A Family Owned and Operated Company

This photo is from 1998 when we all got together for Christmas.
Dad was a Super Fine Man, and a Wonderful Father and Husband.
The Last good picture of Dad posing with a smile.
I think we have all changed a bit since then.
(Mark, Dempsey, Ardis, Michael)
(Me, Dad, Mom and Brother)
If you want to know about Michael, please see the Songs about the Nantahala Page.
He wrote all of them, and we give him his own Bio page and Credit there..




Come and get the personal touch from the Owner Mark Thomas, and meet Mark’s Mom,  Ardis Thomas.
Everybody calls her “Mom”. It’s a real treat when she takes you down the river.

There aren’t many as enthusiastic as her when it comes to her love of the river.
Here’s a picture of her and (Dad) Dempsey Thomas a few years ago when you could find them on the river more than you could find them at home.
Two to three trips a day was not uncommon when they had company who would keep up with them. One of the better Tandem Canoe teams around.
Dad loved the river and enjoyed it up until the last couple years of his 18 year battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
When you would mention going on the river he could not talk but a big smile would appear on his face.  He was always ready to go.
Mom took care of Dad till the end with my help the last 6 years after we bought Paddle Inn, and my older brother’s additional help the last 2 years.
He went to be with the Lord on Jan 4, 2011 and if there is rafting in heaven he is making sure everyone is having a great time.

Dad (Rev. Dr. Dempsey L. Thomas) went to be with the Lord January 4, 2011 and would have been 78 years Feb 2nd. He had a Ph.D in Botany and Plant Phycology. He was called into the ministry at the age of 40 and spent 30 years teaching and ministering God’s word. He ended up in a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease which took great commitment on Mom’s part. She says without my help the last six years and my brothers additional help the last two years she could not have met her goal to take care of him at home through the end as she did.

Mom (Rev. Mrs. Ardis B. Thomas 80 years young) is the hardest working retiree you would want to meet. She has a Masters Degrees in Education and ministered side by side with Dad those 30 years. They both loved the river and could really handle a tandem canoe. Mom will paddle anything that floats. We are a family still connected, and committed to helping each other. Mom is a real trooper. She is totally involved in making sure everyone is cared for and all goes well on all our trips. I think if she slows down a bit, I’ll be able to keep up with her.

We have added a new member to our family as MOM MARRIED NORVAL WALTER Dec. 14, 2013.   You will find him helping us to get the customers ready for their river trip and driving a mini bus.   He is an awesome addition to our family and Paddle Inn.  We will have some pictures on the web site soon.  They make a super couple and he can almost keep up with Mom.  You should hear the wonderful story of how the Lord brought them together….it is amazing.  Welcome Norval.

If you want to read an amazing Love Story about how The Lord put them together click here.

About Mark Thomas

I am Mark Thomas, and I purchased the Paddle Inn Rafting Company at the age of 42, in March of 2005. Our first season was great, and we all had a ball! We really learned more about what “not” to do, than to do, or at least it seemed to be in that order.. But, we have a great time, and every year, we seem to enjoy our employees and Customers more and more each year coming. To be honest with you, I feel like I have the best job in the Country. It is my job, to make sure that you have a great time, year after year, and enjoy the services and the folks at Paddle Inn.

I want to personally thank everyone for their help, and their business. I have met some really wonderful people here, and made some really great friends. I can’t begin to thank everyone enough.

Paddle Inn was once the number two rafting Company in the gorge. The last four years prior to my purchase, Paddle Inn saw a steady decline in business. It lost 40% of its business between 2001 and end of 2004. The first year we were in business, we were back up to the previous 2001 numbers (with a 38 1/2% increase) due to a large volume of referrals and repeat business. That is without huge marketing campaigns. We went from 5,000 to 14,763 customers in six years almost tripling our company. The Lord has blessed us and we must be doing many things right.

Every year, we upgrade things at the Company. We have upgraded our fleet of boats by designing and manufacturing all our own boats.
We have also designed and manufactured our own paddles. We have added new life jackets, buses, and made quite a few changes to the internals of the business. Everything that is not new is being tweaked. Paddle Inn’s prices have always been the best value on the river, and now our customers say our service is the best also. It will take a few more years to get this place just like we want it, but each year we have definitely make progress.

I’m an ex computer junkie, who has been involved in just about everything. Don’t believe me, just ask. I’ll bet I’ll try fooling you anyway. And no, Web Design was not my forte! I worked for several Fortune 500 and 1000 companies while maintaining my certification as a Master Certified Netware Engineer. Software support was the beginning of it all, then Hardware, then Network, then Servers, Routers, and anything else you would need to build an Enterprise Network Infrastructure. Later, I ran my own Consulting Firm while I still lived in Baton Rouge, La. Before that, I commercial fished, trapped and hunted, did construction, welding and a bunch of other things for a living. Like I said,, ask me. I am always up for a challenge. If I start asking questions, play along. It’s because I don’t have much of a clue, but, give me 10 minutes, and you’ll think I’ve been doing it for a bunch of years.. It’s called Conceptual thinking, and they don’t teach it in the States.. I picked it up from my Second wife who was a beautiful Persian but, spent quite a few years in France studying..

When Dad began to get a little worse, I came up here to enjoy what I liked to do the most, and be close to my parents to help out as much as I possibly could. Little did I know, that Mom would be helping me in the business everyday, and Dad was able to get so much enjoyment from seeing it all happen especially the first few years we were here. He loved to ride to the top with the customers and listen and say a few words here and there. You could tell he loved it,, but, I had to keep an eye on him.. He would get involved with the customers and walk off, and if I got too busy or hurried, I might run off and leave him..  Ha.. One of my guides even wrote on his baseball cap.. “My name is Dempsey, I should be at Paddle Inn”..  Of course that was after he slipped onto a big bus and no one noticed him, and another guide from another company picked him up walking the foot trail. We realized he was missing when the bus got back and before we could take off to pick him up, here he drove up with one of the guides from another Company who worked for us here and there..

If you have someone in your family with Alzheimer’s Disease, don’t underestimate the lack of verbalization or anything else associated with the disease with the lack of understanding, or the ability to still feel the feelings that we all take for granted. Dad knew Mom till the end but I believe this was because their was never a break in her constant contact with him.  Many of the Alzheimer’s patients get mean.  I can almost guarantee you that is from the comments made that people think are not heard and understood by the patient. It is a reverse progression of life. When you are a baby, you understand before you talk. Someone is changing your diapers, then, someone is changing your diapers again, and you forget how to talk, but you can still hear and understand.. Even to the point that you can not express yourself, but, you are still very aware of what is going on around you, and what is being said about you.. Please be careful if this affects your family.. Be kind. He took care of me growing up, it was the least I could do for him.

Nobody should have to go through this type of disease, but it is even worse when we give up, and feel that we have been defeated. Granted everyone is not in a position to provide the extra care, but we hung in there through the end. We want to thank so many of our customers who prayed for us through this long tough battle. Thanks and God Bless you all!

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