A History Of The Ocoee River

Middle Ocoee River Dam #2

The Ocoee River a History

The Ocoee River is a 37 mile stretch of water that flows through the Southern Appalachian Mountains before it joins its tributary the Hiwassee River downstream.

The Ocoee River gets its name from the Cherokee people that once lived on its banks.  In Cherokee the word Ocoee means apricot, which is in reference to the wild apricot vines that grow throughout the region.

There are three hydroelectric dams that control the Ocoee Rivers mighty power:

Dam #1 was built in 1911 by the East Tennessee Power Company and is 135 feet high. This dam creates the 1,930 acre Parksville Lake Reservoir. Parksville lake is also known as Lake Ocoee and is the oldest lake in the Cherokee National Forest.  Lake Ocoee is a popular recreation area for motor boats,lake kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming. Anglers fish for spotted bass and in 2017 the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency announced they had stocked the lake with native muskellunge (musky).

Parksville Lake RV Campground offers great Lake Ocoee access and is operated by the US Forest Service. The campground has shaded well maintained sites. Some amenities include: a full bath house, dump station, and potable water.  Reservations and full campground info can be found at www.recreation.gov.

Middle Ocoee River Dam #2 Flume Line

Dam #2 was also built by the East Tennessee Power Company in 1913.  It is only 30 feet high but stretches 450 feet across the river. Ocoee River Dam #2 diverts water down a wooden flum line that winds its way 5 miles down the side of the mountain.  Once at its destination the water drops some 250 feet down to the powerhouse.


The Middle Ocoee River Trip begins at Dam #2.  Guests get a first hand look at the dam as they portage their rafts down the concrete ramp that runs along side the dam. A curtain of white water flows over the top of the dam and fills the air with cool mist. It’s quite a impressive sight, one can’t help but feel the awesome power of the water is holds back.  

Middle Ocoee River Trip

The trip follows the historic flume line on awesome class III & IV white water to the powerhouse. At the powerhouse guests get a good look at the flume line running straight down the mountain into the powerhouse.  The last two rapids are aptly named Hell Hole and Power House. The Middle Ocoee River ends its journey in Lake Ocoee.

Ocoee Lake #2 has camping at Thunder Rock Campground.  Thunder Rock is located on the banks of the Middle Ocoee Lake.  With direct access to both the Ocoee river and the Tanasi Trail System this campground is seriously connected. More info and reservation can be found at www.recreation.gov.


In 1939 the Tennessee Valley Authority purchased Ocoee Dam #1 and Ocoee Dam #2 from East Tennessee Power Company and started building Ocoee Dam #3 shortly there after.

Dam #3 was finished in 1942 by the Tennessee Valley Authority to help produce power for World War II.  It is 110 feet high and diverts water into a tunnel that carries it down to the powerhouse.

Upper Ocoee River Olympic Section

Ocoee River Dam #3 supplies water for the Upper Ocoee River Trip and the Ocoee River Combo Trip.  The Upper Ocoee River is made up of part natural stream bed and part man made whitewater course.  The man made section of river bed is one of a kind and was built for the canoe and kayak events in the 1996 Olympics. It is the only white water course built into a natural stream bed.  Adventure seekers can raft this great section of Olympic white water on weekends throughout the summer months. During the week the white water course section of river is a picturesque swimming area.  Perfectly shaped pools make it a great place to cool off. You can find additional info about all the Ocoee WhiteWater Center has to offer at Ocoee WhiteWater Center.

A rock slide in 1976 damaged the wooden flume line of dam #2 and the TVA started releasing water down the stream bed in order to make the needed repairs.  It wasn’t long before people started to take notice of the Ocoee Rivers awesome white water. Kayakers and rafters loved the warm splashy whitewater the Ocoee River had to offer. While the TVA worked to restore the historic flume line a new industry was born.

Upper Ocoee River Trip

Commercial Ocoee River Rafting started and regular scheduled releases would follow.  The Ocoee River Dams now produce hydroelectric power part of the time and provide water for outdoor recreation the other.  

Today the Ocoee River is one of the most popular whitewater trips in the country.  Ocoee River Rafting is available on both the Upper Ocoee River and the Middle Ocoee River.  Rafters have the option of picking a single section of the river: Upper Ocoee River or the Middle Ocoee River or opting for the Combo Ocoee River Trip (Both sections of river with a grilled riverside lunch).

Ocoee River Gorge