With Summer coming to a close Labor Day weekend with its annual gear sale and free live music, the Nantahala Outdoor Center’s second best season is right around the corner. Over a million guests visit NOC annually to participate in more than 120 different river and land-based itineraries and learn to kayak at NOC’s world-renowned Paddling School.
In addition to rafting and zip lining through canopy colors that change almost daily offered through the last weekend of October, the highlights of NOC’s September and October activity lineup are robust. Here’s a sneak peak:
Tsali Challenge Triathlon: September 17
The Smokies’ version of an outdoor triathlon features a 3-mile lake paddle on Lake Fontana, a 13-mile mountain bike ride on Tsali’s Mouse Branch and Thompson loops and a 5-mile trail run on Tsali’s Right Loop; these trail and paddling events replace the traditional triathlon trio of swim, bike ride and road run. Participants can race individually and tackle all three legs, or they can form a team of three and focus on one of the three sports. And best of all, the event supports MedicForce—a locally-run non-profit that establishes sustainable first-aid services in small communities around the world.
Guest Appreciation Festival (GAF): September 23-25
This is it: the Southeast’s most venerable gear festival and outdoor lifestyle celebration. The riverside festival is traditionally anchored by NOC’s Used Gear Sale, where NOC’s large rafting, kayaking and rentals businesses sell off the season’s equipment—providing the best prices of the year on specialty outdoor equipment like boats and bikes. Over the years GAF has grown to include deep sales on new gear in the Outfitter’s Store, a used-gear marketplace where guests can buy gear from other guests, free shuttles for beginner to advanced-level paddling on the Nantahala, Upper Nantahala and Nantahala Cascades, open competitions and races, free live music, entertainment and kids events. It’s fun, busy and a great way to spend one of the last warm weekends of the year.
Ocoee River Week: September 24 to October 2
Every year the Tennessee Valley Authority draws Lake Blue Ridge down for winter dam maintenance and flood control, resulting in a week of whitewater downstream on the Middle Ocoee. This is a great opportunity to paddle the Ocoee with very limited commercial traffic. It’s also the perfect way to fine tune paddling skills with great water, cooler temperatures and autumn scenery. NOC’s renowned Paddling School will be offering a Class III River Kayaking Course to help paddlers seize this opportunity on the nation’s most popular stretch of whitewater rapids.
Whitewater Slalom Nationals: October 7-9
Witness the crowning of US national champions in all canoe slalom disciplines! Expect to see Rio 2016 athletes like Ashley Nee, Devin McEwan and Olympic C-1 finalist Case Eichfeld battle it out on the Nantahala—the best venue for watching a race and then actually participating in an outdoor adventure. Believe it or not, the road to Tokyo 2020 starts here, and the young paddlers may be the ones to watch.
NOCtoberfest: October 22
Anchored by the Great Pumpkin Toss—where NOC tosses hundreds of numbered pumpkins into Nantahala Falls for a free-for-all dash to collect as many as possible—NOCtoberfest is our official end-of-season party. Free kids’ events, costume contests and live riverside music round out the day. As fun to watch as to do, this five minute, pumpkin tossing burst of action and the following raffle to distribute prizes give the river community one more celebration.
A privately-held company, NOC is one of the largest employers in Western North Carolina and 22 Olympians have called NOC home. NOC was recently recognized by The New York Times as the “Nation’s Premiere Paddling School,” “The Best Place to Learn” by Outside, and as “One of the Best Outfitters on Earth” by National Geographic Adventure.
For details and information on NOC’s fall events, visit noc.com/events .