20th Anniversary of 1996 Summer Olympics

July 19, 2016 marks the 20 year anniversary of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games held in

Atlanta, Georgia. The 1996 Olympics hold a special place in our hearts here at Rolling Thunder because one of our most popular rafting destinations – The Ocoee River – got to spend some much-deserved time in the spotlight.

1996 Summer Olympic Games on the Ocoee River

Image Source: John Anderson

Image Source: John Anderson

The Ocoee River was chosen as the site for the canoe course during the 1996 Olympics. It is the only in-river course to ever be used for an Olympic slalom competition.

To create the necessary drops and eddies for the slalom course, a 1,640 foot section of the Upper Ocoee River was narrowed by two-thirds. Levees were built along the shore and covered with natural rock. The Ocoee is a dam-controlled river, and during the Olympics, water was released at a rate of 1,400 cu ft/s.

The Ocoee River hosted a total of 16 events. The events included slalom canoeing and sprint canoeing, and there were four events for women and 12 for men.

The Ocoee TodayOcoee River

Twenty years after the close of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the Ocoee River remains a popular travel destination for whitewater enthusiasts. What was once one of the best kept secrets in the Southeast has now been named the one of the best whitewater rafting destination in the entire United States. Hundreds of thousands of eager adventurers visit the Ocoee River each year and leave with memories that last a lifetime.

The Ocoee is still a dam-controlled river, and it is broken up into the upper and middle sections. Water is released in the upper second on selected weekends during the summer while the middle has water every weekend during the summer months. With the longest continuous stretch of class III and IV rapids in the US, the Ocoee River provides incredible adventures even 20 years after the close of the Olympic Games.

Experience the Ocoee

You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to experience the Ocoee River. At Rolling Thunder River Company, we offer exhilarating guided Ocoee river rafting trips throughout the summer rafting season. Experience the thrill of rafting down a world famous river. Whether you’re new to rafting or you’re a whitewater expert, the Ocoee River is a destination that no rafter should miss!

What You Need to Know About River Classifications

The Southeast provides some amazing spots for whitewater rafting. The Ocoee River and the Nantahala River offer some of the best adventures in the United States, and they are definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for an exciting adventure.

While planning your trip, you’ve probably noticed the classifications for rivers and rapids, but do you really know what these numbers mean?

We’ve put together this little guide to help you determine which rivers are best for you based upon your skill level and experience.

Rivers for BeginnersRiver Classifications

If you’re totally new to whitewater rafting, you’ll want to look for a river with a lower classification. Class I and II rapids are your safest best if you’ve never been on the water before.

On a class I river, you can expect fast-moving water and small waves. Any obstacles in the water are easy to spot and avoid.

Slightly larger waves make class II rapids a bit more exciting, and you might need to maneuver around some rocks in the water.

With primarily class I and II with a single class III rapid at the end, the Nantahala River is perfect for newbies and kids who are over the age of 7 or weigh at least 60 pounds.

Intermediate Rivers

Intermediate rivers are best for those who have experienced a bit of rafting before or for adventurous beginners who will be hitting the water with a guide. Rivers with class III and IV rapids fall into the intermediate category. Class III rapids have stronger currents and irregular waves that may be difficult to dodge, and class IV rapids have large waves and require precise boat maneuvering.

The Ocoee River, home of the 1996 Olympic whitewater events, features the most continuous stretch of class III and IV rapids of any US river, and it is a popular destination that provides thrills for intermediate and experienced rafters alike.

Rafting for Experts

Only experienced, expert rafters should attempt class V rapids. With the proper knowledge and skills, rivers with class V rapids can be extremely dangerous, and you should never put your safety at risk for the sake of an adrenaline rush.

Ready for your next adventure? What are you waiting for? At Rolling Thunder River Company, we offer amazing adventures for rafters of all skill levels, and we would love to help you experience the adventure of a lifetime!

Rafting FAQs

Planning a whitewater rafting trip? If so, you probably have some questions. At Rolling Thunder River Company, we’re always here to answer any questions you may, but we also wanted to provide you with this guide which answers some of our guest’s most common questions.

Rafting FAQs

How do I choose the right trip?

When planning your trip, there are a few things to consider:

  • Location
  • Length of trip
  • Difficulty level
  • Age range of your group

Our Nantahala River rafting trips in western North Carolina are perfect for adventurous first timers. The Ocoee River in north Georgia is more adventurous, but not extreme and features the most continuous stretch of class III and IV rapids in the US. If you’re looking for an easy float trip, check out the Toccoa River in north Georgia.

What should I expect?Rafting FAQ

Our goal is to provide our guests with amazing and memorable adventures. We’ll start out by getting you properly equipped for your trip and going over safety procedures. Once we head out, expect to spend a lot of time on the water where you’ll enjoy calm waters with opportunities to view wildlife and exhilarating rapids.

