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Friday, May 11, 2018

Pigeon River rafting underway
Members of the Pigeon River Permittees Association on Thursday met in Waterville with officials of Duke Energy and the staff of Cocke County Clerk Jan Brockwell to talk about the upcoming whitewater rafting season on the Pigeon River. Currently whitewater for rafting is guaranteed for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 2 till 6 pm. But come Memorial Day, Saturday will be added as a release day and the rafting hours will be expanded, from noon till 6 pm. According to Brockwell's office, nearly 170,000 paid customers rafted the river during the 2017 season. But Daniel Sutton, owner of Big Bear Rafting and President of the permittees organization, says the industry has room to grow. "We can always take more people. The previous year we had 30,000 more customers and I think we can handle up to 220,000 to 250,000 rafters," Sutton said. He adds that the Pigeon River is one of the most beautiful rivers in the country. The 12 rafting companies offer two stretches of water for rafters; the upper section offers Class 3 and 4 rapids, while the lower section offers more scenic, calmer Class 1 and 2 rapids for those aged three and older. "Our river is in the 'goldilocks zone', and we can accommodate rafters aged three to 103. It's not boring but also not too crazy. So if you are scared of rafting but want to give it a try, the Pigeon River is perfect for you and your family," says Sutton. Each section is about five miles in length and take about two hours to raft. He said the Hartford venue could use a wastewater system to accommodate the growing number of visitors. Such an operation is currently under discussion. Each rafting customer pays a $2.00 fee which goes to Cocke County. Since rafting began in 1995, Brockwell says that fee has brought $5,326,000 into county coffers. And the industry pumps millions into the local economy annually.


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