A Unique Adventure – River Snorkeling

Out and About – Snorkeling Near Quest Expeditions

When you plan that rafting trip with Quest Expeditions check out some other adventures nearby. The following suggestions are excellent adventures and range in cost from free to inexpensive.

Did you know there is excellent snorkeling near Quest Expeditions? Yes, on the Conasauga River, only minutes from our outpost on Highway 64. It is like a natural aquarium that you can get immersed in. Over a thousand individual fish are present on a warm summer day. You’ll see colorful Blueside Darters, an exotic Coosa Darters or maybe the prehistoric looking Hellbender plus hundreds of other native fish! The watershed of the Colorado River is much larger than the Conasauga but the Conasauga boasts over three times the native fish. You can do this adventure on your own. You will need to bring your own snorkel equipment, wetsuit, lunch and drinking water.

Try a unique swimming hole? Visit the Ole Blue Hole located near the Whitewater Center along US Highway 64. On weekdays the slow current of the Ocoee creates a number of swimming holes, pools, shallows and wading spots. There are several intimate pools you can have all to yourself and lots of sunbathing on the large boulders. There is a small parking fee to access this area. You’ll also find biking trails, picnic facilities and restrooms.

Two additional swimming areas are located along Highway 64 on Parksville Lake. They both provide a nice beach and swimming area maintained by the Forest Service. Located in the Chilhowee Recreation Area is McCamy Lake. This is an excellent swimming area located at the top of Chilhowee Mountain. You’ll find a nice 7 acre lake with a well maintained swimming area. Also located here is a campground, hiking trails and waterfalls . Located near the top of Chilhowee Mountain you’ll find some cooler relief during the heat of summer.

Visit Quest Expeditions for additional information. You’ll also find more information on swimming or snorkeling at the Ocoee Whitewater Center.



Some River History in Polk County Tennessee

Here in Polk County Tennessee the River rushes down gulches in the Appalachian Mountains, where millenniums of water flow have cut canyons through the solid granite. The grand Appalachians had more than granite to offer settlers, however; the large veins of copper found in these mountains are as big part of the area’s history as the river itself.

The Cherokee and Copper Mining

The Cherokee Indians were the original inhabitants of the area near the river known as the Copper Basin. In fact, the name Ocoee hails from them, as does the river’s other name, Toccoa, the moniker the Cherokee gave to the part of the river that runs through Georgia into Polk County Tennessee.

In 1836, the Treaty of New Echota started the forced exodus of the Cherokee from the area. The land, and its veins of copper, were eventually rediscovered by settlers in the mid-1800s.

The Cherokee’s small mining operations were taken over by settlers that began to remove copper from the mountains in larger quantities, a process that was difficult until it was helped by the construction of railroads.

Unfortunately, the mining process had a tremendous detrimental effect on the environment. Though the scars of the mining can still be seen today, reclamation efforts begun in the 1930s have greatly restored the natural beauty of the area.

Damming the River

The powerful flow of the Ocoee River itself became a source of energy in the early 1900s, when the Eastern Tennessee Power Company undertook the process of damming the river to produce hydroelectric power. More than one dam was built to harness the water, changing the flow of the river.

The operation came under the control of the Tennessee Valley Water Authority (TVA) in 1939. In the decades that followed people took notice of the rapids created by the dams, and soon thereafter outdoors enthusiasts started coming out with rafts to ride the whitewater.

The arrival of rafting the Ocoee River in the area led to a struggle with the TVA over the river’s use, which culminated in a 1983 agreement to schedule releases of water from the dams for the use of whitewater rafters. With this agreement came the advent of commercial whitewater rafting as well as competitive rafting, kayaking, and other water sports. This set the stage for the river to become a famous location when it was cast in the limelight of the 1996 Olympics. Sadly the contract for recreational releases will expire in 2018.

The 1996 Olympics

When Atlanta won the honor of hosting of the 1996 Olympic Summer Games, they chose the Ocoee to be the location for the whitewater events. With a wide area along the upper Ocoee offering an ideal space to set up viewing for spectators, creation of a new course was begun. In July of 1996 more than 15,000 people arrived in the area to watch the whitewater canoe and kayak competitions, and the world’s eyes were on this small rural area in Polk County.