Will I get seasick?

Most people don’t get seasick while rafting. Time spent on the river is different from time spent on the open sea, and it does not typically induce seasickness.

Do I need to be young and athletic to go rafting?

No! At Rolling Thunder River Company, we offer rafting trips for people of nearly all ages and skill levels. You don’t need any special skills or training, and rafting is enjoyable for anyone with a desire to spend time outdoors.

What should I bring?

You don’t want to bring extra “stuff” with you. Wear comfortable clothes and well-fitting shoes. Sunglasses are recommended, but you’ll need a strap so you don’t lose them in the water. Don’t bring your car keys! Leave them at the office because if they end up in the river, they won’t come out.

Should I tip my guide?

Tipping is entirely up to your discretion, but if you feel that your guide provided you with a special trip, we certainly encourage gratuities.

What if it rains?

The good news is that we go rafting rain or shine. We promise you’re going to get wet anyway.

At Rolling Thunder River Company, we want to ensure that all of our guests have an amazing time. If you have any questions while planning your trip or while you’re here, please don’t hesitate to ask!

How to Stay Warm on a Spring Rafting Trip

It’s been a long and chilly winter, but spring is finally here! As the days get longer and temperatures begin to climb, we are inching closer and closer to the 2016 rafting season.

Smaller crowds make spring the perfect time to book your adventure with Rolling Thunder River Company, but there are still some chilly days early in the season. To stay warm and enjoy your trip, keep these tips in mind.

Staying Warm during Your Spring Rafting Trip

Neoprene and PolypropyleneSpring Rafting Trips

When it comes to staying warm on the water, neoprene and polypropylene are your best friends. Polypropylene is an extremely versatile material that can be made into everything from socks and underpants to long johns and shirts, and the amazing thing about this wonderful fabric is that it helps you retain body heat – even when you’re wet.

Neoprene – the stuff wetsuits are made of – also helps you stay warm, but it doesn’t start working until you’re actually wet. The material is made up of tiny cells that absorb water which is then warmed by your own body heat.

Layer Up

Your mother probably told you to wear layers when it’s chilly, and her advice holds true even when whitewater rafting. The best way to stay comfortable on your spring adventure is to layer up. Start with warm undergarments with a fleece jacket on top. A splash jacket on top of everything provides some additional warmth and Rolling Thunder will provide one for you free of charge.

During the spring, a splash jacket is an excellent wardrobe choice. If it’s windy, it will act as a windbreaker. Your splash jacket will also lessen the initial cold shock when you blast through a wave. And of course, it will help keep your fleece jacket and any other under layers dry.

Stay Hydrated

It’s a no-brainer that you need to drink plenty of water when engaged in physical activity during the hot summer months, but it may not seem so necessary on cooler days. In fact, drinking plenty of water is just as important on cool days as it is on the hottest day of the summer. To regulate your temperature, your body needs to be properly hydrated. Drink lots of water before your trip, and go easy on the coffee since caffeine dehydrates the body.

Here in the southeast, we are fortunate to have moderate spring days that are perfect for whitewater rafting. There is always a chance for some chilly days early in the season, though, so it’s important to prepare yourself for whatever the weather may throw your way. Be sure to check the weather report before you leave home, and if you have any questions about preparing for your trip, don’t hesitate to contact us! Remember, we go rafting rain or shine.

The rafting season at Rolling Thunder River Company begins in April, and we look forward to seeing you soon!

Rolling Thunder is Hiring Guides for 2016 Season!


Rolling Thunder Guide JobClick Here to Apply!

Seasonal Jobs in Tennessee, North Carolina and North Georgia

Rolling Thunder River Company – The Preferred River Adventure
Company for 40 Years.

We run dam-controlled rivers only in order to have guaranteed trips
every day of the rafting season.

Business is booming and we need more staff!
Join Rolling Thunder River Company for a busy season of rafting adventure and river fun. We run two dam-controlled whitewater rivers from April 1 until the end of September.

The Nantahala River in Western North Carolina
Class 1, 2 and 3
First Year Guides Welcome –Free Training

The Ocoee River in Southeastern Tennessee
Class 3, 4 with a few borderline 5’s
Experienced guides sought

Good housing provided onsite.
Competitive compensation
Successful family owned and operated company with a respectful, fun work

Check us out on Tripadvisor!

Check us out on Facebook!

Please fill out and submit the following job application:
Call 800-408-7238

Whitewater rafting guide jobs in North Carolina and Tennessee along the Nantahala and Ocoee. Learn about rafting guide positions and other jobs available.
Please click the link to complete this form.

Whitewater Rafting Guide JobRolling Thunder River Company guides are expected to be willing to help anywhere, anytime and with anything.

