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Press Releases

From new venues, seasonal openings, events, awards, and more! Browse through our announcements and press releases to see what’s new from the Leaders in Outdoor Adventure.


September 22, 2022

Supporting Diversity in the Outdoors: Nantahala Outdoor Center Partners with The Wesser Foundation to Launch Guide Scholarship

Bryson City, N.C. (September 20, 2022)— Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) is proud to partner with The Wesser Foundation Inc. to launch the Founders Scholarship, for the purpose of creating opportunities for those with limited resources to begin a career in whitewater. The scholarship is open for applicants for the 2023 season and will cover the cost of Guide School training, equipment, housing, and meal plans.

NOC, the Leaders in Outdoor Adventure Since 1972, has taught more guides than anyone in the industry. Elite river guide instructors offer hands-on experience teaching river reading, guide paddle strokes and communication, river safety and rescue, boat features and rigging, and more. Students come away from the experience with self-confidence, leadership skills, teamwork, and environmental knowledge.

“NOC has been teaching and training river guides for over fifty years,” said Kristin Kastelic, NOC Marketing Director. “With this scholarship, we hope to open up the opportunity for more careers in whitewater and a connection to the outdoors, to even more people that might not have the resources to take the leap.”

The Wesser Foundation was established by Jess Austin, who met the same challenges early in his career. Austin had to forego becoming a river guide in his twenties as he pursued law school. Now retired, he finally made his dream come true and works at NOC as a river guide, taking families down the Nantahala River every Spring through the Fall.

“My wife and I established the Founders Scholarship as a way of removing systemic barriers for anyone attempting to access a career in the outdoors,” said Jess Austin, President of the Wesser Foundation, NOC Lead River Guide, and the visionary behind the scholarship. “As someone who had to put aside outdoor aspirations due to financial barriers, I’m inspired to remove limitations and help more folks gain access to careers and training in the outdoors.”

Chosen scholarship recipients will attend NOC’s renowned Guide School, where participants spend five days in the field training with experienced instructors. Along with learning guide skills, chosen recipients will also be outfitted with the essential river gear and equipment, take first aid and CPR training and certifications, and receive complimentary staff housing and meals while employed at Nantahala Outdoor Center during the River Guide season.

Those interested in the Founders Scholarship are encouraged to apply at noc.com/about/founders-scholarship. The selection and interview process for the scholarships will begin in the winter of 2022-2023 and be announced in the spring.

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March 4, 2022

Nantahala Outdoor Center Celebrates 50 Years of Adventure

Bryson City, N.C. (March 3, 2022)— Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), the Leaders in Outdoor Adventure since 1972, is kicking off its 50th anniversary this spring 2022. The founders — Horace Holden Sr., Payson and Aurelia Kennedy — created the organization with the idea that friends working together to pursue their outdoor passions could change lives. Originally getting its start as just a small motel and gas station along the Nantahala River in Bryson City, NOC has grown to multiple locations across four Southeastern states and guided millions of guests down the river.

NOC’s initial niche of whitewater rafting trips has expanded to over 120 land and river-based activities, including kayaking, ziplining, mountain biking, hiking, canoeing, tubing and international trips. The 500-acre main campus in Bryson City hosts the renowned Paddling School, SOLO Wilderness Medicine courses, restaurants and lodging, also serving as a respite for thru hikers along the Appalachian Trail. A home for professional adventurers as well as novices, the campus is one of the nation’s premier training sites for elite whitewater athletes, including 23 Olympians and two gold medalists.

Horace Holden Sr., who purchased the property on the Nantahala, brought Aurelia and Payson Kennedy on board 50 years ago to help him mold NOC into what it is today. Now the last remaining founder, Payson Kennedy is proud to celebrate five decades since guiding the first commercial whitewater trips in the region. His incredible legacy includes pioneering rafting and kayaking on the most iconic rivers in the Southeast, filming as a stunt double on the Chattooga River in the film Deliverance, hosting Olympic athletes and races, and so much more. Payson’s daughter Cathy Kennedy has been a part of the NOC family since she was 16 years old, and she still guides rafting trips down the Nantahala River and works in various departments across the company. The family’s legacy exemplifies NOC’s commitment to tradition and fostering relationships that continue to grow and strengthen throughout the years.

“Fifty years ago, Horace, Relia and I envisioned a community where a group of friends who loved sharing outdoor adventures together could enjoy those activities more frequently while providing support and instruction to others to make it safe and easy for them to do the same,” said NOC co-founder Payson Kennedy. “We were surprised and pleased at the number of highly capable people who chose to join us in this endeavor, and by the enthusiasm of the guests who participated. This venture, now widely known as ‘the NOC,’ grew beyond our wildest expectations. My hope is that over the next fifty years even more people will learn to enjoy outdoor adventures with our help.”

In celebration of this important milestone, NOC will be hosting events, giveaways, storytelling, interviews and more throughout the year. To keep tabs on events and more, visit NOC’s 50 Years here. Media can find supporting photos and information at www.noc.com/50-years-press-kit/.

