POLK COUNTY, Tenn (WDEF) – The Ocoee River Rapids are some of the most popular in the country. People from all over the world come to Polk County just to experience river rafting.
When the Covid-19 Pandemic closed businesses, it didn’t look like rafting would be an option this summer but rafting companies have now been given permission to open.
TVA says these rafting trips are a major contributor to the Tennessee economy.
“The Ocoee River, according to a 2013 study contributed over 44 million dollars in revenue and value into this region. Over 600 Jobs are associated with that,” says David Bowling, TVA Vice President of river and resources.
Many businesses and raft guides depend on the summer season as their main source of income.
“It’s an economic engine for southeast Tennessee. The rafters we see on the side of the river and the ones who are getting ready to go down are buying gas at our gas stations, food at our restaurants, and staying in our hotels,” says Mike Bell, State Senator for District 9.
Quest Expeditions President says all rafting companies have worked hard to meet CDC guidelines.
“It’s going to look a little different. The crowds will be smaller, more spacing on the bus and in the stores. We’re going to do some spacing naturally on the river. Just cruising naturally. Once they get a group in the raft and get some space between those other rafts, that will naturally happen,” says Keith Jenkins, Quest Expeditions President.
The rafting companies are also doing more sanitation on the boats, paddles, and life jackets to keep rafters safe from the Coronavirus.