In the autumn of 1971, Horace Holden ’55C bought the Tote ‘n’ Tarry Motel, a tiny roadside inn, cafe, and gas station on U.S. 19/74, which winds along the Nantahala River in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains. He asked his friends Aurelia and Payson Kennedy ’54C-’59G, avid canoeists, to run the place as a small whitewater canoeing center. Payson soon quit his job as a librarian at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Aurelia left hers as a schoolteacher, and they moved with their four children to Wesser, North Carolina.
The following spring, the Kennedys launched the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) out of the Tote ‘n’ Tarry with a few canoes and rafts and a hastily assembled staff of twenty-five friends and fellow whitewater enthusiasts. They offered canoeing instruction and led one raft trip down the river per day. At that time, along this deeply forested stretch of river, Wesser seemed like the most remote place on earth. There was no other commercial whitewater activity and little real estate development in the area.