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Braving the rapids

“It’s not a Disney ride,” said Rob Paden, owner of Outdoor Adventure Rafting. “There is that element of danger; things aren’t perfectly controlled.”

That “danger” — the twists and turns of Tennessee’s famous Ocoee River — was faced head on by 10 Fort Benning Soldiers and civilians July 18. Following a night’s rest in OAR bunkhouses, the group navigated several miles of class III and IV whitewater rapids, including one portion featured in the 1996 Olympic slalom competition. It was all part of an outing planned by Fort Benning Outdoor Recreation.

“It was really amazing. I definitely want to do it again,” said first-time rafter Elizabeth De la Fuente.

“It was heart-pounding excitement,” she said. “Every time we went down a hill, water would splash up. It reminded me of a ride at Wild Adventures, kind of like a theme park, (but) sometimes we did get off course.”

It was a family trip for Elizabeth, who attended with her dad, CPT David De la Fuente, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and her older sister.

“We all had a pretty good time. It was good team building,” said the Ranger, who plans to return with his wife and son for the next Outdoor Recreation trip, scheduled for in August.

Many families visit OAR and raft the Ocoee because of the level of security — well-trained guides, a dam-controlled river, easy access to the road and plenty of safety precautions, Paden said.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not a wild time.

“It’s continuous whitewater,” he said. “You get out of one rapid and you’re preparing for the next rapid … some hair-raising kind of stuff. You can make it extreme. We take small girls camps down. Then we had some Navy SEALS come. They absolutely loved it.”

The next Outdoor Recreation trip, open to military ID cardholders and family members 12 and older, is scheduled for Aug. 14-15 and Sept. 10-11. Each rafting trip costs $105 per person, which includes roundtrip transportation, a picnic lunch and bunkhouse accommodations. A maximum of 24 participants are allowed per trip. Call

706-545-7978 or 706-545-9636 to reserve your spot.