most entertaining and fun events all year, the Great Pumpkin Pursuit--an all-out dash to collect numbered pumpkins tossed into Nantahala Falls--draws a crowd of hundreds of spectators as well as 50 to 60 paddlers. The paddlers don crazy costumes and deploy innovative pumpkin collection schemes while negotiating a massive traffic jam in the Nantahala's largest rapid.
A scene from the 2011 Great Pumkpin Pursuit
This year, we are dropping, tossing and spilling 400 mini-pumpkins into the Falls, double the haul from last year!  Paddlers are invited to collect the pumpkins any way they please, and spectators are welcome to attempt land-based collecting too. Pretty much anything goes--as long as everyone maintains a courteous attitude toward the other participants and a focus on safety.

Some techniques used to collect from last year. (Note the basket fixed to the front of this kayak.)
After the event we host an award ceremony for various honors, and we draw numbers that correspond with the numbered pumpkins. The more pumpkins participants collect the better their chances of winning a prize in the raffle! This year, some of the prizes include a $500 gift card to NOC, PFDs, helmets, and much more.
NOC Marketing team members Lauren Dietrich and Hope Brainard, getting in the Halloween spirit
Note that the events on the water can get crazy and may not be everyone's idea of a good time. Never fear: boaters are welcome to stalk an eddy downstream of the Falls that's a bit out of the way. Sometimes following the traffic jam at a cautious distance is a good idea too. One of the reasons we toss so many pumpkins is to give everyone a reasonable chance to get something without risking life and limb. Also, note that land-based collecting is allowed, but that walking haphazardly on wet river rocks has risks too.

After the event we'll have a pumpkin decorating contest, live reggae from the Natti Love Joys and the 2012 costume contest.

We hope to see you, your friends and families out at NOC for the upcoming festivities! For a full event schedule, click here.

To finish, check out this "trailer" one of the participants made back at the first GPP in 2010. While the crowd was small for the first event, this video does capture the mood pretty well:

Fall Season: Best Time to Zip

Fall is perhaps the most beautiful time of the year in the Nantahala Gorge.  And with the leaves changing and cool breezes blowing, it is the perfect time to get outside for an adventure. So, if you haven't been on NOC's "ZLAP" before, it's time to try the new Zip Line Adventure Park at NOC!

NOC is offering a Fall "Add-On" special for the Zip Line.  If you make a reservation with NOC for an activity besides the Zip Line Adventure Park, you can add on a ZLAP reservation and save $15 per person!  All you have to do is call 800.232.7238 and mention the Fall Zip Line Adventure Park add-on special while making your reservation over the phone.

What other activities can you do with NOC in the Fall?
Whitewater rafting
    • Go rafting down the Nantahala River; it's a family friendly, class II/III river.  It makes for a perfect afternoon trip after zipping in the morning!  Even if it's brisk outside NOC has splash jackets and pants included with the trip to keep you warm on the water. If you book a rafting trip and the Zip Line Adventure Park, you can save $15 and have a full day of fun!
Mountain Biking
    • NOC also offers mountain bike rentals.  You can hop onto two wheels and hit the trail.  Go speeding down some of the best single track trails in the area.  With Flint Ridge trail on the Nantahala Campus, it is very accessible and convenient   You will also catch some great views once on top of the ridge top.  Tsali National Recreation Area is less than 10 miles from NOC.  We provide a bike rack that fits on most cars to make transporting the bikes really easy. Tsali has over 50 miles of trails to ride, each with varying views, terrain and technical features.

Don't stay inside this Fall, the weather is beautiful and calling your name to play!

Guest Appreciation Festival 2012: Recap

Cascades, Cascades, Cascades
Some paddlers described it as pure chaos, or even a circus, but the Cascades release was definitely one of the biggest highlights during GAF weekend.  Providing entertainment, personal "first D’s" and what seemed like endless whitewater laps for some, the Cascades were on a-whole-'nother level this weekend.

Hunt Jennings (Yellow) and Matt Anger (Blue) during one of their thirty laps down the Cascades
Being the first recreational release for the Upper Nantahala and Cascades, this past weekend felt like Christmas for many. Boaters came from all over the region to paddle this section of river that is usually dependent on rain fall.

Many of you have requested the photos and video from the release so here they are! To find your photo click here and enjoy!

On Saturday night, The Pourover Pub hosted everyone to watch the Carnage Video from the Saturday release. If you happened to miss it, you can witness some of the chaos for yourself here:

NOC would like to thank everyone who helped with the safety of both spectators and paddlers on the Upper and Cascades during the event. With the extra efforts put in by many, the majority of the release went very smoothly.

Mini Music Festival
With 5 bands performing at GAF, NOC campus felt like a mini music festival!  From mid-afternoon to the wee hours of the night, guests were dancing on the banks of the Nantahala River. The bands fueled the crowd for hours resulting in smiles, laughs and very unique dance moves.