If you are a responsible lover of the outdoors and you are over the age of 18, we’d love for you to spend your summer with us! To apply to work as a guide at Rolling Thunder, click here to download a printable application.

Click Here to Apply!

How Rafting Addicts Survive the Winter

Not sure how you’re going to survive until rafting season? You’re not alone! To help you bide your time, we’ve put together some tips to help rafters navigate the cold winter months.

Set the Scene

Instead of staring out the window at endless clouds and snow, print out a window-sized copy of your favorite river. Affix it to your kitchen window for a more enjoyable view when you’re doing dishes.

Dine at Home River Style

Gather your rafting friends and family for your favorite river meal. Toss on a warm jacket, and spend the evening enjoying dinner in front of a campfire and recounting you last whitewater adventure.

Explore Water’s Chillier Forms

You can’t hit the river in January, but you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, ice fishing or snowshoeing. Looking for some major offseason thrills? Take up ice climbing to enjoy water in all its frozen glory.

Go International

It isn’t winter everywhere! Plan a mid-winter getaway to the southern hemisphere where you can still enjoy river adventures at this time of year. New Zealand, Chile and Fiji have some amazing destinations for rafting addicts.

Start Training to Become a Guide

For those who are truly passionate about rafting, becoming a guide is a great way to turn your passion into a career. We provide comprehensive guide training, but there are a couple certifications you need prior to beginning your training. Getting your CPR and First Aid certifications during the offseason is a great way to pass the winter months while working toward having the ability to earn a paycheck for doing what you love.

Plan Your Next Adventure Rolling Thunder River Company

Since you can’t go rafting, you have plenty of time to plan your next adventure. Rafting season at Rolling Thunder is only a few short months away. Start planning and make your reservations now to get first pick for the days and times you want.

Bryson City, North Carolina

Located to the west of Asheville, North Carolina, Bryson City is a peaceful mountain town that borders the world-famous Great Smoking Mountains National Park. In addition to being the home of Rolling Thunder River Company’s Nantahala Rafting Center, this charming city is also home to a number of unique shops, restaurant, galleries and hotels.Bryson City North Carolina

Bryson City is a vacation paradise for any outdoor lover. Surrounding the small town are numerous activities, including exciting kayaking and rafting adventures on the Nantahala River, fishing and boating on Fontana Lake, breathtaking scenic railroad excursions, mountain biking on the Tsali trails and a number of trout fishing opportunities on world class streams. There are also several waterfalls to check out and plenty of trail for hiking and horseback riding.

Bryson City History

The area that is now known as Bryson City has been inhabited by Native Americans for almost 14,000 years. The oldest Cherokee village, Kituhwa, was located along the Tuckasegee River just upstream of present-day Bryson City.

In 1889, the city officially became known as Bryson City to commemorate the services rendered to the city by Colonel Thaddeus Bryson. Since opening in 1933, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park has provided a major source of revenue for Bryson City and all of Swain County. Author and outdoors enthusiast Horace Kephart worked from Bryon City years and was an early supporter of the creation of the park.

Modern-Day Bryson City

Today, Bryson City remains a popular tourist destination for outdoors enthusiasts. It is surrounded on nearly all sides by mountains: The Great Smoky Mountains to the north, the Plott Balsams to the east and the Cowee Mountains to the south. To the south of the city also lies the boundary of the Nantahala National Forest, a popular destination for whitewater rafting and kayaking.

At Rolling Thunder River Company, we are proud to be a top Bryon City rafting outfitter. We offer the best whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River, and we strive to ensure the satisfaction and safety of each and every guest. The 2015 rafting season may be over, but it’s never too early to start planning your 2016 adventure! Visit us online to learn more about Nantahala river rafting.

Thank You For The Best Rafting Season Yet!

Veteran Rafting GuidesWe are smiling from ear to ear! Because of you and all of our guests who share our passion for river adventures we had the best year in our 38 years of operation. On behalf of the most enthusiastic and hard working staff on the river, our warmest thank you for making it possible for us to continue doing what we love more than anything. We could not do this without guests like you who faithfully support us year after year.

Thank you for giving us such fabulous online reviews. Each one is critical to our success. We read every single review and though we can’t respond to each and every review we do appreciate them.  You should just see the faces of our staff when we read these reviews to them! Trust is an issue when selecting a river adventure company and online reviews help people decide what company to trust. We appreciate your trust in Rolling Thunder and we’ll continue to do our best to give you the best, most amazing river trips possible.

If there is anything that we could possibly do to make your experience with us better please let us know.

From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU! We hope to see you next year!

Rolling Thunder River Co

Halloween Activities Near Atlanta

The Georgia whitewater rafting season may have officially come to a close, but with Halloween just around the corner, the Atlanta area still has plenty to do. Whether you’re looking for some of the most intense thrills in the country, or you’re trying to find some age-appropriate Halloween fun for the kids, Atlanta has plenty to offer!

