While living in Florida offers many great outdoor activities, it does lack in several that many like to do. Whether it is mountain biking, hiking in the mountains, or white water rafting, Florida simply fails. There is an answer!
Within a 8-10 hour drive from central Florida, the Floridian can have those too! At the end of the road travel, you will be in the Chattanooga, TN. area OR in S.E. Georgia near the Tennessee border. Both locations offer stunning forests and mountains with beautiful rivers through them. Take your pick, either will satisfy your quest for outdoor activities you cannot have in Florida (of course, if you live elsewhere, these ARE the best white water rafting sites.
The area is one just waiting to burst. The city itself is still a work in progress and urban renewal but it a tourist attractions for its numerous sites like Ruby Falls (an underground waterfall and cavern), the Lookout (with its fantastic vistas over mountains), numerous hiking trails on Lookout Mountain, the wide meandering Tennessee River through it and lakes for fishing or boating. The I-75 runs right by it and intersects with I-24, so getting there via interstate highways is as quick as it can be. Finding a place to stay is not an issue.
About 30 minutes from this mid-size urban area is a little town called Ocoee. It is east of the city near the Ocoee Lake. Getting there is not a problem and if you stay in Cleveland off I-75, it's just 15 minutes away. The big draw in Ocoee (pronounced O-co-ee) is their numerous white water rafting businesses. We chose one of the best, Quest Expeditions. Never had problems with reservations or having a bad experience. In any case, like most, they take all those scheduled by bus for a 20-minute ride that passes the beautiful Lake Ocoee lake and recreation area with beaches. The launch site for the Middle River package is about another 3-6 mile pass the lake. It is used by all the white water rafting businesses. It is a very scenic trip!
Like most white water trips, these are working trips, so you will be in a raft with up to six others and a guide who will give commands to you to paddle, not paddle, in the Class III-IV rapids. There is very little time to pull out your camera for pictures except for one calm stretch of about five minutes. If you want to get wet, sit in the front, otherwise, the further back you sit, the drier you stay (but on a hot day, get wet!). The Middle River section has some Class IV rapids that CAN knock you out of the raft! It can be hectic and crazy yet fun. Quest also offers an all day event that takes you further up the river to where former Olympic white water rafting was done in the past with some harrowing Class IV-V rapids.
If you have more time by car, the SE Georgia offers equally great white water experiences. By car, there is no fast interstate going near there, just various state highway roads. From Atlanta, Hwy 23 will get you there. Once there in Clayton, G.A., locate Southeastern Expeditions, which is actually on Hwy 76, which runs into Hwy 23.
This part of the state is as beautiful as the Rocky Mountains (which are more further north). It is heavily forested and hilly\mountainous in parts. Just like the Chattanooga area but much more remote. Clayton is around 3,000 people, but it does offer most things you may need but book a room before.
The company offers some of the same great water water Class IV-V rapids depending on the package (beginner or intermediate) for about the same price as Quest. Sumter and Chattahoochee National Forests surround the river, guaranteeing that your Chattooga whitewater rafting experience will be packed with beauty and excitement. The movie, Deliverance (1972), with Burt Reynolds and John Voight made the river famous and brought the river enough notoriety to be named by Congress the first Wild and Scenic River in the south!
These white water rafting trips usually run 3-4 hours, whether you go to Chattanooga area or Chattooga area. While there is danger, you wear helmets and life vests and are instructed before launching.
For Floridians, either one is fine, but getting to Ocoee is much easier and faster plus, you have Chattanooga to explore and enjoy for greater diversity of outdoor things to do. Going to SE Georgia (which is near the Tennessee border) is a much more remote wilderness area and other than hiking offers far less diversity.