About Zoar Outdoor

How We Started

Zoar Outdoor was established in 1989 by Bruce Lessels, President,  Karen Blom, Vice President and a third partner as the first outdoor center on the Deerfield River in Massachusetts. Since then, the company has grown to a staff of over 100. Bruce is a former member of the U.S. Whitewater Team, and Karen was a trainer for the team as well as a public health nutritionist.

Our Adventure Resort

Zoar Outdoor is based in an historic Charlemont homestead, built in 1748 by Moses Rice, the town's first settler. The house was the boyhood home of the writer Charles Dudley Warner and it was the subject of the book "Boys of The Border" by Mary P. Wells Smith, an historic novelist. Our riverfront location on the Deerfield River includes a guest lodge (Hawk Mountain Lodge), a campground, retail shop, zip line canopy tour and miles of hiking trails. Our facilities span 80 wooded acres and our campground includes 5 tent sites, 11 cabin tents and a yurt nestled in the woods overlooking the river valley. Our cabin tents are equipped with lights, cook grills, and 4 beds to provide a restful night with the shower house only a short walk from the camping area. Our commercial kitchen provides the freshest lunches on all of our trips and clinics with homemade breads, salads, and baked goods.

In 2014, we expanded to the center of Wilmington, Vermont, with Zoar Adventure Center. Zoar Adventure Center is located in a building that was rebuilt after the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and offers year-round outdoor adventure sports. Set in the Green Mountains of southern Vermont, this outpost offers easy access to miles of beautiful trails as well as great paddling on various lakes and ponds. A small branch of the Deerfield River runs right by our base before emptying into Harriman Reservoir and the Hoot Toot and Whistle trail leaves from our front door and heads along an old rail bed along the edge of Harriman.

Our Adventure Vacation Activities

Based out of Charlemont, MA, our rafting program maintains a fleet of self-bailing rafts to take us down the 5 different rivers we run. Our zip line canopy tour is the first zip line adventure in Southern New England with 11 zip lines, 2 sky bridges and 3 rappels. We have sit-on-top kayaks for introductory guided whitewater kayaking down the easier sections of the Deerfield River. We partner with Peak Expeditions to provide varying levels of outdoor climbing instruction. Our nationally recognized whitewater instruction programs offer classes for beginners to experts, using the latest canoes and kayaks. Not only does our Outfitters Shop carry t-shirts and souvenirs, we stock all of the latest whitewater paddling gear including a full line of paddles, PFDs, helmets and apparel. We carry kayaks, canoes and standup paddleboards from the top manufacturers.

Located in downtown Wilmington, VT, Zoar Adventure Center opened in the Fall of 2014 and provides opportunities for human powered adventure for those looking to experience the magic of Southern Vermont's mountains and waterways.  In the summer we offer self-guided rentals of kayaks, standup paddleboards (SUPs) and mountain bikes.  We make the rental process easy, by offering a shuttle service to help move kayaks and SUPs to the water!  We also offer guided trips to allow our guests to relax and enjoy, while we take care of all the logistics!

In the winter we offer rentals and guided trips for nordic skiing and snowshoeing utilizing our great proximity to amazing backcountry trails.  Some of these are quite mellow and others are more adventurous.  Winter in Southern Vermont is truly wonderous, and travelling on skis and snowshoes allows you to perfectly experience this silent and stunning landscape. In addition to our rentals and guiding we also offer a full-service retail store to help you gear up for your next adventure!

Why Zoar Outdoor?

OUR PEOPLE are exceptional. We hire carefully, train thoughtfully and promote an atmosphere of teamwork, mutual respect and fun. Here’s what some of our guests have said about our staff:

"Having spent a lot of time in and around the outdoor recreation industry, I can categorically say that your operation is truly a cut above the rest; the staff were unfailingly friendly, helpful, and encouraging, and went out of their way to make me feel welcome. I stayed through the holiday weekend, and even with the chaos of rafting groups, clinics, and campground turnover, everyone I ran into around the base and on the river took the time to stop and say 'Hi,' to see how I was doing, to ask if I needed anything. That kind of personal attention does not go unnoticed, and I wanted to thank you all. I have been singing your praises to anyone who will listen. " -Hannah

OUR FACILITIES are convenient. In Charlemont, we’re located right on the Deerfield River at the end of our most popular trip, meaning that most of our guests don’t experience a bus ride at the end of their trips.  Onsite camping and lodging, hot showers, the first zip line canopy tour in southern New England, a fully stocked outfitters shop and a commercial kitchen that produces consistently delicious meals set us apart.

Our Wilmington location has everything you need for a perfect adventure in one easy spot. Our top-of-the-line rentals provide you with the basic gear, and in our retail shop you can find any clothing or accessories you’ll need for your adventure. With options to leave right from our location or catch a shuttle to another nearby spot to explore, you just have to arrive at our base and we’ll take care of everything else.

OUR EQUIPMENT is top of the line and well maintained.  We use only the best rafts, kayaks, SUPs, canoes, bikes, snowshoes, and skis from the most reputable manufacturers.  Our zip line canopy tour uses top quality gear from harnesses to zip line trolleys.  We follow an aggressive maintenance and replacement program that ensures that the equipment you count on to keep you comfortable and safe is state-of-the-art and in excellent condition.

OUR EXPERIENCE on the Deerfield River is the longest of any outfitter in the northeast.  We pioneered rafting on the Deerfield in 1989 and have taken the most trips on the river of any outfitter.  When you go with us, you benefit from 20 years of experience.