For 34 days each summer the Upper Ocoee River is a rushing class III-IV whitewater river. This section of whitewater is most famous for the quarter mile section that was altered to host the 1996 Olympic canoe and kayak events. When it is not releasing and creating awesome whitewater this is what it looks like. It is a landscape of boulders, rock formations, and swimming holes. After a rafting trip on the Middle Ocoee River or a mountain bike ride on the Tanasi Trails this is the perfect spot to cool off in one of the many swimming holes. We hope you enjoy these pictures of the area and they inspire you to see this beautiful place for yourself.
1. So Much Whitewater, So Close Together
The southern Appalachian Mountains are covered in beautiful whitewater rivers. From southeast Tennessee to West Virginia there are over a dozen world class whitewater rafting rivers to enjoy. This means that if you are in the these southern mountains you are only a half days drive from anyone of these rafting adventures. With so much whitewater multi river vacations are very common and easy to do. If you make the Smoky Mountain National Park your hub then you are only a few hours drive from the: Nantahala River, Ocoee River, Pigeon River, and Chattooga River. Staying in Asheville, NC puts you close to the: French Broad River, Nolichucky River, and Watauga River. The sheer amount of whitewater the southeast boasts makes it a natural destination for those who love whitewater rafting.
- Tennessee – Ocoee River, Pigeon River, Watauga River and Nolichucky River
- North Carolina – Nantahala River, Tuckasegee River, French Broad, Cheoah River and The Charlotte Whitewater Center
- Georgia/South Carolina – Chattooga River
- West Virginia – New River and Gauley River
2. The Weather
The warm weather of the southern Appalachian Mountains provides three season whitewater rafting. The average temperature of the Smoky Mountains in the summer is in the high 80s. This makes for perfect rafting weather in the summer and with a little bit of insulation gear fantastic spring and fall rafting. Compared with the rest of the country this is unheard of. Most rivers out west and up north raft on snow melt and have to provide full dry suits to maintain their guests’ comfort.
3. Variety Of Whitewater
In southern Appalachia the sheer number of raftable rivers lends itself to an expansive variety of different whitewater experiences. There are mild rivers and wildly adventurous rivers. Some are dam controlled and others are natural flow. There are wild and scenic rivers and there are man made whitewater courses. All can be fun and exciting while being very different experiences.
- Nantahala River (NC)
- Tuckasegee River (NC)
- Watauga River (NC)
- Lower Pigeon River (TN)
- Mild Ocoee River (TN)
- French Broad River (NC)
- Chattooga River Section III (SC)
- Upper Pigeon River (TN)
- Nolichucky River (TN)
- New River (WV)
- Charlotte Whitewater Center (NC)
- Gauley River (WV)
- Cheoah River (NC)
- Chattooga River Section IV (GA)
- Upper Ocoee River (TN)
Dam Controlled Rivers (Consistent Flows) – Ocoee River, Nantahala River, Tuckasegee River, Pigeon River, Gauley River and Cheoah River
Natural Flow Rivers – Chattooga River, French Broad River, Nolichucky River, New River, and Watauga River
Man-Made Rivers – Charlotte Whitewater Center and Ocoee River (Olympic Section)
4. Ease Of Access
Nearly 40% of the US population lives in the South and the Appalachian Mountains are the natural getaway from the congestion of the cities and the relentless heat of the summers. The Northeast is home to another 17% of the population who are often trying to escape the cold of the north. This makes this region of the country perfect for over half the population. Sandwich this with the fact that over half the rivers on our list run along major highways. So the whitewater rivers of the south are perfect for vacationers and weekend warriors alike.
5. The Whitewater Community
Since whitewater rafting started in the south in the 1970ss it has grown a strong community of river loving enthusiasts. The outfitters that operate on these rivers have a mindset of helping one another and setting standards of excellence in rafting. Kayak clubs and youth programs have popped up in these areas increasing the knowledge and securing a future and love for these mountain rivers. Around all of these rivers jobs are created by the raft companies and industries thrive in the innovation and production of whitewater gear. It is truly a incredible place to live, work, and play in.
