Rafting on the Ocoee River brings millions in revenue for Polk County
The Ocoee River in Polk County is the most rafted river in the country.
Channel 3 got an inside look on why it's such a popular destination.
Hundreds of people are rafting down the Ocoee River daily. By the end of each rafting season in October, over 180,000 people have gone down it. The rafting industry is a huge part of Polk County's revenue.
"In Polk County, where this is our largest industry this carries the county this is what brings the tax dollars to the county," said Ryan Cooke.
On average, Cooke the owner of Ocoee Inn Rafting and President of the Outfitters Association, brings in about 5,000 dollars a day in the summer. To keep up with the volume he has to employ a lot of guides.
"So in the rafting season at Ocoee Inn Rafting we employ about 50 guides," said Cooke.
While rafters are enjoying the gorgeous views, they also have to multitask, listening to an experienced raft guide giving commands.
"With a trained guide, with proper safety and proper gear it is safe to raft on the Ocoee River," said Cooke.
Cooke wants to make sure people know everyone is welcome on the river.
"We take people from hemophiliacs to quadriplegic people to grandma and grandpa that are 80/90 years old," said Cooke.
Commissioner David Salyers with the Tennessee Department of Environmental Conservation is with one of three groups the outfitters on the Ocoee River have to work with. He said protecting these parks is incredibly important.
"We play a huge role in preserving and protecting and enhancing these beautiful natural resources that we have," said Salyers.
They're not only preserving the river and the forest around it, but the experience the river provides.
"There's a partnership with the TVA, the local community, the outfitters, the US Forestry Service on basically managing the water to promote the activities of the outfitters," said Salyers.
If you plan on going down the river, just make sure you bring a change of clothes.