10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Ocoee River

by | Ocoee River, Whitewater Rafting


1. Only 11% of the Ocoee River has whitewater for Ocoee River rafting.

Ocoee River Area

For the 93 miles that the Ocoee River flows the sections below Ocoee Dam #3 and Ocoee Dam #2 are the only parts of the river that have substantial whitewater rapids. There are most likely more rapids that where submerged by the creations of the lakes behind these dams.


2. The middle Ocoee River was dry until September 1976.

Dry Ocoee River

The the water on the middle section of the Ocoee River was diverted down a five mile wooden flume to a powerhouse down stream to make hydroelectric power. In September of 1976 a rock slide heavily damaged the flume line allowing water to consistently flow down the river bed for the first time since the Dam was constructed in 1913.


3. The Ocoee River is the only natural river used in a canoe and kayak Olympic games event.

1996 Ocoee Olympic River

For the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, GA the Ocoee River was used to hold the whitewater canoe and kayak events. To make this possible a 1,640 foot section of the upper Ocoee was narrowed by two-thirds to increase the current and create eddies and drops. This section of the river offers one of the most exciting rides on the Ocoee River, highlighted by the last two rapids “Godzilla” and “Humongous” which are back to back.


4. The middle section of the Ocoee River is the most popular whitewater rafting in the country.

Ocoee River is the most popular in the country

Consistently the middle section of the Ocoee River is floated by more people than any other whitewater river in the country. With over 200,000 commercial guests rafting, and 10,000 privately boating, the middle Ocoee provides a lot of enjoyment to a lot of people.


5. It took an act of congress to get water for white water rafting on the Ocoee.


Ocoee river flume line

In 1983, the completion of the repaired flume line was getting ready to come back on line and water was set to disappear from the river bed once again. Congress acted to save the whitewater recreation that rose while the flume was being fixed. An agreement was negotiated to provide 116 days of water release for the next 35 years, with the outfitters paying a total cost recovery for all power lost to TVA.


6. Ocoee is a Cherokee word meaning wild apricot.

passion flower ocoeeThe word Ocoee is Cherokee for Passiflora incarnata which is commonly known as wild apricot or maypop. The Cherokee people knew the Ocoee River gorge as the “apricot place” for all the beautiful wild apricot vines that once grew there.


7. Only 40% of the Ocoee River is called the Ocoee River.

40% Ocoee - 60% Toccoa

The Ocoee River is only known as the Ocoee for the 37 miles that it runs in Tennessee. The 56 miles of river in Georgia are named the Toccoa River. The Toccoa section of the river is quite calm giving way to activities like tubing and fishing.


8. From source to mouth the Ocoee River drops 1,370 feet in elevation.

Ocoee River Elevation Drop

For the 93 miles that the Ocoee/Toccoa River flows from the confluence of Canada and Mauldin creeks to the Hiwassee River it drops from 2,120 ft of elevation to 750 feet. The upper Ocoee section has a average of 50 feet per mile drop for its five miles.


9. The middle Ocoee River has no recorded class IV rapids during normal water levels.

Ocoee Rapids

The current scale for rating rapids was created by a non-profit group called American Whitewater. According To their website the middle section of the Ocoee does not have any class IV rapids under normal water levels. They have “Broken Nose”,”Double Suck”and “Table Saw” rapids classified as class III+ and 15 other rapids rated as solid class III.


10. The Ocoee River is currently not scheduled to have a water release after the 2018 season.

Save the Ocoee

The agreement between the outfitters and TVA is set to run out after the 2018 season. As of now an agreement is trying to be made so that there is a future past this point, it may take another act of congress. Please help us procure the Ocoee River past 2018 by visiting Save the Ocoee to see how you can help.

Jennifer and Grant Outlaw are co-owners of Carolina Outfitters and Carolina Ocoee.  They’ve been paddling whitewater in the Ducktown, TN and Bryson City, NC rivers for years and know how to help you have a great experience.


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