After the live music, the GAF attendees took over the stage during the Ride Garden Dance Party. After a day full of paddling it's amazing so many folks had multiple hours of dancing in them!

And of Course, The Gear Sale
With the combined 30 vendors, 15 private vendors and the Outfitter's Store sales, there were TONS of great deals from this weekend.  If you were looking for boats, gear, or accessories, hopefully you found it in the Marketplace.

The Marketplace was buzzing with energy during GAF.  The atmosphere was full of guests interacting and sharing memories, stories and advice.  It was a great chance to learn about folks interested in similar activities and meet some all around good people!

Take a look at some scenes from GAF 2012 here:

These are just a few highlights from GAF 2012, some others include: learning from Steve Longnecker's birds of prey, wilderness fire starting clinics, stories from Ms. Connie Regan-Blake and much more.  Let us know what you liked the most! GAF 2013 is just around the bend.

Band and Brew Line Up: NOCtoberfest 2012

To get in the spirit of NOCtoberfest, The Pourover Pub is featuring German food and drink specials every weekend in October.  Although we are running short on steins and liederhosen, the pub will have the essentials: beer and brats!

Every weekend, The Pourover Pub will serve Bratwurst and Reuben specials.  Don't miss out on the delicious Germanic fare! After you are finished eating, you can wash your meal down with a festive German brew. Try a dark Heffeweisen from Weihenstephaner, Maisel's Weisse, or for those who prefer a lighter, easy-drinking beer, a lager from Bitburger.

Enjoy a beer on the banks of the Nantahala River
Live Music at The Pourover Pub in October:

October 12th: Rick Rushing & The Blues Strangers - Chattanooga, TN - Blues Reggae

October 13th: Ogya - Chattanooga, TN - Reggae

October 19th: Total War - Asheville, NC - Pop Alternative

October 20th: Freight Hoppers - Bryson City, NC - Old-Time String Band

October 26th: Lumbar 5 -Chattanooga, TN - Soul Fusion

October 27th: Being the final weekend of NOCtoberfest, Natti Love Joys will be featured as the last (certainly not least) band of the season.  With an upbeat reggae ska sound, these guys will definitely keep you up on your feet dancing along.  Don't forget about all of the other activities during this final weekend though: the Great Pumpkin Pursuit, Flint Ridge Fall Trail Run, costume contest and pumpkin decorating!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

GAF 2012 Live Music Preview

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am about the musicians coming to this year’s Guest Appreciation Festival! If my boss would allow it, I would take the two days off, buy myself a pint of Noon Day IPA, (Nantahala Brewing is coming out for a beer-tasting on Friday from 5-8pm) and park myself at Slow Joe’s to enjoy the melodious bliss that will go long into the night. But since that's not an option, I wrote up the following preview to give you all a glimpse of the treats we've prepared for you.

Friday at 2pm, NOC welcomes Bryson City blue-grass legends, The Freight Hoppers. Bradley Adams and the band will treat you to hard-driving old-time music with an emotional, raw excitement that keeps one foot planted in the past and the other in the present. Looked at geographically, the Freight Hopper’s music can be said to span from Mississippi to West Virginia, and but it’s never more relevant than right here in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina.

At 5pm, Vertigo Jazz Project will take the stage to help rid you of any outdated expectations you may have of what “jazz music” is or might be.  This Asheville band pulls its inspiration from many sources, including Latin, funk, and even pop music, and the result is an upbeat, original, yet studied sound that is truly 21st century. Be ready to dance!

Finally, Friday evening at about 8pm, don’t miss the Packway Handle Band from Athens, Georgia. To quote Splice Today, “The Packway Handle Band mixes dark themes and old-time religion with a uniquely modern folk aesthetic that pins down just what American music is all about.” PHB first won national acclaim as finalists at the Telluride bluegrass competition in 2002, and has been blowing away audiences around the country since 2006 with their thought-provoking lyrics and genuine sense of humor.

The Packway Handle Band, masters of alt-bluegrass, have been one of NOC's
most popular acts over the past two seasons. 

Saturday, when you come down from the Cascades, we’ve arranged to bring in Asheville’s Archrivals for your listening pleasure. Their jazz-rock fusion is made for chillin’ or for dancin’, so whether you’re looking to put your feet up and enjoy a cold brew, or ramp up your energy level for the long party ahead, you’ll enjoy this smooth, unique, groovy sound.

Then, at 8pm, the Secret B-Sides are back for an encore show from earlier this season. Old school R&B sensibilities coupled with a touch of funk and neu-soul make these guys are the reigning kings of soul in Western North Carolina. Juan Holliday and the band will fire up the tunes just as we light the bonfire to keep away the early-autumn chill.

The Secret B-Sides play their third GAF in 2012. The band's signature
funk sound always gets the celebration going strong.  

Both Friday and Saturday, after you’ve worn out the bands, stick around for NOC’s annual dance party, dj’ed by the good folks from Ride Garden. This September 28-29th, the music won’t stop till the first rays morning kiss the uppermost peaks of the towering smokies.

