Recreational and white water kayaking, survival skills, first aid, map and compass reading, stand up paddle boarding and conservation are just a few of the courses offered at the Nolichucky Outdoor Learning Institute, or NOLI, right on the river in Erwin.
For former Army Ranger Scott Fisher, who created NOLI, the idea of an outdoor skills school has been rolling around in his head for a number of years. Only recently did he and friends decide to step out and test the waters, so to speak.
“We’ve never had an outdoor school here ... and we weren’t sure the area could sustain one,” he said. But with support and attention to outdoor recreation from the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership, Fisher felt it was the right time to kick off his idea.
They’ve already held a number of classes since opening in March, with lots of participants. NOLI has a 24-kayak fleet — half flat water and half white water — as well as all the equipment needed for the class. Fisher said his most popular class right now is flat water kayaking, and the ages range from kids to senior citizens.
“I’ve been teaching white water kayaking and swift water rescue for 15 years ... but kayaking is just one aspect of what we do,” he said.
The one- to two-day survival course takes place a short distance from the campground. Participants literally get their feet wet right from the beginning by wading across the river, using a guide rope hand-over-hand, to an island where they learn how to start a fire, build a shelter, water purification, map and compass usage, and to leave no trace.
Leave no trace is a huge part of what NOLI teaches, Fisher said, because of the importance of conservation.
NOLI is “unparalleled in what it has to offer,” Fisher said, and first and foremost, safety is the top priority. NOLI also offers pottery, conservation, painting and photography classes.
“It’s all about the outdoors,” Fisher said. “If we have a day where students leave here feeling they’re safe, that they learned something and they had fun, then it’s a good day for us.”
For more information about upcoming classes, visit the website at www.NoliLearn.org , send email to [email protected] or call 423-641-0100.