by VICTORIA HENLEY
Located in the viscerally breathtaking, naturally beautiful landscape of Hartford, Tenn. (near the bustling cities of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg), Smoky Mountain River Rat Whitewater Rafting has built a solid foundation and reputation as being one of the top river adventure companies in east Tennessee.
Placing a concerted focus upon guest safety and customer satisfaction, River Rat tubing hires only the best tour guides, who they put through a rigorous and highly intensive training program to ensure an optimal rafting experience for all visitors.
Stationed at the foothills of the great Smoky Mountains, the River Rat Whitewater Rafting outpost is the first stop on your exhilarating trip down the legendary Pigeon River.
Upon arrival, guests are given a compressive, in-depth safety briefing by the knowledgeable and personable guides before grabbing life jackets, helmets, paddles, and other essentials prior to boarding the shuttle bus.
Throughout the duration of the approximately 15-minute shuttle ride to our rafting destination, senior guide, Chris “Ewok” Carswell (as seen on the popular reality TV series “Moonshiners and Appalachian Outlaws,” on Discovery and History Channels) showcased his larger-than-life personality as he told several bombastic tales of mischief and mayhem among the other raft guides.
The tall tales were all performed in a jesting tongue-in-cheek manner, making a bus ride that would have been otherwise anticlimactic great fun.
We were lucky to have been assigned one of the company’s most seasoned guides, “Ewok,” with over 27 years of rafting experience around the world, as the leader of our tour, and after one final quick safety briefing, we were led into the cool refreshing waters toward the great adventure that lay ahead.
Ewok’s expert guidance allowed us to smoothly navigate the tumultuous push and pull of the river’s waters, and he entertained us with fun facts, quips, and anecdotes about the world of rafting, his intriguing forays within the realm of moonshine distilling, as well as his unorthodox experience in the world of reality television stardom.
Consistently present and focused, Ewok navigated the nearly two-hour tour, allowing us to “surf” (a method in which we “parked” our raft at the base of a rock and allowed the rushing waters to waft over us), and he also taught me how to “Ride The Bull” (a very fun practice during which a sandbag is clipped to the front of the raft, and the guest perches at the nose of the raft, holding one hand in the air while “riding” over the bouncing waves, very much like the sensation of riding a mechanical bull.)
An excursion with Smoky Mountain River Rat Rafting Tours is the quintessential way to experience the bountiful flora and fauna of east Tennessee, and we were fortunate to experience sightings of hawks, herons, egrets, and many different types of aquatic life, not the mention the gorgeous mountainous landscape, which surrounded us at every turn.
*Special thanks to the amazing Bri for setting up our visit for this spotlight feature!
PHONE NUMBER: (865) 448-8888