Fall foliage with a blue overlay

Our Story

Nantahala Outdoor Center, founded in 1972 by Payson & Aurelia Kennedy, and Horace Holden Sr, originated as a small motel and gas station along the Nantahala River in Bryson City, NC. NOC was the outgrowth of an idea that friends working together to pursue their outdoor passions could change lives. Nearly 50 years later NOC is proud to be one of the nation’s largest outdoor recreation companies, with over 120 land and river-based itineraries spanning ten distinct locations across four southeastern states. 

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

NOC’s growth and legacy can be attributed to the dedicated community of outdoor adventure enthusiasts who laid the foundation for the thriving outfitter it is today. NOC’s locations have long been a meeting place for families and friends, a practice spot for Olympic athletes and aspiring paddlers, a respite for hikers along the Appalachian Trail, and home to decades of alumni and staff. Guests return year after year, often bringing friends, grandchildren and loved ones, to embark on quality adventures with highly trained staff, whether it be rafting, zip lining, mountain biking, hiking, a paddling course, or stopping for a riverside meal.

Rapids on the Nantahala River Rafting: Guided Duck Trip

Competition & Excellence

Nantahala Outdoor Center’s main campus is one of the nation’s most active paddle sports event venues; hosting the 2013 International Canoe Federation Canoe Freestyle World Championships, annually welcoming the nation’s oldest whitewater slalom race, countless club outings, and a variety of other races and events for top-level athletes, competitive hopefuls, developing young stars and weekend warriors. 23 Olympians, including two gold medalists, have called NOC home. Beginning in the early years when the NOC’s contribution to paddling technique and instruction reverberated around the world – and continuing through today, the spirit of competition and excellence has long been a part of the culture surrounding NOC.

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

Connecting People & Places 

Since 1972 Guides at NOC have connected almost seven million guests through memorable outdoor experiences, exploring the rivers and mountains across the Southeast and beyond. NOC Guides continue to represent the best of the outdoors and hospitality in professionalism, experience, and personal accomplishments. Fueled by a rich legacy and motivated to be the best in the industry, NOC Guides are renowned for connecting guests to the natural world through fun, engaging and authentic interactions, on and off the river.

Guest on zip line on the Mountaintop Zip Line Tour

Champions & Accolades

Recognized by various media including Good Morning America, The New York Times, Outside Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Men’s Journal and more, the Nantahala Outdoor Center continues to work every day to be the Leader’s in Outdoor Adventure. Whether you are just passing through, browsing in one of our stores, embarking on an exciting adventure, or taking a course with us, we hope to inspire a sense of adventure, learning, and love for the outdoors.

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