The expansion and improvements made for the Olympics – and the added exposure brought by the Games – transformed the area into an even more popular location for whitewater rafting. With the worldwide attention and publicity it received, the river quickly became one of the most popular whitewater rafting destinations in the United States.

Today Polk County is home to a large number of companies offering whitewater rafting adventures for people of all skill levels. It draws more than 250,000 annually to try their hand at running the river, creating a strong and vibrant tourism industry that helps the area thrive.


5 Top Things to Do in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Located along the Tennessee River and nestled among the mountains, Chattanooga is a top tourist destination in the southeastern corner of Tennessee. The state’s fourth largest city, Chattanooga offers plenty for visitors to do, see, and enjoy, from a world-class aquarium to wild outdoor adventures. To get a great vacation started, every visitor should put these top five can’t-miss attractions on their list.

The Tennessee Aquarium

The beautifully-designed Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga is the largest aquarium in Tennessee. Sitting right on the banks of the Tennessee River, it offers close-up looks and interactive experiences with a wide range of fascinating creatures, from playful river otters to serene jellyfish to the largest number of turtle species in the United States.

There are touch-pools where you can touch stingrays, a reef cavern with up close views of cool sharks, a rainforest exhibit that invites visitors to walk amongst hundreds of beautiful butterflies, and a recently opened Alligator Bayou exhibit.

Spending a day at the Aquarium gives visitors an opportunity to discover a wide variety of water-based ecosystems, from deep sea to southern wetlands to sub-Antarctic.

The Aquarium even has an IMAX 3D Theater with a six-story screen, so there is literally something for everyone. The clean, well-organized layout makes it one of the city’s most visited and acclaimed attractions.

Lookout Mountain

Historic and beautiful Lookout Mountain offers a number of activities for visitors that cover a variety of interests.

For thrill-seekers, there is zip lining where you can fly around the forest canopy. History buffs will enjoy exploring Civil War history at the Battles for Chattanooga Museum, where a 3D presentation brings to life the battles that took place here.

The Incline Railway is the steepest passenger railway in the world, taking visitors on a ride into the clouds on tracks with an incredible 72.6 percent grade. Once you’re up on the mountain, it’s a great place to relax and just take in the view.

Whitewater Rafting Near Chattanooga

Only an hour outside of Chattanooga is the famous Ocoee River, site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater events. Visitors to the area can take a ride on rapids that have been voted the best in the nation. Chattanooga Whitewater Rafting offers a great day of excitement and only minutes from downtown Chattanooga. This is the most popular whitewater rafting adventure in the United States.

With commercial rafting expeditions available for most ages (must be 12 years old) and experience levels, all equipment is provided, anyone from families to singles can give it a shot. The Ocoee is one of the greatest destinations in the state and not to be missed on any visit to Chattanooga.

Raccoon Mountain Caverns

Visitors can explore amazing sights beneath the earth’s surface just ten minutes from downtown. With more than 5.5 miles of mapped passageways, visitors can see incredible rock formations hidden throughout the cave system.

Tours range from easy one-hour guided walking tours to more advanced tours for those wanting a more adventurous cave-exploring experience. Outside the caves, there are beautiful views of the area, opportunities to pan for gems, a go-karting track, a gift shop, and more to round out a perfect day trip.

Tennessee Valley Railroad

Take a trip back in history while soaking up the beauty of the Chattanooga area on board one of the oldest operating railroads in the nation. At the Tennessee Valley Railroad you will board at a historic train station that feels like a step back in time, filled with models and artifacts from the railroad’s past.

There are a variety of tours available, including a dinner ride where you can enjoy an excellent meal while you watch the scenery pass by and learn about the history of the tracks that helped build America. This trip will please kids of all ages, even those who are just kids at heart.


White Water Kayaking Terminology

Like all sports, whitewater rafting and kayaking has a language of its own, and it can take a while to pick up all the terms. While there are many terms to learn, this basic glossary of terminology will get beginning paddlers started.

Equipment Terminology

Get to know some of the equipment white water kayakers use.

Back band: Located behind the seat, the back band helps the kayaker maintain an upright position in the kayak.

Booties: Specially-designed neoprene shoes worn by paddlers for comfort and security when walking in the water.

Drydeck: A one-piece cover that combines with a spray skirt to keep the paddler dry inside the boat.

Drysuit: A complete suit that seals out water, usually made of windbreaker material.