GAF Parking and Camping Information

A lot of folks will be joining us at GAF on September 28th – 30th, and we want to make sure that logistical confusion and parking don't mar anyone’s good time. Below, I’ve outlined our parking plan for GAF 2012. Read up before you come so you can all spend less time worrying about your car, and more time enjoying the festival.

GAF 2012 will feature the first ever recreational releases on the
Class IV/V Cascades section of the Nantahala.


We plan to use our existing on-campus parking most of Friday and Sunday. When you arrive at NOC, drive across the bridge and let our friendly parking staff direct you to an open spot. Please take their advice, and park efficiently so everyone can park on-property.

Saturday morning and early afternoon are the peak parking times at GAF. If on-property parking is full or if you just want to go ahead and get settled, turn up Silvermine Road, across the street from the Outfitter's Store.  NOC staff will be stationed at the mouth of Silvermine Rd. (near the Wesser General Store & Fly Shop) with maps and directions to approved lots. Please don't park alongside Silvermine road. We've seen too many festival attendees get tickets on this road over the years, even though it looks like there are pullouts.

The first satellite lot is located approximately ¾ of a mile up Silvermine Rd (within walking distance for many people). It is a fenced grass lot on the right hand side, and will be clearly marked with a special event parking sign. There will be an attendant on hand to help you park efficiently.

As this lot fills up, cars will be directed further along Silvermine Rd. to the second satellite lot 2.2 miles up the road. You will want to be sure you stay on the main paved road as you drive up Silvermine until you see the second marked lot. It usually only takes about five minutes to drive to this lot, so don't worry about the distance. The lot is nicely graveled, and because we are only running shuttles in one direction we can service the lots very frequently. No one should have to wait more than 10 minutes to get a ride.

In the unlikely case that we fill up both of our Silvermine parking locations, we will open an additional lot at the Ruby Mine near Bud Dill’s gas station, just east of NOC on Hwy. 19/74. Please don’t park in this lot unless directed to do so by NOC staff, because we’ll only be running shuttles in this direction once we fill the other lots.

Finally, NOC is offering free shuttles to the Wayah Forest Service Put-In for those who choose to leave their cars off property while they are on the river. We usually do this as a thank you to guests helping us avoid a parking crunch during Saturday at GAF. In other words, if you paddle into GAF we'd be glad to drive you back to your car when you're finished. (Just make sure you catch the last rafting bus headed to the put in around 3:30. It should be very easier to thumb a ride to the top with another boater this weekend anyway.)

Please note that all GAF remote lots close at 7pm. We’d love for you to stay to enjoy the free live music and dancing, so please make your way up to the lots as the afternoon wears on to move your cars back down to the center. It’ll make life easier for you when it’s time to go home.


As in years past, we are unfortunately unable to accommodate camping on campus or in remote lots during GAF. There are simply so many people rafting, dancing, shopping and playing that it's impossible to accommodate everyone.  Check out our lodging page for great tips on camping and lodging close by.

We will have off-duty law enforcement on campus throughout the event to make sure that everyone has a good, safe time. They’ll also be helping us with our no-camping policy, so it's important to make sleeping plans ahead of time. Please note that some registered vendors and event staff will be spending the night on campus to keep an eye on everything; they have been accounted for in the event plan and are exceptions to the no camping standard.

So, that's the deal. Guests who know the parking plan and who make appropriate sleeping plans will find this year's event really fun and really easy. We appreciate the preparation, and we can't wait to see you at GAF!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

5 Reasons to Raft This Fall

School is back in session, football is on TV and there's Halloween candy at the big box stores. So, in some ways the fall season is here. But throughout most of the South average high temperatures will remain in the 80's and 70's throughout September and October. So, just because summer is in the books doesn't mean the outdoor season is over. In fact, it's about to be the best months of the year for outdoor recreation.

So here is a short list of the five best reasons to get out for a rafting trip this fall:

#1: Color

Fall brings beautiful foliage and picturesque scenery around the region.  What better way to take in the changing leaves than from a raft in the middle of a beautiful river gorge? And rafting can be as active as you want: a brisk float on the Nantahala or an exciting rush through the Five Falls on Chattooga Section IV.
Fall Foliage in the Smoky Mountains. Looking to the Nantahala Gorge.

#2 Crowds

Everybody likes the summer, so most of the summer crowds are gone by fall.  This means paddlers enjoy an intimate feeling out on the river.  You won't be bumping into many other rafts or kayakers.  On some rivers it will feel like just you, your group and the river. 
Small trip down the Nantahala.

#3 Cost

As fall rolls in, so do fall prices. You can save anywhere from 15-30% off peak season rates.  These are the same great trips, same rivers, same service, better prices--and perhaps better scenery. Note that some rivers do not run as late into the fall as others, so start planning a fall trip today.
All the fun of a summer trip at the fall price!