Swimming At Blue Hole
When the Upper Ocoee River is running it is some of the best whitewater in the country, but when the power company turns it off to divert it for electricity it becomes a riverbed of awesome swimming holes. The most popular of these swimming holes is Blue Hole. Blue Hole is one of the larger and deeper of the swimming spots but it is most known for its underwater tunnels that you can swim through. The water is very clear and with a set of goggles, most can easily see tons of fish and swim around the natural formations and tunnels. To get to this locally known swimming haven you must park at the Ocoee Whitewater Center, where the 96 Olympics whitewater events happened, walk upstream past the visitor center and then past the suspension bridge. After passing the suspension bridge Blue Hole will be only a few hundred feet upstream. If you walk out on the suspension bridge and look upstream you can see it. When you get there set you stuff on a rock and enjoy this nature wonder nestled in the beautiful Ocoee River Gorge.
Hike To Turtle Town Falls
The Cherokee National Forest, which is the home of the Ocoee River, boasts many hikes and waterfalls to explore, of these Turtletown Falls Trail is our favorite. Located a little less than a 20 minute drive from the Ocoee River in Farner, TN. The Turtlatown Falls Trail is a 3.8 mile loop trail that leads out to this beautiful waterfall. The trail is considered a moderate hike, and is well marked and used by the locals. Most of the trail is shaded in the canopy of the forest, but if you are hot when you get out there than take a dip and swim at the base of the waterfall.
Mountain Biking The Brush Creek Trail
The Brush Creek Mountain Bike Trail is a beginner 7 mile loop trail that is part of the much bigger Tanasi Trail System that rides all around the Upper Ocoee River Section. For those that are beginner riders it is a good introduction into mountain biking and for those who ride often they will enjoy the flow and beauty of the trail. Brush Creek Trail follows Brush Creek, rides the banks of Ocoee Lake #3, and passes the awesome views of Boyd’s Gap. If you enjoy the ride as much as we do and want more, than you will find that there is much more in this trail system. For maps and more information about this vast trail system stop in at the visitor center at the Ocoee Whitewater Center.
Ocoee River Whitewater Rafting
Whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River is by far the highlight of the Ocoee River Gorge and the main reason that most people come into the area. The middle section of the Ocoee River is the most popular rafting river in the country due to its over 20 named rapids in a 5 mile rafting trip, making it the perfect half day adventure. The upper section of the Ocoee River is impressive in it own right as the home of the 96 Olympic Games canoe and kayak events. When you put these two sections together in makes for a 10 mile full day awesome whitewater adventure. For the hot days of summer there is really no better way to cool off.
Brewery Hopping In Copperhill
One of the nearest towns to the Ocoee River in Copperhill, TN. Copperhill was once known as a mining town for a rich vain of copper that ran through it. Now it is mostly known as a small mountain town that is a hub for all the awesome outdoor adventures that are in the area nearby. After a day on the trail or river it is the perfect place to get some good grub, listen to some live music and have a beer. The last of those is something Copperhill it killing it at, mostly due to two breweries Buckbald Brewing and Copperhill Brewery. Buckbald Brewing makes a forever changing selection of small batch beers, with something new on tap every time you come. There outdoor setting is perfect for lounging and enjoying. The Copperhill Brewery is a more tradition style brewery with a solid selection of high quality brews. Their pub style setting is perfect for getting out of the heat and drinking with friends.
If you have driven I-4 in Florida from Tampa to Orlando then you have seen a sign for Ocoee, FL. For those of us from southeast Tennessee this is a bit perplexing. The word Ocoee is a Cherokee word meaning “apricot place” or “passion flower” and is very distinctive to the Ocoee River in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. So why is there a place in Florida with the same name? Well here is why.
After the end of the Civil War a native of Tennessee, Captain Bluford M. Sims, settled in Florida. Bluford purchased land and established the first citrus nursery in the United States. This section of land that Sims used to grow his citrus is now the location of downtown Ocoee, Florida. Bluford and other residence of the area created the town of Ocoee. They decided to name the area Ocoee after the Ocoee River in Tennessee. To this day the Ocoee, FL logo is inspired by the passion flower, which is the Cherokee translation for Ocoee.
