Tubing in the Smokies at Smoky Mountain River Rat began in 1995. Shannon Skidmore and his soon-to-be-wife, Shannan had just graduated from East Tennessee State University. Smoky Mountain River Rat had its name, a leased 20 x 20 building, an old ’76 Chevy Van, and 50 tubes, but no one to operate it! “The Shannons” opened it with only 6 weeks left in the summer. After completing the short season, they had fallen in love with Smoky Mountain River Rat, asked the owner if they could purchase the equipment and his lease on the building. He said “yes” and so did the banker.
The seasonal business would work perfectly for the couple. Mr. Shannon would work construction, building local Smoky Mountain cabins, while Mrs. Shannan taught school in nearby Sevierville, just outside of Pigeon Forge. For the first couple of years, Mrs. Shannan ran Smoky Mountain River Rat during the week and Mr. Shannon continued building cabins which was far better than life behind a desk.
Soon the Shannons were both at the River Rat 7 days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. At season’s end, Mr. Shannon was back to construction and Mrs. Shannan to her third-grade students. In Spring of 2000, the River Rat lost its lease on the original site. Five years of long hours, hot summer days and great clientele was feared all “down river.” The Shannons moved their now 500-tubes, 2 vans and 20 kayaks to their newly leased 16 x 16 tubing shack! Quickly, they had to find a bigger place before the season began. They picked a spot that was not even for sale, asked to purchase, the owners said yes and by the grace of God, so did the banker.
Smoky Mountain River Rat now had its very own property!! Mr. Shannon built the new 40 x 60 building in 6 weeks and together, they had the building ready by July 4th of 2000 the same week 5 years ago, they had begun. The great clientele continued to follow, the Smoky Mountain River Rat continued to grow and things all worked out for the best. In 2007, the Shannons expanded the river business to include whitewater rafting on the Pigeon River just outside of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The purchase of USA Raft-Pigeon River, now known as Smoky Mountain River Rat White Water, compliments Smoky Mountain River Rat. Now, seasonal followers who enjoy the personal service tubing the Little River in Townsend, know they can now expect the same great service on the Pigeon River whitewater rafting a class IV river.
For the 2016 season (21 seasons later), you will still find the Shannons daily at the Rat. Mrs. Shannan left behind her teaching career to be a mom to Emily Kate and Joseph. Their children can now be found alongside their parents participating in the family business, learning how to “earn their keep”! Emily Kate is basically in charge of everything, and anybody. Joseph is in charge of waste management, when not caught drinking all the Dr. Pepper from Toobers, or controlling the river wildlife population. Mr. Shannon still holds onto his contracting license. Old Faithful, the 76 Chevy has since retired.
There is never a dull moment with the Shannons. They continue to work together, loving what they do, providing the best service to their faithful customers.