Little 5 Points Halloween Festival and ParadeAtlanta Halloween Events

Beginning at noon on October 17, 2015, Little 5 Points Halloween Festival and Parade will be serving up Halloween entertainment in downtown Atlanta. For 15 years, this has been one of the best Halloween parades and festivals in the Southeast. More than 35,000 people of all ages attend this event, which features entertainment, artist market vendors and food vendors, each year. This is definitely one you don’t want to miss!

Stone Mountain Park Pumpkin Festival

Head outside of the city to Stone Mountain to enjoy the Pumpkin Festival at Stone Mountain Park. This event is a favorite among kids and parents alike and provides the perfect opportunity to take in the sights and smells of autumn. Check out this festival now through October 25, 2015 to enjoy fun-filled games, spooky shows and much more.

Netherword Haunted House

Recently named 2015’s #5 Haunted House in American by Hauntworld, Netherworld Haunted House in Atlanta is the total package. This terrifying attraction features live actors and amazing special effects that are sure to give you nightmares. Open every night in October, this haunted house, which has also been featured on The Travel Channel, is not for the faint of heart.

Oakland Cemetery

Located less than a mile from downtown Atlanta, the historic Oakland Cemetery is the final resting place for many of the original settlers of the city. From October 23 through October 31, 2015, the gates stay open after dark for Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tours led by costumed “ghosts” of Atlanta’s past.

The Sleepy Hollow Experience at Serenbe Playhouse

Now through November 1, 2015 on Wednesday through Friday evenings, visit the Serenbe Playhouse in Palmetto, Georgia to come face to face with Ichabod, Katrina and Brom Bones. Named one of the top five Halloween experiences in the country, The Sleepy Hollow Experience is an after-dark performance in the woods. This immersive show is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before.

With cooler temperatures and breathtaking foliage, autumn in Atlanta is simply spectacular. Whether you’re in the mood for hair-raising thrills, or you’d just like to enjoy the splendor of fall with your family, Atlanta is the perfect destination.

Do You Have What it Takes to Work for Rolling Thunder?

This summer may be quickly coming to an end, but it’s never too early to start thinking about how you want to spend next summer. If you are a lover of the great outdoors and enjoy entertaining people, why not spend it as a river guide with Rolling Thunder River Company?

At Rolling Thunder River Company, we take great pride in hiring only the best people as river guides, and we do our absolute best to ensure excellent experiences for both our guests and our employees. Since 1977, we have safety thrilled hundreds of thousands of guests and rafted thousands of river miles. Along the way, we’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a great rafting guide.

We know that providing the right working environment makes great guides, so we strive to provide a fun and spirited work environment for all of our employees. In return, we expect that those working for us remain totally focused on the safety, comfort and overall enjoyment of each of our guests.

What it Takes to Be a Rolling Thunder GuideRolling Thunder Guide

All of our guides must be at least 18 years of age. When hiring, we look for applicants who are intelligent, friendly and have a great sense of humor. A strong attention to detail is also important. We want to make sure that every guests has such a great time on the river that they want to book another trip, and to do that, we needs guides who are committed to making the experience awesome.


You don’t need to have any experience to be a river guide for Rolling Thunder River Company. We will provide you with all the training you need to master  the necessary skills to excel as a commercial rafting guide. During your training period, senior guides work as mentors and evaluators to make sure that you are developing your “river sense” and will have all the tools you need to provide an outstanding river experience.

Training is unpaid, but it is available at no cost to you. Once you complete training and are hired as a Rolling Thunder guide, you will earn a competitive wage as well as tips. As an employee, you may choose to take advantage of our camp-like housing.

Requirements and Responsibilities

Working as a river guide can be very physically and mentally demanding. This is more than a job; it’s a lifestyle. And this lifestyle requires a passionate love for the outdoors as well as tremendous respect for the river. You are expected to be dependable, punctual and to behave in a professional manner both on and off the river.

Guides are required to provide their own river equipment, including:

  • Type V PFD
  • Proper footwear
  • Two carabiners
  • Knife
  • Whistle
  • CPR shield

You must also possess First Aid and CPR certifications. As a guide, you will be required to run trips on the river as scheduled and assist with loading and unloading boats from busses. You are also expected to pack equipment and medical kits and unpack after trips, cleaning and putting away river gear appropriately.

As a guide, you will also help guests with fitting of PFD’s wetsuits, boots, etc., and you are expected to provide assistance as needed to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip for everyone. This also includes conducting pre-trip safety orientations for guests and helping anywhere, anytime and with anything.

If you are a lover of the great outdoors and would love to make a living doing something you enjoy, consider spending your summers with Rolling Thunder River Company. To apply to work with us, click here to download a printable application.