2013 marks the 20th year in business for Endless River Adventures (known to many as ERA). For two decades, “the shop” at ERA has been the go-to place for quality kayak instruction, a gear store, rafting outfitter, fly-fishing headquarters, a great place to park in the Gorge, and a homey back porch for paddlers of all ages and abilities. Look for special events and parties to celebrate the landmark as well as articles and interviews with key partners, friends, and supporters.
The Put In
In 1993, Ken and Juliet opened Endless River Adventures with a philosophy of “success measured in quality of service, not sales.” Paddlers have come to rely on the extraordinary expertise of ERA and its team of hand-picked whitewater professionals when it comes to kayak instruction, purchasing top-performing boats and gear, fly fishing, and traveling to Latin American whitewater hotspots. Working to inspire others to appreciate and enjoy rivers that so inspire them, the two have built a loyal community of whitewater enthusiasts that includes parents, children, and grandchildren.
For owner Ken, creating Endless River Adventures was making a commitment to what you believe in. “It was about creating the type of quality experience and service that we ourselves would look for. I am proud of the fact that so many of our guests have become more than just valued clients but lifelong friends.”
Ken was a whitewater pioneer in the 70s, when the sport was largely unknown. He’s credited with inventing the C-to-C roll, arguably one of the most efficient ways to roll a kayak. Company co-founder Juliet has been paddling since the late 80s. Over the years her adept instruction has turned hundreds of newbie boaters into serious kayakers—a number of whom have become a part of the ERA team as guides and instructors.
Making a Splash
Along the way, Endless River Adventures has been responsible for some key milestones in the southeastern whitewater world. Shop “firsts” include making one-on-one instruction the model for quality kayak instruction, being the first outfitter to promote self-bailing rafts and fully-guided raft trips on the Nantahala, showcasing the infamous boat designer Vladami Vanha, introducing guided ducky trips, and introducing Wave Sport kayaks to the Southeast at a time when Perception and Dagger dominated the river.
Stocked for paddlers and staffed by paddlers—ERA’s store motto for 20 years—rang even more true when in 2012 “the shop” got an expansion and a makeover as The Boater’s Store to better feature toys and gear options for whitewater enthusiasts.
A little further south, ERA opened the RioQuijos EcoLodge and Reserve in Ecuador. This piece of paradise located in the Quijos Valley in the Oriente of Ecuador serves as a sanctuary for native flora and fauna as well as intrepid gringos who venture to Ecuador with ERA in the winter for paddling, fly fishing, hiking, birding, and relaxation. The lodge and cabins were built using local woods, bamboo and rock from the property and employing local labor for the project (along with Ken’s little-known wizardry as a stone mason).
Embracing the “endless” part of Endless River Adventures, the two seem too busy enjoying the ride to look for the takeout; each continuing to build, invent, and innovate at home in North Carolina and abroad.
“Being a small company, we have always been able to think outside the box,” reflects Juliet. “We were not stuck in a business model that limited our ability to evolve as the social culture of outdoor recreation and the industry have changed. This has also allowed us to prioritize what is important to us – particularly our role in community service, within both the local community and the paddling community.”
See You on the River
Endless River Adventures is located on Hwy 19/74 near Bryson City, NC, on the outskirts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To learn more about rafting, kayak instruction, gear sales, and international paddling—or to see if the rumors about Ken’s fly fishing prowess are true—call 828-488-6199 or visit www.endlessriveradventures.com. For more on the kayaking, hiking, whitewater rafting, biking, horseback riding, fly fishing, and birding opportunities in Ecuador visit www.rioquijosecolodge.com.