Commercial Rafting starts on the Ocoee
With the flume line out of commission in 1976, the Ocoee River was allowed to flow in its natural river bed on a regular basis for the first time since the flume was built in 1913. It did not take long for outdoor enthusiast to take notice and canoes, kayaks and rubber rafts started showing up to take on the powerful class three and four rapids. At first it was just private boaters and local paddling clubs, but soon commercial outfitters developed to seize on a new opportunity. Sunburst Outfitters was formed in 1977 and became the first commercial rafting company to take paying customers down the Ocoee River. They were soon followed by Ocoee Outdoors who can lay claim to be the first commercial Outfitter with a physical Outpost on the Ocoee. Rafting was tough at first since there was no easy access to the river and you had to carry/hump/drag your rafts down banks and over boulders to reach the river.
Soon other commercial outfitters popped up and a full-scale industry was operational. Access points were improved, oversite enacted, and things were going well. As work on the flume line continued however, the Outfitters realized that the party might soon be over.