#4 Cool Weather

The sweltering heat is replaced with simply pleasant weather. Instead of sweating or being too hot, fall brings in crisp air.  Don't worry though, NOC offers splash jackets to keep you dry so you stay comfortable on the river.  You'll get more gear to sport, and you'll look more fashionable in NOC's couture river gear.
These pumped up rafters aren't even thinking about the fall color in the middle of  the Chattooga's Five Falls.

#5 Create a Getaway

There's "Spring Break" and "Summer Vacation" but nothing for fall? Take a weekend and make your own "Fall Getaway." Rafting can make for a quick and easy break for families, friends or coworkers.  NOC offers rafting trips into late October on some rivers, so you will have plenty of time to fit in a river trip between now and then.
Rivers End: Open all four seasons for riverside dining!

Fall Rates for 2012

It's not time to put your swimsuits away just yet! Take advantage of NOC's Fall Rafting Rates during the next two months.  NOC Fall Rates vary for each river and have different start dates. Every trip is the same exact trip in all ways, (guides, gear, service, etc.) just at a special off-season rate

Fall Rafting Rates Schedule
(Rates are discounted off of Summer Pricing)

25% off now through the end of September
30% off in October

20% off through the end of the season

15% off in October

25% off in October

2012 ICF World Cup - Mid Competition Update

The 2012 ICF World Cup is in full swing, with the first two competitions complete and the final event starting Friday. Over 100 paddlers from around the world will be trying to win the grand finale at NOC. So far the athletes are "bringing it" and drawing big crowds. Interested in the action? Click the link below to check out photos from the second event.

Brendon Orton from Great Britain gets huge air at the Pigeon World Cup

Take a look at these photos from the World Cup Pigeon River Event.

World Cup Final
The final World Cup event will be held on the Nantahala at one of the most spectator-friendly environments anywhere. Park at NOC and have full access to both the Nantahala River and the World Cup events: you can raft or paddle the river and then stick around for free music in the evening. Even non-paddlers will enjoy the exciting event atmosphere and riverside amenities at NOC. So come out and join us!

Remember, this is it: the final dry run for athletes and judges before next year's World Championships.

Craig Kleckner representing his countries' competitors on and off the river

Competition starts on September 7th with the Award Ceremony on September 9th.  Throughout the event you can look forward to face painting and other kids activities from 1-3pm everyday to keep your family entertained.  There will be live music for entertainment in the evening on the 8th and 9th.

Click here for more information about the World Cup Final
Click here for full results from the Rock Island and Pigeon World Cups

Can't make it to the World Cup Final?
Watch a live feed of the action at the Nantahala Feature online!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Olympic Memories: 40 Years Since Augsburg (Part Two)

This August six NOC alumni celebrate the 40th anniversary of their appearance in the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich. The list includes Carrie Ashton, Louise Holcombe, Cindi Goodwin, Russ Nichols, Angus Morrison and John Burton . We caught up with John to discuss whitewater paddling—which was making its Olympic debut, the thrill of going to the Olympics, how the games changed his life, the tragedy of the Munich massacre and what it's like watching the London games on TV 40 years later. John also gives us a look into his Olympic scrapbook and reflects on the significance of participating in the world's biggest sporting event, the Summer Olympics.

[Continued from Part One]

Tragedy in Munich
Of course, the 1972 Games were marred by the Munich Massacre. John's competitive events were finished six days before the violence, and he spent most of this time at the games enjoying the Olympic Village and watching other athletes compete in a variety of events. He even had a hard-to-get finish line seat for the 100 meter dash. However, the hostage situation cast a pall over what was a wonderful experience. Of the hostage situation and subsequent violence John wrote:

"Yesterday 12 Israeli Olympic team members were murdered.  Kidnapped and murdered by fanatics.  How and why could that happen here, in this place of international fellowship, friendly competition, shared effort and achievement?  What now?  Will the Games be cancelled?  We are all going into the Olympic stadium today for a memorial service—what an amazing contrast to the joy and good will we all experienced just a few days ago in that place."

For Munich athletes like John, who never went to another Olympic Games, it is difficult to process the attack and to understand how it fits into their Olympic memories. The Olympic experience was rightly a high point of the competitors' lives, and they fondly remember the competition and the positive experiences of the games. However, in the midst of the Olympic Village a gruesome and horrible situation played out in plain sight. This was a stark contrast to the as-inspiring-as-usual Olympic competition and Olympic spirit seen and felt in the Munich venues and recalled in the minds of the Games' athletes.