Dry bag: A waterproof bag designed to keep the contents dry while on the water.

Float bags: Inflatable bags that can be placed in the stern of the kayak for added buoyancy.

Grab loops: Loops located at the bow and stern that make it easier to carry and move the kayak, as well as serving as tie-off points for rescue ropes or tow lines.

Helmet: A safety helmet worn to protect the head.

Hip pads: Pads that are placed around the hips to keep the paddler secure in the seat.

Paddle: The double-ended paddle used to move the kayak.

PFD (personal flotation device): This piece of safety equipment keeps a paddler afloat in the water if the kayak capsizes or boaters fall out of the boat. Best know as a life Jacket.

Rescue vest/safety harness: A rescue vest and safety harness are used to assist with rescues from the water, allowing quick attachment and detachment from a kayak or other paddler as needed.

Spray skirt: A spray skirt covers the open part of the kayak to prevent water from gathering inside.

Thigh braces: Plastic braces inside the kayak to keep the paddler’s thighs in place.

Throw bag: This bag holds rope that is used as a tow line to rescue swimmers or kayaks.

Tow line: This rope can be used with a safety harness to assist swimmers or tow a kayak.

Wetsuit: A snug suit made of neoprene that provides insulation from cold water.

Water Feature Terminology

In the whitewater boaters will encounter a number of different features, each with its own name.

Boil: This water feature looks like boiling water, and it is caused by constricted water being forced back to the surface.

Chute: A narrow area of the water that leads to a drop.

Drop: A steep section of the water dropping in elevation.

Eddy/eddy line: This feature is formed when the water flows around an obstacle and is forced back upstream. An eddy line is the area where the two flows of water, with and against the current, meet and create unstable water.

Flatwater: Calm areas of water with little current.

Green water: Dark, fast, free-moving water without obstacles.

Hole: Also called a hydraulic, this feature is formed when water drops over an obstacle and then comes back up towards the obstacle.

Horizon line: This refers to a point where the paddler can’t see the river ahead on approach to a drop.

Pillow: A water feature where water rises above the surface and sends water in multiple directions.

Seam: A spot in the water where two currents meet.

Slide: Water pouring over a rock in such a way that the kayak can slide down.

Strainer: This feature is created when a tree or branch forms an obstacle that water can flow through but can cause a kayak to become trapped.

Undercut rock: This dangerous feature is a rock that water can flow under.

Wave: There are a variety of wave types, all created by rocks, constrictions of the river, or any other debris that the water can flow over.

White Water Kayaking Moves

These terms describe some of the basic actions a kayaker might take on the water.

Boof: This is a move that is used to keep the paddler upright over things like rocks, waterfalls, or drops. It uses a vertical stroke.

Bow draw: This is a very efficient turning stroke.

Eskimo roll: This move rights a kayak that has turned into the water.

Loop: This is a front flip. There are several types of loops.

Spin: A trick that involves spinning the kayak 360 degrees.

Sweep stroke: A basic turning stroke.

Surfing: This means riding a wave; there may be different or additional terms, depending on the type of wave or the direction of travel.

Understanding Whitewater Rafting River Classifications

Rivers, or sections of rivers, are classified into six different levels of difficulty to help whitewater rafters choose the right rapids for their skill level. From smooth, easy waters to the most dangerous rapids in the world, the classification levels cover all types of water.

How Classifications Work

The six classes, from Easy to Extreme, can be described in general terms, but even within each class, there is variation. A Class III rapid, for instance, may be on the easy side or on the more difficult side of the level. An easier Class III may be called a III-, while a harder one, bordering on Class IV, might be termed a III+. Some rafters may simply refer to them as an easy Class III or a difficult Class III. The same system is used for Class IV rapids, while Class II has only a II+ designation. At the Class V level, the distinctions become more granular; rapids are referred to as 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, and so on in that manner, allowing for the more complex nature of these very advanced rivers.

Each classification is described by the speed and predictability of the water, and the type of obstacles that exist in that section of the river. The higher the classification, the more skill is needed to safely navigate it.

