POLK CO., TN (WDEF-TV) - Heads up, white water rafters!
The official season begins this weekend on the Ocoee.
But, there are things that need to be done first---like getting ready for the tourist season.
A record number of volunteers showed up to help.
They began arriving around 9, spilling out of buses and private vehicles, Ready to spend the day at the Ocoee.
But they weren't here to play.
Many of them work as tour guides and rafting experts during the summer.
And some have done this for years---the first Ocoee Cleanup day was about 30 years ago.
BLAKE MCPHERSON, CHEROKEE RAFTING "The Ocoee was just recently named the number one white water destination in the nation..in America..and we see probably 230 thousand plus visitors that commercially come and raft the Ocoee River. The number of traffic, that number of traffic and the people that come to this area ...we just want to keep the Ocoee River."
All told about 150 people turned-out.
They grabbed trash bags and began cleaning up along Highway 64.
The event is sponsored by the Ocoee River Rafting Association and American Rivers--dot--Org.
The Association expects about 230-thousand people to visit the gorge this year.
TORREY LESTER, RIVER TOUR GUIDE "This is the river I work on ..this is like our office ...And if we don't come out here and keep it clean,it'll just keep piling up."
TVA had not released water this morning, but they diverted the stream before the volunteers finished their work.
RACHAL BONHAM , RIVER GUIDE "Save it for a trash can..its really not that far away...and this is our land we have to protect it ...don't be an idiot."
The full rafting season begins this weekend and will run from then until August, 5 days a week, Thursday through Monday.
If you like the clean water and beautiful scenery, thank a volunteer who spent this day making it happen.
Incidentally, the Ocoee River gorge was the site of the Olympic White Water rafting and kayaking events in 19-96.