Looking Back

John may have qualified for the 1976 Montreal Games if whitewater had been offered, but whitewater slalom would not return to the Olympics until 1992. He breifly retired after the Olympics, but returned in 1973 to coach the US team at the World Championships in Switzerland. In 1974 John taught a clinic at NOC—the first visit to his future home; he would move to NOC in 1976. While John doesn't seem very upset about missing the '76 Games, he regrets that the twenty year break between whitewater slalom events occurred at a time of American dominance. Davey HearnJohn Lugbill, Cathy Hearn and Kent Ford all could have won gold medals at the Olympics in the 1980's, and combined with Joe Jacobi and Scott Strausbough's gold in Barcelona in 1992, whitewater slalom could have become a highly recognized medal program in the United States. In addition to skill, John asserts that these athletes had media appeal: "They would have been national heroes, like Shuan White."

Interestingly, for John, the team trials was the biggest race of his life—not the Olympics. He says: "The difference between making the team and not making the team is intense. From this vantage point, you have to balance ego with a frank admission of how much luck is involved. If you want to be an Olympian, most importantly, you better choose the right parents." As for being an Olympian. He claims this has made a major difference in his life, a profound difference. "Humans have two key psychological needs. We want to stand out, and we want to belong to a tribe. Making the team fills both of those needs. There are over 300 million people in this country, but only a few thousand Olympians."

When discussing whether the United States can become a competitive powerhouse again John notes the low profile of racing within American paddlesports. "Purists just want to explore, run rapids and get away. Racing is almost antithetical to the counterculture boater—he or she doesn't want to compete." He notes that it also takes extreme dedication to participate. "You have to drive to races, go to places like NOC to practice, find a racing club, and keep at it. It takes thousands of hours of practice to be competitive, and paddling requires thousands of hours of logistics and driving as well."

John emphasizes the importance of canoe clubs to his competitive career. Canoe clubs, he claims, are vital for development of competitive athletes. For example, Nantahala Racing Club, NOC's hometown canoe club, has actually been recognized as a "Center of Excellence" by USA Canoe/Kayak for its contributions to developing competitive athletes. Eric Hurd is an NRC member representing the US in London in 2012.

Georgia Canoeing Association, Carolina Canoe Club, Atlanta Whitewater Club, Tennessee Valley Canoe Club, and the Appalachian Paddling Enthusiasts are additional regional clubs that organize paddling trips, host local paddling sessions and attend competitions. Like these, John's club, even though it was only four people, was critical to keeping him involved and dedicated to his training.

Final Thoughts

This week John wrote about his Olympic experience for NOC's Staff Newsletter, "In the Flow." These comments sum up the experience plus the perspective John's gained over the past forty years:

"Someone once asked me, in the early pre-Olympic days, why I was willing to work so hard in such an obscure sport when (in their view) so little reward was available.  I can now understand that perspective, but at the time the question made no sense to me.  For me, the rewards of finding my passion, of training and improving and being on the fine edge of excellence through hard work, of getting the most out of myself in a difficult pursuit, were so obvious as to need no justification.  For me, winning wasn’t everything, but the pursuit of excellence was and is noble and worthy.  The challenge was to pursue the goal with passion yet with perspective, with humility, and with the ego in check.  Sometimes I would slip into blind selfishness, and be pretty thoughtless to those around me.  It requires maturity I did not have 40 years ago.  Some might say 40 minutes ago, since paying attention remains a life-long endeavor.

Late in my career I discovered that my rewards were multiplied by competing with a partner, and I got extraordinarily lucky in having two perfect partners.  In 1972 I raced with Tom Southworth, who remains my hero and the example of how to compete intensely but with perspective.  From 1975 to 1979 I raced internationally with Gordon Grant, fellow Mondamin and NOC alum, and rediscovered the extraordinary joy of being better with a teammate than I could ever be alone, because sharing the experience made it so much more special.  We were and remain great friends, for which I am extremely grateful.

So, as I watch the athletes in London, I am an unrepentant fan, feeling gripped, cheering, holding my breath, laughing and crying as event after event unfolds.  To them all I would say 'Bravo!  Revel in these moments, good for you.  Remember, you didn’t do this alone.  Your life will be different from now on, and my wish for you is to find a healthy balance of pride, gratitude, and humility.'

Olympic Memories: 40 Years Since Augsburg (Part One)

This August six NOC alumni celebrate the 40th anniversary of their appearance in the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich. The list includes Carrie Ashton, Louise Holcombe, Cindi Goodwin, Russ Nichols, Angus Morrison and John Burton . We caught up with John to discuss whitewater paddling—which was making its Olympic debut, the thrill of going to the Olympics, how the games changed his life, the tragedy of the Munich massacre and what it's like watching the London games on TV 40 years later. John also gives us a look into his Olympic scrapbook and reflects on the significance of participating in the world's biggest sporting event, the Summer Olympics.

