We were lucky enough to have the chance to speak with Brenda Schultz, owner of Rafting In The Smokies, about just what makes her company one of a kind. We discovered some of the many reasons that they were voted #1 rafting in the Best Of Pigeon Forge 2017.
Q: How did you and your husband, Mark, get into the rafting business?
A: Mark tried to retire without success three times, and after becoming parents of three kids I left my corporate career. We enjoyed it but we still felt led to do something that enabled us to stay active in business and in our community. A friend called and told us the company that pioneered rafting on the Pigeon River was for sale. We bought the company in 2006. Rafting In The Smokies enables us to be at home with our kids during the school term. Being an outdoor family, it suits our lifestyle perfectly.
Q: Being a mom yourself, safety is a top priority. Is rafting safe for young children?
A: I personally love the idea that we help kids unplug and get off the couch. Having kids of our own make us take safety to a higher level. CPR and First Aid are a minimum requirement for our guides. Many have Wilderness Outdoor Rescue and other certifications. We hire our guides by invitation only.
Q: How would you describe the family-owned business atmosphere and how is it different from other rafting outposts?
A: I love the atmosphere at our outpost. We are like a family. We go above and beyond whether it is for a guest or for each other. There is pride in the company and a professionalism you feel when you come here. We are a very diverse group that clicks over the common love of the river.
Q: Any advice for first time rafters?
A: A great thing for first time rafters is there are two sections to our river. The Upper section offers 5 1/2 miles of class III and IV Rapids. You must be 8 years old or weigh 70 lbs for this section. The adventurous folks love this section! The lower family float trip is 6.5 miles and has Class I and II Rapids with a class III at the end. This is perfect for families with small kids or just enjoying the scenery.
Before heading out on your trip, one of our professional guides will issue you a helmet, personal flotation device and paddle. Listen carefully when the trip leader gives paddling instructions and grab your paddle and go. We encourage questions!
Q: Rafting is one the many outdoor activities offered at Rafting in the Smokies. What other things are there for the whole family to do at the outpost?
A: We offer several activities at Rafting In The Smokies. We have a 10 acre Family Adventure Island offering a nature trail, playground, zip lines as well as a ropes course and climbing wall. We realize how valuable your time is so all activities are located in one place saving your family driving time and saving dollars by packaging the activities if you wish.
Q: What’s the best part of your job?
A: The best part of my job is meeting our guests that come to us from all over the world. I love the joy on their faces when they come in the door after their trip. I get to hear their laughter and giggles viewing their photos from their rafting adventure. And I love our staff! I get to see our young staff grow and move into successful careers after college.
Q: What do you think makes visitors come back year after year?
A: I attribute our large number of returning guests to our staff making them feel valued, because they are valued. We treat our guests with respect. Many a returning guest will request a guide that took them in the past. We try to honor those requests when possible. We build relationships with our guests. They are never a number. They are real people and we would not be here without their support. Their trips have helped our staff save for college, buy a car or maybe feed their family. My favorite part of my job is the guests… period.