Ocoee whitewater rafting offers a world-class experience, which isn't surprising since the whitewater events for the 1996 summer Olympics were held here. The facilities built for the Olympics are still in operation, and attract whitewater enthusiasts from around the world. The Ocoee is easily the most popular whitewater rafting river in the country, with 200,000 rafters a year.
The popularity of whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River has led to a plethora of outfitters providing guided trips. With a guided trip, no rafting experience is usually necessary. However, children must be over 12 years of age for Ocoee River rafting. If you're looking for a milder whitewater rafting experience, the Hiwasee River, only 15 miles to the north, is a perfect choice. See White Water Rafting in Tennessee for more about family-friendly rafting.
The Ocoee is a scenic river that cascades through a deep gorge in the Cherokee National Forest in southeast Tennessee, near the Georgia border. The Ocoee River is a tributary of the Hiwasee River, and is controlled by 3 Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) dams.
Water for recreation is released on a regular schedule during the season. For the Upper Ocoee, water is released from May through September on weekends only. For the Middle Ocoee, water is released from March to November, with the days of release varying.
The Ocoee Whitewater Center, was built by the U.S. Forest Service for the Olympics, and includes a 7,200 square foot Visitor Center and a 4 acre recreation area. In addition to river sports, the Whitewater Center offers picnicking, hiking and biking. The Tanasi Trail System here boasts over 30 miles of premier hiking and mountain biking trails.
The Upper Ocoee is the most challenging section of the river, with Class III and IV rapids. The run is 5 miles long, and includes the 1800 foot long Olympic slalom course. The first 2 miles of the run are fairly calm, with Class II rapids, but things take off after that, with rapids named Mikey, Blue Hole, Smiley Face, Humongous, and Hungry Mother.
The Upper Ocoee run begins below Dam #3 and ends near the Ocoee Whitewater Center. Water is released from Ocoee Dam #3 for this run only 34 days out of the year.
The Middle Ocoee is an exciting run, with over 20 nearly continuous Class III and IV rapids in a 5 mile stretch, starting downstream from the Ocoee Whitewater Center. The river here plunges down 269 feet through a scenic gorge, with rapids named Grumpy, Broken Nose, Squeeze Play and Tablesaw. Water released from Ocoee Dam #2 feeds this section on a regular schedule throughout the season.
Outfitters in the area offer guided rafting and funyak trips on both the Upper Ocoee and the Middle Ocoee. Some outfitters combine both for an all-day rafting trip.