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The History of Whitewater Rafting

September 5, 2013 May 30th, 2020
Group whitewater rafting in Gatlinburg

With thrilling speeds and waves splashing all around, it is easy to see why whitewater rafting is one of the most exciting and popular outdoor attractions in Gatlinburg. Did you know that whitewater rafting has been around for hundreds of years? While whitewater rafting is presently considered a leisure activity, it was also one of the earliest modes of transporting people and goods.

Rubber River Rafts

The major breakthrough in whitewater rafting came with the invention of the rubber river raft in 1840 by John Fremont. Fremont, a lieutenant in the United States Army, constructed a rubber raft in order to survey the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains. When civilians wanted to traverse treacherous water they would often purchase surplus military rafts. In the 20th century, these rubber military rafts were eventually replaced by inflatable rafts.

Companies Catch On

In the mid-1900s, private companies saw the commercial potential of whitewater rafting. Famous businessman John D. Rockefeller built a resort in 1956 that offered the first floating trips in the United States, but the new sport failed to immediately catch on. It was not until the 1960s and 1970s that whitewater rafting companies such as Becker-Cooke Expeditions and Slickrock Adventures became successful. Whitewater rafting solidified its popularity with its inclusion in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and its subsequent addition to the 1992 Barcelona Games and the 1996 Atlanta Games.

You can experience the exhilarating fun of whitewater rafting along the Pigeon River with Smoky Mountain Outdoors. Offering both mild and wild rides, our rafting trips are completely safe and require no prior experience. Come and find out why we are one of the top attractions in Gatlinburg. Visit our Reservations page or give us a call at 1-800-771-7238!