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September 9, 2021

NOC Announces New International Adventures Program for 2022


Bryson City, N.C. (Sept. 9, 2021)— Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), the Leaders in Outdoor Adventure since 1972, announced today the launch of its new international adventure travel tours beginning spring 2022 in celebration of its 50th anniversary season. Starting now, outdoor enthusiasts can plan trips abroad, including activities that NOC is well known for and more, in countries all over the world.

NOC will kick off its international travel program in 2022 with 12 trips that offer varying itineraries available for ages six and up with activities ranging in skill level from beginner to expert. The all-inclusive excursions are fully planned and led by experienced guides and include everything from the adventure and gear to the lodging and meals, with the exception of flights. Due to partnerships with local guides and hosts in each region, these trips offer intimate and authentic experiences with smaller groups, off-the-beaten-path excursions and unique accommodations. This makes for an accessible approach to adventure travel, where guests can confidently navigate and experience some of the most beautiful places on Earth without feeling like a tourist.

With NOC’s 50 years of adventure experience, trips have options including multi-sport itineraries and a range of specific adventure activities, like whitewater rafting, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, paragliding and horseback riding. Non-adventure activities include unique cultural experiences, bear viewings, safaris, wine tastings and farm to table meals.

To book an NOC international adventure trip and learn more, visit noc.com/international.

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May 13, 2021

Nantahala Outdoor Center Reopens Adventures with Expanded Offerings

The Outfitter Welcomes Guests Back with New Venues, Courses, and Events for the 2021 Season

Bryson City, N.C. (May 13, 2021)— Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), the Leaders in Outdoor Adventure, has opened for its 50th season with river and aerial adventures along with new food and beverage venues, and courses on their 500-acre Bryson City campus. The full range of land and water activities include guided whitewater rafting, ducky and raft rentals, mountain top zip line tours, mountain biking, and multiple ropes courses for patrons. The Outfitter has also opened their other outpost locations for trips on the French Broad, Chattooga, Ocoee, Pigeon, and Chattahoochee Rivers seeing exponentially increasing demand. Read more by downloading the full release.

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May 5, 2021

NOC Announces Colin McBeath as New Company President

Bryson City, N.C. (May 5, 2021)— Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), the Southeast’s Leader in Outdoor Adventure announced that Colin McBeath has been named the new company President.

McBeath has over 20 years of service in the hospitality and activity/recreation industry worldwide. He is a career hospitality executive with experience in the United States, as well as Canada and Asia managing luxury properties, airlines, hotel chains, and resorts.

McBeath most recently served as the CEO of the Grand Canyon Resort Corporation in Arizona, hosting 1.3 million visitors annually worldwide. While there he managed a large rafting operation on the Colorado River, zip line courses, land-based adventures, retail department, lodging, and 12 Food and beverage locations throughout resort.

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March 22, 2021

Nantahala Outdoor Center Announces Relia’s Lost Kitchen Pop-Up Dinner Series

Bryson City, N.C. (March 22, 2021)— Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) will host a series of exclusive pop-up dinner events from May through October 2021 at their Bryson City location where the original Relia’s Garden Restaurant served patrons for many years. Relia’s Lost Kitchen will feature multiple course dinners with pairings from renowned wine and bourbon producers, as well as local craft mead and beer makers.

The first of the series kicks off on May 22 with a five-course dinner paired with the Orin Swift Cellars portfolio of wines from California. Doors open at 6:00PM with the dinner beginning at 6:30PM.

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July 1, 2020

Roswell City Parks Welcome New Riverside Outdoor Adventure Business

Atlanta, GA — Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), one of the nation’s largest outdoor outfitters, will open the doors to its newest location in Roswell, GA beginning June 20th, 2020. A small, RSVP-only “first launch” will be held Wednesday June 24th with VIPs, local officials and media representatives. The opening of river and land based activities within the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area marks the 8th adventure operation for the outfitter across the Southeast and the second expansion within the greater Atlanta, GA market.

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April 1, 2020

Nantahala Outdoor Center, Corporate Partners, Establish Coronavirus Employee Relief Fund

Bryson City, NC — Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) announced the creation of an Employee Relief Fund to address immediate and critical employee hardship caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Working in partnership with Coca-Cola Consolidated (Coke), the NOC Employee Relief Fund is a combination of Nantahala Outdoor Center funding, corporate partner sponsorship and elective employee donations.

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February 1, 2020

Nantahala Outdoor Center Announces Spring 2020 Events

Bryson City, NC — Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) has released its 2020 Spring Event series, including classics like the Merrell Adventure Dash and Spring Fling as well as special events such as the ICF Wildwater World Championships and the Woman’s Paddlefest. Join NOC this spring for family-friendly outdoor-oriented events in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

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January 1, 2020

Nantahala Outdoor Center Selected as Roswell Riverside Concessionaire

Atlanta, GA — Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) will be opening a new location in Roswell, Georgia in Spring 2020, bringing a new approach to community-based outdoor activities, rentals, and education along the Chattahoochee River. The concession, awarded by the City of Roswell Parks & Recreation Department and approved by Roswell City Council on January 13th, 2020, will be located at Azalea Park and Don White Memorial Park along the Chattahoochee River corridor.

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