Everything You Need to Know About Ocoee River Olympic Rafting

Becky WiseOcoee River

Ocoee River rafting - Wildwater


Nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, the Ocoee River tears through the valleys with big waves and phenomenal whitewater! Located in Tennessee, only two hours or less from Atlanta, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, this river is quite popular for whitewater thrill seekers.

The Ocoee’s headwaters descend from the high country of northern Georgia into southeastern Tennessee, weaving its rushing whitewater westward, down the Ocoee Gorge and into Lake Ocoee. The river is controlled by three dams, originally owned by the Eastern Tennessee Power Company, and currently operated by the TVA. The river dams, Ocoee No. 1 and Ocoee No. 2 were built between 1910 to 1913, along with the historic wooden flume that diverted the waters of the upper river around the river bed to the powerhouses.  TVA purchased the power system in 1939 and in September 1976 the wooden flume was shut down for reconstruction and once again the river ran unabated.

People began running the five mile stretch of the Ocoee River and struggled with TVA to get the right to use the whitewater. Eventually TVA agreed to schedule water releases into the river, and commercial rafting found a home on the Ocoee River in 1977 .

Whitewater racing events have been held on the Ocoee since 1977 which lead to the opening of the Upper Ocoee riverbed to world class racing. In 1996 the Ocoee was selected as the location of the Summer Olympic Whitewater competition.  That eventually led to the opening of the Upper Ocoee releases for boating and commercial raft trips.

The Ocoee experience can be divided into two half day trips, or a full day trip,the Upper Ocoee and the most popular, Middle Ocoee.  The Upper Ocoee is known and famous for the section of big whitewater that was home of the whitewater kayaking for the 1996 Olympics.  The Upper begins with rapids like Tombstone, Mikey’s & Blue Hole.  A large suspension bridge signifies the start of the Olympic Course. The first drop after the suspension bridge is called Best Ledge, with a large tongue on river right. Best Ledge leads directly into Smiley Face, named for a smiling face spray painted on a large rock in the middle of the rapid, visible only at low water.  After Smiley’s waves and eddies lead directly into Slam Dunk – the biggest single drop on the course.  The Upper Ocoee has water releases on weekends mid-May through mid-September.

With twenty large class III and IV rapids in a five-mile stretch of river, it’s no wonder that the Middle Ocoee trip is the most popular.  The Launch at the put-in is at the base of the dam, leading you immediately into the first major rapid, Grumpy. Grumpy is a long and pushy Class III that offers no chance for a warm-up.  Following Grumpy is Gonzo Shoals, Broken Nose, Moonshoot, Double Suck, and Double Trouble with its two large waves.  The 1/2 mile Doldrums gives everyone a breather before heading into the 2nd half of the trip.  Class III rapids Tablesaw, Diamond Splitter, Cat’s Pajamas, Hell Hole, and Powerhouse Rapid complete the Middle section.  The take-out is 1/2 mile further on the right.

Wildwater offers guided rafting trips on both the Middle and Upper sections of the Ocoee River.  Wildwater Ocoee has clean, spacious changing rooms, hot showers, and blow dryers for you when you return from your rafting trip. All transportation to and from the river is included, as is all basic rafting equipment: paddle, PFD, helmet and paddling jacket if needed. Make a full day—or weekend out of your Ocoee experience with the Upper and Middle whitewater rafting trips!

ocoee river canopy tours - Wildwater
Wildwater also offers a Zipline Canopy Tour to help you experience beautiful eastern Tennessee above the trees!