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Rafting in the Smokies -- Best Outdoor Adventure in the Smokies

By John Disque

Over the past few months word was slowly getting to Knoxville Daily Sun that "Rafting In The Smokies" was making some bold moves in the adventure business. While their rafting business continues to boom, owners Brenda and Mark Shultz weren't satisfied and continued to expand operations to offer guests days of outdoor adventure. Today they offer ziplining and are the only outdoor adventure in the Smokies that offers whitewater rafting and ziplining at the same location.

  Smoky Mountains Adventure in Pictures  
  White water rafting is just the beginning of outdoor adventure at Rafting in the Smokies.  

Still it doesn't end there. There's also a roping course about to be launched, boy scout and girl scout overnight cabin accommodations, rock climbing, two and four hour fishing tours (the Pigeon River is being stocked with brown trout), and much more outdoor adventure.

Do you want to pretend to live your life with miniature golf and arcade games or do you want to LIVE your life with true adventure that will leave you smiling for years to come? Don't sit on the sidelines. Get out and enjoy your life amongst the beauty and natural wonder of the Smoky Mountains.

The Knoxville Daily Sun staff was invited to spend the day at Rafting in the Smokies: have a look around, take a tour of the property, meet the staff and enjoy a day of adventure, fresh air and relaxation.

cocke county mayor
Left to right: Beth Justice, Brenda Shultz, Vaughn Moore, Jeaneane Payne

From start to finish the hospitality level is nothing short of incredible. Upon our arrival at the outpost, Brenda, along with Beth Justice (Sales & Marketing Manager) greeted us. Cocke County Mayor Vaughn Moore also showed up and joined us shortly.

While Brenda and Beth answered questions and spoke of business operations and plans the mayor discussed the county's infrastructure and accommodations for the inevitable increase of tourism to the area.

Last year Rafting in the Smokies accommodated over 45,000 white water rafting guests and, while business is doing quite well (especially in the summer months), they don't expect to slow down or stop expanding any time soon. Brenda and Mark built the business centering it on the rafting industry, but the ultimate plan is to expand the business into days of nonstop adventure.

Rafting tours consist of a choice of two: The Upper Pigeon River Tour is class 3 & 4 whitewater with a qualified professional guide escorting each raft through Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Cherokee National Forest, Martha Sundquist State Forest, and the Appalachian Trail. The Lower Pigeon River consists of a floating, more relaxing trip through calm water and is more geared to younger children or seniors who might not be up to the challenge of white water rafting.

Visitors are transported via buses to the start of their rafting adventure. Unlike many businesses nowadays the handicapped are not left out (one of the buses is fully handicapped accessible) and will be welcomed along with everyone else. The rafting trip is 5-1/2 miles long, and both the rafting and ziplining are a day's adventure lasting 4-5 hours.

geared upAs for the new zip-lining adventure Beth and I chose to show the "lesser brave" all the fun they're missing. It wasn't my first time ziplining, but each course is a little different and you never quite know what to expect. Still, once you get over the initial jitters, all you want to do when you hit that first platform is ride it again. Instant smiles and laughter accompany everyone and Rafting in the Smokies' new ziplining stands up with the best of them. It really is a lifetime adventure that no one will ever forget.

After the ziplining we continued the tour of the facilities and wound up eating lunch on the local restaurant's deck (The Bean Trees – right next door) where the visitor has the choice to eat inside or spend their time on a pleasant outdoor deck overlooking the beautiful Pigeon River.

One of the things I learned about Rafting in the Smokies is their tightly knit policy of considering all their employees part of a "family structure." Each of their 96 tour guides, along with the management staff, is highlighted and treated with individual respect. Each is seen as a valuable member of one team. This issue translates to treating their guests the same way. It's a friendly, laidback atmosphere where the people love their job and everyone feels like they belong.

The choice is yours: You can make it a one day adventure or you can book yourself and your family or group at a local motel or cabin and stretch it out for days. Whichever way you decide they can and will accommodate your needs.

Although the main office is in Gatlinburg the actual site location is off the beaten tourism path and stands on 15 acres in Hartford TN., just off I-40, (exit 447) exactly 45 minutes from Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge TN, Sevierville TN, Knoxville, TN and Asheville, NC. Rafting in the Smokies is proving to be the most accessible outpost in East Tennessee!

It's time the rest of the world knew East Tennessee's best kept secret: "Rafting In The Smokies."

Visit their easy to follow website,, and check out the discount group rates and very reasonable rates of $54.00 per person which includes both the rafting and ziplining adventures. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better deal anywhere in the country.

Published March 16, 2011

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