Road to the Olympics

NOC's Executive
Vice President John
Burton celebrates the
40th Anniversary
of his 1972 Olympic
appearance this
John Burton found the obscure pastime of whitewater paddling at Camp Mondamin in Tuxedo, North Carolina. As a youngster he learned paddling fundamentals and began to enjoy whitewater canoeing. He excelled in the activity, and became one of the better paddlers at the camp. Years later, the first two people he met at Dartmouth College were Jay Evans, advisor to the Ledyard Canoe Club, and Wick Walker, C-1 paddler who had just returned from the 1965 World Championships in Europe.  When Wick needed someone to help build a mold for the new boat he had just brought back from Europe, John was happily recruited/duped/Tom-Sawyered into performing the chore. That's how he entered the realm of competitive whitewater racing. Shortly thereafter he started training with a ragtag four-member local canoe club in Median, Pennsylvania and began racing internationally in '67.

Meanwhile, a combination of factors were leading to the whitewater slalom's Olympic status in 1972. The whitewater world championships were getting bigger and bigger, and even in the U.S. where it was considered a fringe lunatic sport (more on that shortly), John claims "there must have been 25 races in the East." Politically, the West Germans decided to use their host status to field an event where they could win gold, and along with East Germany, who also had a strong paddling team, they lobbied for canoe and kayak slalom across the usually impregnable Iron Curtain. The event was established, and the US Olympic Committee found itself scrambling to build an Olympic team.

All of a sudden, John and his paddling companions on the US world championships teams found themselves as the primary hopefuls for the US Olympic Team's whitewater slalom athletes. The team trials were held on the Savage River in Maryland, and John paddled well enough to qualify. He actually qualified in both one-person canoeing and two-person canoeing events, but he and partner Tom Southworth made a strategic decision before team trails that if the two-person boat made the Olympic Team, they would paddle that instead of the one-person boat—thus enabling the other boater to make the trip to Munich.

To accommodate the new sport West Germany built an unprecedented new course at Augsburg. The course, originally a diversionary canal for river ice on the Lech River, is fed by river water through a sluiceway. The water then spills down a 10 to 12 meter wide channel with vertical concrete walls and 35 concrete humps that create the whitewater features. Over 20,000 spectators fit into the venue which provides excellent up-close seating on terraced terrain surrounding the course. The almost 2,000'-long course took most teams about five minutes to complete (very long by modern standards). You can see some photos of the construction and competition in a clipping from John's scrapbook.

While whitewater racing was (and remains) very popular in some European countries, but American sportswriters didn't really know what to make of the event. Red Smith of the New York Times wrote: "The sport, is a hasty search for a watery grave, with rules. It is an outgrowth of white-water racing, which appeals to people whose idea of fun is to be flung down the rapids ears over appetite, hurled against rocks and submerged until the coroner arrives."

To clarify Smith also noted, the sport is "...a slightly suicidal undertaking new to the Olympic Games, which combines the best features of skiing down the Matterhorn, shipwreck, and going over Niagara in a barrel."

"Fame" and the Games

John and Tom handled their newfound Olympic "fame" with a grain of salt. Before the Olympics the Olympic team sent the paddlers a publicity form asking for sportswriters who had been following them thus far; they filled out the form writing only, "Are you kidding?" At the time John was employed as a securities analyst for Philadelphia National Bank and Tom joked that, while he could get the required seven weeks off unpaid from his generous bosses, there was no way even John could get him a loan from PNB to help cover his Olympic expenses. Paddlers have always been suspicious--even Olympic paddlers.

Perhaps adding to the athletes' self-deprecating attitude was the fact that they had to make almost everything they used to compete, and they certainly had to pay for it all. The athletes built their own boat and even their own paddles. John made the t-grip for his canoe paddle on a lathe at Dartmouth out of walnut. Reflecting on the boat they paddled, John notes that they unwisely added an inch of extra material around the boat's seam (which basically traces the waterline of the boat). This decision gave the boat extra volume and was meant to help navigate the "weird" waters at Augsburg, which have a tendency to pulse and boil due to the course's unnatural vertical walls. It turns out the winning East German team actually squeezed volume out of their boats and sneaked most of the big water features—a style that tends to dominate in modern racing. You can also see from the photos that John and Tom raced an "end hole" boat, where the paddlers sit with considerable space between them, almost like a traditional canoe. In '72 the rules did not yet allow close-cockpit C-2’s thus preserving the traditional canoe shape and design.

At the Olympic competition the pair made their first run in 7 minutes and 7.4 seconds (with penalties included). The pair was tenth out of twenty teams after the first run—six teams were unable to complete the first run in their boats. The team's second run was an improvement, shaving twenty seconds off the first time, and John and Tom ended up finishing in 12th place, ahead of the other American team. An American teammate, Jamie McEwan did win the bronze in the one-person canoe event (the event John also qualified for). John's diary from the event reads:

"My C-2 partner Tom Southworth and I just finished 12th in our race, rolling twice on our counting run!  Our time was over 6 minutes on the wild Augsburg artificial course, but we finished, and we were the top American boat, so we were very happy.  'You can lose the Olympics with honor' was certainly true for us, who were totally delighted just to make the team.  The Olympic Trials were really the gut-check, you-have-to-be -your-best moment for us, and we won it.  So, flying to Munich, experiencing the opening ceremonies, eating fabulous food we didn’t have to prepare or pay for ourselves in the Village, having a coach and team manager taking care of our every need, being outfitted by Sears in our flashy polyester red, white and blue uniforms, rubbing shoulders with the U.S. basketball team, watching Jamie  McEwan win the bronze in C-1—it has been an exhilarating, once-in-a-lifetime experience."

