History of NOC

1971
1971

1971

1971

NOC founder, Payson Kennedy, plays a stunt double in the Academy Award winning film “Deliverance”. Whitewater rafting surges in popularity.

1972
1972

1972

Early NOC

Nantahala Outdoor Center is founded by Payson & Aurelia Kennedy, and Horace Holden Sr. Whitewater rafting trips are offered on the Nantahala and Chattooga Rivers.

1974
1974

1974

1974

The Chattooga River earns its designation as a Wild and Scenic River by Congress, forever protecting it for future generations.

1976
1976

1976

NOC launches its first Adventure Travel trip on the Usumacinta river in Guatemala and Mexico.

1978
1978

1978

1978

NOC opens its third whitewater operation at the Ocoee River in Tennessee.

1982
1982

1982

1982

The French Broad River in North Carolina, and the Nolichucky River in Tennessee are added as the fourth and fifth whitewater outposts.
That same year, NOC’s inaugural Guest Appreciation Festival (GAF) takes place, offering sales, paddling events, live music, and family activities.

1983
1983

1983

1983

Inflatable kayaks, or “duckies”,  are introduced on the Nantahala as rental options.

Slow Joe’s Cafe (now Big Wesser Riverside Pub) opens with outdoor and riverside dining.

1985
1985

1985

1985

Basecamp, NOC’s hostel-style lodging, opens for AT hikers, families, and groups seeking an affordable home-base for adventure.

1989
1989

1989

The non-profit Nantahala Racing Club (NRC) is organized under sponsorship of NOC with a mission to engage youth and families in whitewater activities.

1990
1990

1990

Nantahala ’90, an international peace rally and competition, is held at NOC. The competitions are held on the Nantahala, Chattooga, and Nolichucky Rivers.

1992
1992

1992

NOC paddlers Joe Jacobi and Scott Strausbaugh win Gold Medals in C2 during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.

1994
1994

1994

1994

The Outfitter’s Store and Bike Shop at NOC opens. The structures were designed by former NOC river guide, Chris Larsen.

1994

1995

1995

The Alpine Tower is constructed as a place for team-building activities on a specialized challenge course.

1996
1996

1996

The Whitewater Slalom event for the 1996 Olympic Games is held at the Ocoee River. Four NRC members make the Olympic team.

The iconic Founder’s Bridge and a renovated River’s End Restaurant open.

1999
1999

1999

Pigeon River rafting operations launch outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This marks the sixth location where NOC conducts rafting trips.

2005
2005

2005

2005

Founder Payson Kennedy is inducted into the International Whitewater Hall of Fame.

2009
2009

2009

2009

The 18,000 square-foot flagship store, NOC Gatlinburg, opens at the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, providing adventurers with gear, gifts, and guidance.

2012
2012

2012

Another NOC retail location opens in Asheville’s Grove Park Inn Resort.

The leading trade association of the outdoor recreation industry, OIA, honors NOC with the Outdoor Inspiration Award.

2013
2013

2013

Guest on zip line on the Mountaintop Zip Line Tour

NOC’s Mountaintop Zip Line Tour opens with 2 miles of zip lines, including a half-mile “Mega Zip” 350 feet above the forest floor.

2015
2015

2015

2015

Chattahoochee River outposts in Atlanta, Georgia open, bringing outdoor adventure to the heart of a major metropolitan area.

2016
2016

2016

NOC guides its 5 millionth guest on a whitewater rafting trip down the Nantahala River.

2021
2021

2021

2021

Evy Leibfarth, a Bryson City native and NOC sponsored athlete, competes in canoe and kayak slalom at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

2021

2022

Kayaking in Argentina

International Adventures launch with multi-sport trips in destinations such as British Columbia, Patagonia, Zambezi River Basin, and Southern Iceland.

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