History of Whitewater Rafting

Marwa Grimes

It is interesting to note that whitewater rafting was one of the earliest forms of transportation. It was not only used for carrying people but also for transferring goods from one place to another. However, it became quite popular as a form of leisure activity in the 1980s.

In 1811, the first recorded attempt to navigate the Snake River in Wyoming was planned by the Overland Astorians. While attempting to boat the stretch below Jackson Hole, the river was found to be too treacherous and it came to be called ?Mad River.?

The rubber river raft is believed to have been invented in the early 1840s. It was first made by Lt. John Fremont, who was then serving in the U.S army and Horace H. Day. They invented the rubber raft with the intention of surveying the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains. Although the raft was invented in the mid-nineteenth century, it was not until the turn of the century that the first ever commercial whitewater trip was undertaken. At first, surplus military rafts were used as boats and it was only much later that inflatable rafts were used.

Private companies played a major role in augmenting the rafting business. In 1956, one of the members of the most affluent business families of America, John D. Rockefeller built a resort that introduced one of the first floating trips in the country. However, it only evoked a lukewarm response. Later, in the 1960s and 1970s, exclusive whitewater rafting companies were formed. These include the Becker-Cooke Expeditions, Hatch River Expeditions and Slickrock Adventures.

Rafting was first included in the Munich Olympic Games, 1972. Subsequently, it was included in the 1992 Barcelona Games and the 1996 Atlanta Games. In 1996, the Ocoee River in Tennessee Valley played host to the whitewater events of the Summer Olympic Games.

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