North Carolina's Nantahala Outdoor Center

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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North Carolina's Nantahala Outdoor Center
Question: My friend and I have heard about a whitewater kayak school in either North or South Carolina. Do you know anything about this place and how we can get in touch with it? I think it may have an acronym--NOC. Thanks.

Russ Hornbeck
St. Louis, MO
[email protected]

Endo 101: The NOC is part paddling school, part year-round resort
Answer: You're right on the money: The school in question is the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City, North Carolina--known by kayaking insiders simply as NOC. Part paddling school, part year-round resort, part hard-goods mecca, NOC is the nexus for just about anything there is to do in the Great Smoky Mountains.

With five world-class rivers in the area, including the Nantahala, the Chattooga, and the Ocoee, it's no big surprise that NOC is a hotbed of cutting-edge river sports, like whitewater rodeo and "steep creeking" (running low-volume water with a huge vertical drop), as well as a training ground for first-time kayakers and Olympians alike. Paddling courses last from three to seven days. Expect to pay $725 for an all-inclusive five-day course and $320 for a three-day.

After a tough day on the river, you'll bunk down in three- or four-bedroom cabins with balconies overlooking Nantahala Gorge and chow down on just-pulled-out-of-the-ground veggies and herbs at Relia's Garden Restaurant. If you're waterlogged and looking for post-course diversions, try their sea kayaking sampler ($70) on nearby lakes or their one-day climbing workshop ($70), which starts on an artificial wall and then moves to a natural rock face for afternoon rappelling.

The bike shop also rents Specialized Rockhoppers for $25 a day, perfect for pedaling the 300 miles of gated dirt roads in Nantahala National Forest and 50 miles of singletrack in the Tsali Recreation Area. For more information, call the kayaking gurus at NOC at 800-232-7238.

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