Fall foliage with a blue overlay

Our Story

Established in 1972 by Payson & Aurelia Kennedy and Horace Holden Sr., Nantahala Outdoor Center started out as a modest motel and petrol store situated by the Nantahala River in Bryson City, North Carolina. The concept that friends may transform lives by banding together to follow their outdoor loves gave rise to NOC. After almost 50 years in business, NOC is happy to rank among the biggest outdoor recreation organizations in the country, offering over 120 land- and river-based itineraries in ten different locales throughout four states in the Southeast.

About Us

Join NOC on a wide range of outdoor adventures for any ability level, explore new outdoor skills with our renowned Paddling and SOLO Southeast training schools, access the best in adventure gear at three retail stores, or visit our world-famous Nantahala location — offering adventure, retail, riverside dining, events, and lodging options for your next adventure.

Group of NOC guests holding kayaks

A Gathering Place

The committed group of outdoor adventure enthusiasts that established the groundwork for NOC’s current success is responsible for its expansion and legacy. For many years, NOC’s locations have served as gathering places for friends and family, training grounds for aspiring Olympic paddlers and athletes, a rest stop for Appalachian Trail walkers, and the residence of several alumni and staff members. Whether it’s for rafting, zip lining, mountain biking, hiking, a paddling course, or pausing for a dinner by the river, guests come back year after year, frequently bringing friends, grandkids, and loved ones along for the experience.

Rapids on the Nantahala River Rafting: Guided Duck Trip

Competition & Excellence

The main campus of Nantahala Outdoor Center is one of the busiest paddle sports event locations in the country, playing host to the 2013 International Canoe Federation Canoe Freestyle World Championships, the oldest whitewater slalom race in the country, numerous club outings, and a plethora of other races and events for weekend warriors, competitive hopefuls, and elite athletes. NOC has been the home of 23 Olympians, including two gold medalists. The NOC has always been associated with a spirit of competitiveness and quality, dating back to its early years when its contributions to paddling technique and instruction had a global impact and continues to this day.

Staff teaching guests safety tips on the Nantahala River Rafting: Guided Duck Trip

Connecting People & Places 

Since 1972, guides at NOC have forged lifelong connections with nearly seven million visitors by taking them on unforgettable outdoor adventures across the Southeast’s rivers and mountains, among other places. NOC Guides uphold the highest standards of professionalism, expertise, and individual achievements in the outdoor industry and hospitality. NOC Guides are known for bringing visitors and the natural world together via enjoyable, interesting, and genuine encounters, both on and off the river. They are driven to be the best in the business by a strong heritage.

Guest on zip line on the Mountaintop Zip Line Tour

Champions & Accolades

Acknowledged by numerous media outlets such as The New York Times, Good Morning America, Outside Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Men’s Journal, and others, the Nantahala Outdoor Center persistently strives to maintain its position as the Leader in Outdoor Adventure. We aim to instill a spirit of adventure, learning, and passion for the outdoors whether you are just stopping by, perusing through one of our stores, going on an amazing expedition, or enrolling in a course with us.

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