The rafts on the Ocoee River that commercial outfitters utilize must deliver a safe and enjoyable whitewater experience. Rafts are usually constructed with durable fabric coated with urethane, hypalon, chlorosulfonated polyethylene (CP), or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). They also feature at least three and often four air chambers to ensure that they remain buoyant even if one is punctured. The rafts have a number of features to help ensure the safety and comfort of the riders. Such as foot cups for those up front. And chicken strap to aid in re-entry to the raft from a swim. Rafts come in a variety of sizes differ between different rivers. Other rivers will likely have different standards for boats than the Ocoee.
Whitewater paddle rafts on the Ocoee River typically have a capacity for eight people. However most outfitters will load them with four to six guests plus a guide. These rafts consist of tubes, thwarts, and a self-bailing floor. The tube running around the perimeter of the raft typically contains four air chambers. Thwarts or cross members in the raft are not seats but rather help the raft maintain its shape and not taco sideways and flip. It is critical thwarts are fully inflated for best results.
The self-bailing floor is inflatable and has drain holes along the perimeter near where the floor attaches to the outer tube. Because the floor floats water will run out of the drain holes following gravity. This no bailing is required like in the old days. However if the load is excessive the raft may not drain completely. Rafts will take on water while surfing but will rain in a matter of seconds after exiting the hole.
Along the outside of the raft there are handles to make carrying the raft easier. Additionally there is a chicken strap running through D-rings on the outside of the raft. This strap is for getting back into the raft after falling out. Guides also use the strap when the raft flips to get on top and right the raft.
We use the latest style rafts and models from NRS made with tough CP. The rafts of choice are 13’6″ feet long with 20″ tubes and a 6’6″ width. This makes the raft super stable like a 14′ raft but play like a 13’raft. While a 30″ rocker helps it ride over waves. Our rafts are well maintained and fun on the river. Learn more about rafting and the questions people often ask on our rafting questions page.
Tennessee Department of Conservation sets minimum standards the rafts used commercially on the Ocoee River in chapter 0400-02-10.