Ocoee River named #1 destination for whitewater rafting

Ocoee River named #1 destination in the U.S. for whitewater rafting

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The Ocoee River was recently named the #1 destination for whitewater rafting in the U.S. The Ocoee River was recently named the #1 destination for whitewater rafting in the U.S.
More than 229,000 people went whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River in 2012. More than 229,000 people went whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River in 2012.
"We see a bigger vision in the future," said Quest Expeditions President Keith Jenkins. "More outdoor opportunities, more support coming in from cabin rentals, to restaurants." "We see a bigger vision in the future," said Quest Expeditions President Keith Jenkins. "More outdoor opportunities, more support coming in from cabin rentals, to restaurants."
In addition to whitewater rafting, the area is also a popular destination for canoeing and kayaking. In addition to whitewater rafting, the area is also a popular destination for canoeing and kayaking.

By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

OCOEE (WATE) - A very popular whitewater rafting area in East Tennessee is getting some good news.

The Ocoee River in Polk County is now the most visited whitewater rafting river in the United States, according to a study put out by the University of Tennessee.

"We were excited to hear that," said Quest Expeditions President Keith Jenkins. "We knew we were a very popular river. It's great to be number one in something."

The study says more than 229,000 people went whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River in 2012.

It also says the visitors brought in $42.8 million into the economies of the 30 counties that surround the river, including counties in North Carolina and Georgia.

"That visitor spending in that area generates some 622 jobs in the tri-state area just from visitor spending to whitewater raft," said Associate Professor in UT's Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management Steve Morse.

Morse and graduate student Eric Beckman examined the impact of visitors to the 60-mile region surrounding the river.

"People know it's a challenging river," said Morse. "They love that adventure in their life now."

The people 6 News spoke with who live and work near the Ocoee River say they are very excited about the UT study, and say they see the number of visitors coming to whitewater raft increasing.

"We see a bigger vision in the future," said Jenkins. "More outdoor opportunities, more support coming in from cabin rentals, to restaurants."

"I think there is always room for growth in any area," said Ocoee Whitewater Center Assistant Director Sherry Hicks.

Along with whitewater rafting, kayaking and canoeing are also very popular here.

Plus, the Ocoee River was the site for the canoe and kayak events for the 1996 Olympics. This is also a big draw for the area.

Visitors from all around the world come to the Ocoee River.

"I think I will come back," said Germany visitor Maren Boghmer. "It's a great place."

"Just the beauty of it," said New Orleans visitor Shannon Casanova. "It's just a beautiful area. We wanted to stop and take pictures."

Many visitors make return trips to the area, like Kathy Cusick who is from Austin, Texas.

"Sometimes you can walk down the river," said Cusick, "Especially on the 4th of July, there are so many rafts."

Everyone 6 News spoke with plans to keep the Ocoee River number one on the list for many more years to come.
   
Before the Ocoee River became the most popular whitewater rafting river, the Arkansas River in Colorado was on top of the list.

UT officials say a recent drought there caused less visitors to go there. 

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