Monday, March 19, 2012

Five Reasons to Raft this Spring

Every paddler understands the huge difference between paddling a whitewater river in July and in January. And most folks intuitively get how fall color adds to the atmosphere of an October outing. However, there’s not much recognition for the unique benefits of the spring. Here’s a primer on why the spring is possibly the best time to hit the water, and why spring 2012 could be the best spring yet.

1 . It doesn’t even feel like spring. Let’s face it, this is strange weather. We’ve got temperatures in the 70s for the entire 10-day forecast. You could bemoan it as an ominous sign about a hot summer, or you could interpret it as the beginning of drastic climate change—or you could just get out and enjoy the rare March treat!
High spring flow on the Wild and Scenic Chattooga

2. Spring water. Our free flowing rivers—the Chattooga, French Broad and Nolichucky—rely on rainfall for their flows. Unlike our dam-controlled rivers that have steady, reliable levels, these rivers go through drastic changes in character and experience as water levels fluctuate. (Kind of like how the ocean surf gets pushier as a storm approaches.) Just because you rafted one of these rivers when things were “normal” or moderate doesn’t mean you’ve experienced these rivers at higher spring flows. A high-water trip on one of these rivers is one of the best adrenaline rushes you can get out of the Southeastern outdoors. Keep your eyes peeled for rain and try to book on the back end of a soggy day or two. If you miss perfect timing it’s not a big deal; all the rivers have strong spring base flows anyway.

Classic rapids on the Nolichucky

3. Flower power. So flowers aren’t as powerful as a boat-rocking wave, but they can have just as much impact on a trip. Imagine paddling down a beautiful river gorge as dogwoods, redbuds, pear trees and beds of wildflowers line the bank. It’s actually pretty amazing. Add some warm sunshine on your still-a-bit-white-from-winter skin and some camaraderie from your group and raft guides, and you’ve got a perfect spring day.
Blue wildflowers along the French Broad

4. It’s all for you. Sometimes rivers get busy in the summer. That makes sense. Everyone loves cooling off in July and August. But if you go in the spring, you’re going to get wide-open vistas, and you’re likely going to be one of the only groups you see on the river. It’s a bit more intimate, and it’s easier to get the enviable “Too bad for everyone stuck in the office today” feeling when you’ve got the river to yourself. You’ll feel pretty lucky to have it all to yourself.

Big, splashy waves of the Middle Ocoee

5. Save some money. It’s a strange world where we can offer premium trips at lower cost, but due to the demand curve that’s just how the rafting business works. Who wins in this situation? Rafters. So take advantage of this quirk and book a spring rafting trip. You’ll be able to see the available savings here, and you’ll help “green up the mountains” by keeping some of that cash in your own back pocket.

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