[End of Part One: Click here to Read the Rest]

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Many Reasons Remain to Raft this Summer

Back to School commercials are running on TV, the presidential nominating conventions are almost here, and there's a tropical storm out in the Gulf of Mexico--all signs that time's running out on summer 2012.  So, before you get back to the year-round routine, time remains for one last hurrah outside with friends and family. What better way to end the summer than out on the river with loved ones?

Some of our guides at the Nantahala River agree, and they offered a few more reasons on why it makes sense to end the summer at NOC:

"Here at the Nantahala everything is in one spot; it's an all-in-one weekend destination!" - Kim, Whitewater Rafting Head Guide

"Because when the weather is hot, the rivers are cold. It feels great." - Jen, Retail Manager

"Whitewater rafting brings the whole family, or group of friends, together for one last summer shindig on the river." - Taylor, Adventure Center

"We have the best trained guides, and they'll show you a great time on our rivers." - Curt, Nantahala Rafting Assistant Manager

"NOC's river trips are unlike anything else. You will leave with much more than just a great time; you'll have memories that will last forever." - Rachel, Guest Relations

Savings to Look For This August

Chattooga Section III & IV
Save $10 on all Chattooga Trips on Sundays in August. Section III is a family-friendly trip with mostly class II/III rapids and one optional class IV rapid.  Section IV is a beautiful wilderness run with many class IV/V rapids including the famous "Five Falls"stretch. Both sections are full day trips and include a delicious and fun riverside lunch.

Rafters launch off Bull Sluice, the optional Class IV rapid on Chattooga Section III.

Pigeon River Discount Trips - as low as $24.99
The Pigeon River, just outside of  Hartford, TN, offers discounted trips in the late afternoon through August.  The Upper Pigeon boasts class III and IV rapids,  and is great for beginners who are looking for some big splashes.  Kids as young as 8 years old can raft this section, so it also makes for a fun family trip! A perfect addition to a weekend in the Smokies or in Gatlinburg, TN.

Upper Pigeon Rafting
Ocoee River Discount Trips- as low as $24.99
With fun, bouncy waves and class III and IV rapids, the Ocoee is a classic southeastern river.  In August, the Middle Ocoee offers discount trips early in the morning or late in the afternoon on Sunday's.  This section is a nice step up from a beginner river for folks who are looking for some exciting whitewater.  You must be 12 years old to raft this section of whitewater.
Middle Ocoee Rafting
To book a rafting trip click on the links above to go to, or call 800.905.7238.

Calling All Paddlers: Tune Up for Fall Paddling Season

NOC's nationally known Paddling School is offering an early-booking discount throughout August. Why? "Because paddling in the Fall is awesome!" if you ask Tosh Arwood, Paddling School manger. Arwood went on to explain there are fewer crowds in the Fall than during the summer rush and that you'll be surrounded by beautiful, colorful fall scenery.

In plain terms, this discount means you can save 15% when reserving a multi-day course or a private instruction course in September or October if you book it before August 31st. That's perfect timing for most paddlers since the fall is often the time for releases on some of the Southeast's most challenging rivers like the Gauley, Cheoah, Tallulah and big-water releases on the Ocoee.

Take your skills to the next level and enjoy the thrills and beauty of creek boating.

World Class Instructors

NOC instructors like Andrew Wilmott can make a lasting impact on your paddling skills. Andrew has been teaching kayaking at NOC for 17 years now, and attributes his love of teaching to his students.  "It's about the people.  It's not just about kayaking, but the community of the sport and the relationships built around it."  Andrew, along with many of our instructors love to share the experience of learning to kayak with guests.  "When someone is in 'Truck Stop' eddy, nervous to run Nantahala Falls for the first time, I put myself back in their position when I was first learning. I get into that mindset to go through what they are going through at that exact moment.  It's all about sharing the experience and reassuring the guest they can achieve their goals if they want to," explained Wilmott.

Andrew instructing a multiday course starting at Lake Fontana
Multi-Day vs. Private Instruction Courses
NOC offers a variety of programs to fit each guest's needs, time and budget. For this blog, we contacted two guests who have taken a multi-day course or a private instruction course to see how their experience with NOC's Paddling School played out.  Chris Mahannah took a 5-Day Learn To Kayak course while Steve Pack chose the Private Instruction.