  • Class I: Easy. The easiest to navigate for beginners, Class I rapids may have a swift current but move smoothly with few obstructions. These waters are easy to swim so self-rescue is almost always possible.
  • Class II: Novice. Expect easy-to-handle rapids that can be managed by most beginning rafters with some experience. These are fast-moving waters with obstructions that can be easily spotted and avoided, and swimmers can usually self-rescue with occasional assistance. Channels are wide and clear.
  • Class III: Intermediate. In this level of rapid, rafters can expect many obstructions, some of which are difficult to maneuver. Medium waves and occasionally large ones are seen; strainers, eddies, and strong currents are common. This type of rapid is best for rafters with a good deal of experience. Strong swimmers can usually self-rescue, but assistance is needed more frequently and the danger to swimmers is higher. Ranges from Class III- to Class III+
  • Class IV: Advanced. This level of rapid features very powerful waters, multiple obstructions, narrow channels, and a greater danger to swimmers. The water is very powerful and currents very strong. Fast and experienced maneuvering is required to safely navigate these waters. Group rescues are usually required for swimmers, and these rapids are not recommended for weak swimmers or groups without rescue experience. Ranges from Class IV- to Class IV+.
  • Class V: Expert. Rapids in the Class V level have an open classification system that uses decimal points. A 5.0 is the base level of this grade of rapids, and it goes up by 0.1 as difficulty increases. Class V rapids are recommended only for the strongest and most experienced rafters, and there is a great deal of danger to swimmers in these waters. These rapids can be very intense and go for long stretches, requiring a great deal of physical fitness and skill to navigate safely. Large waves, long drops, holes, and congested chutes are all common obstructions in a Class V rapid.
  • Class VI: Extreme/Exploratory. The most dangerous rapids in the world, Class VI rapids are not often attempted and often difficult to scout, making them unknown and unpredictable. Rescue in this type of rapid is extremely difficult. Only the most skilled rafters attempt these rapids, and even then, the danger is high. A Class VI rapid may be downgraded into a Class V level once it has been explored and successfully navigated several times.

Whitewater Kayaking 101

Whitewater kayaking is a thrilling activity that also comes with an element of danger – and that’s part of the thrill. If you approach it right and make sure you’re ready to ride the rapids on your kayak, it can be both safe and fun. Getting started with whitewater kayaking means making sure you have the ability, the equipment, and the knowledge to take on the water.

Physical Fitness

Whitewater kayaking is physically demanding, so it’s important that you’re in the best possible physical shape before you set out. There are levels of whitewater – from easy to incredibly difficult, and the rougher the water the more strength and endurance you will need to get through. If you have medical problems that could pose a problem during this kind of activity, check with your doctor.

Swimming is also an important part of whitewater kayaking. Even the best kayakers can land in the water sometimes, so it’s important that your swimming skills are up to the task. Whitewater is difficult for even strong swimmers.

Preparing for the Water: Understanding Classifications

Whitewater is classified by the level of difficulty and danger involved. For those who are coming from kayaking lakes and wide smooth rivers, it’s important to understand the difference.

Whitewater is categorized by classes: I (easy), II (novice), III (intermediate), IV (advanced), V (expert), and VI (extreme/exploratory). Those new to whitewater rafting usually start with Class I and II rapids as they learn the basics of maneuvering through fast-moving water and around obstructions.

Class III and Class IV rapids involve much more turbulent water, and there are levels within each of these classifications. It’s important to know what kind of water you will face before getting in the river, and make certain it’s within your abilities to handle safely.

It’s important to take your time becoming comfortable with each level of rapids before moving on to the next level. It takes multiple trips to learn how to maneuver through obstructions safely.

The Right Equipment

Whitewater rafting is only as safe as your skills and your equipment. Even if you have a kayak already, a whitewater kayak is different from those used on flat water or a sea kayak. Early on, you may use rented equipment, or it may be provided when you take classes or group tours, but eventually you’ll want your own whitewater kayak.

Whitewater kayaks are generally shorter than other kayaks, a maximum of 10 feet in length, and they have a tighter cockpit to help keep the rider inside the boat in rough water. The bottom is rounded, and the ends turned up to allow easy navigation through obstacles.

Safety equipment is also an important part of whitewater kayaking. Basic safety gear includes a personal flotation device and a proper helmet to protect kayakers from a fall into the water. Most whitewater kayakers will use flotation bags to prevent too much water from entering the kayak and to keep it afloat and riding high in the water. Spray skirts are also an important piece of equipment to keep water out of the seat of the kayak.

Gearing up properly before you attempt a run on the river will make sure you stay safe and enjoy the water.