Rafting company kicks off whitewater season with additional safety precautions

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HARTFORD, Tenn. (WATE) — Monday kicked off white water rafting season for Smoky Mountain Outdoors in Hartford, Tennessee. But operations at the rafting company look a bit different this time around amid continued efforts to social distance.

WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Elizabeth Kuebel and chief photojournalist Brian Engelstad took a trip down the Pigeon River, getting a look at additional safety precautions put in place by Smoky Mountain Outdoors.

“We usually do about 1,200 to 1,500 people a day on Memorial Day weekend, whereas this year we did about 500,” said owner Daniel Jennette. “We’re doing our best to keep our guests safe and more importantly from our outlook is our employees, because without them, we can’t even be open.”

Employees space life jackets out by days of the week, so people do not wear them on consecutive days.

Paddles and helmets are also sanitized.

“The only thing we’re doing different as far as assigning boats is we don’t combine groups, unless it’s younger couples, no disrespect to the older folks. And we have to have their permission that they’re good to do that before we’ll mix them with other groups,” Jennette said.

“I really noticed on the buses they made sure that houses, household units, could still sit together, but if you were a different household they made sure to put a seat in between you and someone else’s family, so I thought that was a really good safety precaution,” said rafter Michelle Henkelman.

The upcoming summer months will be important for the business moving forward.

“We make 70 percent of our revenue for the year from June 20 to August 10. So if we don’t get that window, we don’t get the money we need to make it through the winter. So we’re very, very vulnerable right now, and hoping that things pan out for us,” Jennette said.

If you’d like to learn more about or schedule a trip Smoky Mountain Outdoors, visit their website.

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