Five Day Course Experience
During a multi-day course, the instructors concentrate on advancing skills through gradual progressions and building a relationship between kayaking and the guest. Mahannah enrolled in a multi-day course with his buddy, they both had very limited experience in whitewater kayaking.  They chose the multi-day course because they thought they would benefit from having more time on the water and simply had the time to do it. Mahannah had two goals before beginning this course: 1) to learn to roll and successfully do it in fast moving water, and 2) to comfortably and safely navigate a river. "I had no clue there were so many strokes and so much involved in moving in and out of eddies," explained Mahannah when talking about his experience. Throughout the Five day course, Mahannah paddled the Nantahala, Pigeon and a section of the Chattooga.

When reflecting on his course Mahannah explains, "On day four, our instructor let us take on some faster moving water (part of the Chattooga River), and it was a blast.  Andrew Wilmott was a super cool instructor, who taught us a lot and adjusted the course to our desires."  Depending on how many people are in a multi-day course and how smoothly everyone progresses determines which rivers the class will get on. Mahannah's final feedback was not uncommon for the Paddling School to receive: "I learned a ton about kayaking and had a blast doing it.  Andrew was incredible, the food was great and the gear was top notch.  I would definitely take another course!"
Roll Practice at Lake Fontana
Private Instruction (PI)
NOC's private instruction service is very focused on a paddler's personal goals more than any set curriculum. NOC's most experienced instructors use their veteran know-how to diagnose problems and offer suggestions for individual student's abilities.  Steve Pack has some experience paddling, but due to his geographical location he never progressed pass being a class II paddler.  He moved back to Western North Carolina in 2009, making it easier to paddle and start learning again.  Pack explained that he signed up for private instruction because he "wanted an honest evaluation of [his] paddling skills with feedback on what [he] needed to improve." With a one-on-one course, all of the attention goes to the guest.  They can choose what they want to do and work with an instructor that determine how to get the most from the course.

When deciding between a full and half-day course, Pack went with the half day. "I chose the half-day PI because I felt I could accomplish my goals in this time frame. I also viewed it as a first course in a series of instruction," said Pack.  This is a popular route as well, many guests book their first PI as a step in a series of courses.

Pack learned a variety of skills that will improve and prolong his health in paddling.  Previously he stated he did not fully understand key skills and techniques of paddling resulting in strain on his elbow.  Tosh Arwood, Pack's instructor, "had the ability to accurately judge my limits and push me past them in a manner which challenged me and build confidence," explained Pack.  In a PI the instructor really gets to know the guest during the time they are together.  They learn how to take their skills to the next level in a time efficient manner.

A private instruction course below Nantahala Falls.
If you are in-between levels and are not sure what course to take, give our reservations office a call at 888.905.7238. They can assist you on selecting the right course. Or, you can visit the Paddling School's website for more information.

Continue Your Endless Summer

If you have been to the Nantahala River outpost within the past few years, I hope you hung around long enough to unwind and relax at NOC's Pourover.  Opening in 2009, The Pourover celebrated its third anniversary this summer, and for the past eight weeks the Pub has hosted a band every Friday and Saturday evening. The "Pub" also holds a different beer tasting every Saturday from 5pm-7pm, often featuring North Carolina microbrews. By hosting two bands and a beer tasting every weekend, the Pub gives visitors who are in town for the day, or perhaps the weekend, a venue to continue their fun into the night alongside the river.
Grand Opening in 2009
The Pub is a perfect venue to highlight local talent. "It is great exposure for local breweries looking to reach new customers and bands to make new fans," said Emily Michaels, Manager of The Pourover.  Offering food, drinks, live music, and riverside dancing, The Pourover is not only a local favorite, but also a reason to make your visit last for more than just a day trip. 

"This has been a busy summer for the Pourover Pub.  The biggest event of the summer at the Pub was definitely our 3rd anniversary celebration." Showcasing 5 different breweries including Bells Brewery, Stone Brewing Co., 21st Amendment Brewing Co., New Holland Brewing Co., and Left Hand Brewing Co., the Pub catered to over 200 guests. With its "uniquie location, fun atmosphere and sense of community," the Pub is always a place to go for a good time on the Nantahala River banks.
A favorite Pourover , Smoky's Farmland Band, playing at the Pub

Looking Ahead

With Fall right around the corner, Emily is very excited to start serving more seasonal beverages.  Along with beer tastings every weekend in August, The Pub has three larger events to look forward to later this fall.  The Pub will host two bands during the World Cup Finals (Sept. 7-9). Additionally, "GAF," the Guest Appreciation Festival, (Sept 28-30) and NOCtoberfest (October) are NOC's most popular events in the fall.  GAF brings vendors and guests together for a multi-act music festival filled with food, paddling and great deals on gear.  NOCtoberfest lasts more than one weekend, there will be various events every weekend, each one being different from the last. Events include raft races, relays and the popular Great Pumpkin Pursuit through Nantahala Falls that will be sure to leave guests thirsty and looking to unwind at the Pub afterwards.
Beer Tasting with French Broad Brewery
For more details and information on upcoming events, please visit The Pourover Pub's webpage!