Meet Brent Rogers, half of the brother team who owns and operates Raft One on the Ocoee River. You don’t immediately hear from his accent that he is from the Mississippi Gulf coast. Instead, you hear his easy enthusiasm for whatever topic he’s talking about. If you listen, you may learn that he grew up in Ocean Springs, engaged in water sports like sailing and surfing and after a summer during college at Mississippi State, where he trained to be a river guide on the Ocoee, he was hooked: “It took one trip down the river and I knew I had to find a way to make the river my life. I moved to Chattanooga in 2003 and got an office job and had to settle for taking rafting trips on the weekends during the summer, but I was biding my time and searching for the opportunity to make the rafting dream happen,” says Rogers.
The opportunity came in early 2008, when Rogers and his brother Dusty secured a permit and bought a few pieces of equipment and a van. They operated with a very small crew of friends and were fortunate to have some of the most experienced guides on the river. “Within a few seasons we had outgrown the small building we were leasing to house the business, so we purchased a piece of land and built Raft One a permanent home complete with lodging for guests,” says Rogers.
The desire to open a guide service was the result of an experience Roger’s had his first year working on the Ocoee: “I was in charge of assisting a youth group in rappelling down a 60-ft cliff. I was bored and as I contemplated jumping off the cliff myself, one of the kids lined up to go. I checked his harness--he was shaking--and as he began lowering himself down he panicked and slipped and grabbed at the rope,” Rogers. “I was surprised because he was obnoxiously ribbing everyone who had gone before him, but I suddenly realized he had been afraid the entire time and he was hiding it by acting tough. I calmly told him he was going to be okay because I would help him. We got his feet back under him so he was in the correct stance and then we started back down the rock, one foot at a time. He landed, then raced back up the trail because he wanted to do it again. That experience changed my entire perspective about what I was doing out there. It wasn’t about keeping an eye on people in the woods; it was about helping people face challenges and work through them. I have kept this with me as a driving force for Raft One.”
When asked what makes Raft One different from the other outfitters on the Ocoee River, Rogers says, “We pride ourselves on a high standard of professionalism and personal service and we put tremendous effort into customizing adventures that are as unique as our guests. We have church and scout groups, corporate groups, families, and wedding parties. My brother and I are always onsite and I believe we are the only company on the Ocoee where one of the owners may be your guide. Six rafting seasons later there is still a good chance that you’ll be on a trip with one of us or that we’ will greet you on the front porch as you prepare for your trip.”
Rogers adds, “Running an adventure outfitter is one of the most satisfying things I've ever done. I get to spend time outdoors and face the challenges of an ever changing business. Starting and building Raft One has given me the opportunity to make a living while introducing people to a safe, but exciting river. I get out on the river as much as possible and this year I am charge of guide training, so I’ve been fortunate in spending a great deal of time rafting.”
If he’s not rafting, Rogers might be mountain biking with guests or helping them with the canopy line. Why? Because “getting out on it is a good way to forget everything. You can enjoy nature and concentrate on experiencing it,” says Rogers.