So, now you know how a place in Florida was named after a river in Tennessee with Cherokee origins.
Rafting through the Olympic section of the Upper Ocoee River is a awesome ride of excitement. The Olympic Section of the Ocoee River is a man altered coarse that was engineered for the 1996 Olympic Games. It was designed to challenge the best canoe and kayakers in the world. Every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day we get the opportunity to take guests through this awesome section of whitewater.
Your first rapid, Best Ledge, is a diagonal wave that soaks you right off the bat. Then you will slam and splash your way through Smiley Face, Slam Dunk, and Callahan’s Ledge before getting to the two biggest rapids on the whole river Godzilla and Humongous. These last to rapids are right next to each other and success on the first one dictated your success on the second one. So listen well and paddle hard so gold can be yours on the Olympic Section.
1. Enjoy, it is only whitewater rafting
It is worth reminding yourself that you have one of the best jobs on the planet. Our job is what everyone goes to do as a vacation. At times the heat and chaos can take hold, but you have to learn to shed it and enjoy.
2. Rafting is the easy part
From put in to takeout there are over twenty major rapids on the middle Ocoee River and you would think that is the hardest part of what we do, but it is not. Making everything look easy and effortless is the hard part. Putting trips together: loading gear, outfitting guests, entertaining on the way to the river, safety briefing, and getting onto the river, and then doing all that in reverse when we get off is by far more taxing mentally and physically.
3. When your team is happy, your guests are happy
Happiness is contagious. Is is important to recognize when you are adding to the chaos and when you are trying to remedy it. Rafting is a team sport, so it is necessary for everyone to do there part. When it shows you enjoy your work it lifts everyone.
4. The customer is not always right
Not everyone can realize when things are a good idea and when they are not. Some rapids are fun to surf and others are not worth the danger if something went wrong. We aim to give a customized trip for the guests that we have in our boats but not when it comes to jeopardizing safety or giving them more than they can handle. We have a motto that you can go home mad at us as long as you get to go home.
5. Flow like water
We work in nature on a beautiful river and sometime we forget that. Take the time to look around and experience what is provided. Go with the flow and not against it. The easiest path is almost always downstream.
5 Great Reasons Why You Should Get Outside
1. Vitamin D “ The Sunshine Vitamin ”
Unlike most vitamins that can easily be found in food, Vitamin D is best found outdoors. Vitamin D is made when bare skin is exposed to sunlight. The sun’s ultraviolet rays convert cholesterol in your skin into Vitamin D. Studies suggest that the average person needs between 15 and 20 minutes depending on skin tone of direct sun expose to produce the recommended amount of Vitamin D.
So why is this vitamin so important? Well, Vitamin D helps develop strong bones and teeth in kids and helps prevent osteoporosis in adults and the elderly. Vitamin D also helps regulate cell function which protects against several types of cancer. Studies also suggests Vitamin D may play a role in the prevention of diabetes. With this kind of stats it is easy to see why Vitamin D tops our list for great reason to be outdoors.
2. Dirt !
Now many of us have heard the old saying “ Just rub a little dirt on it”. Well as it turns out, dirt really can be good for you. New research on soil suggests that exposure to the bacteria and microbes in dirt can help boost our immune systems. Exposing ourselves to small amounts of bacteria and microbes found in soil triggers a positive immune response and helps protect us against more dangerous bacteria in the future.
Adults and children who regularly come into contact with dirt, pollen and animals are healthier overall and have less allergies. So the next time you think about getting your hands dirty, just know it’s a good thing!
3. Stress Relief – Something We all Need
Studies show that people who take a 20 minute walk in the woods or on a garden path feel more relaxed than those who take the same stroll on a city street. Even more interesting is the fact that people who simply live in natural areas and spend time outdoors have lower levels of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone.
Spending time outdoors can also help improve concentration and reduce anxiety and is being used more and more as a natural option to treat ADHD in kids. Psychologist sometimes incorporate nature walks as part of a treatment regimen for people suffering from depression. Exactly why it helps is unclear. However researchers think that it allows the mind to refocus on things like the sound of water and the wind blowing in the trees. In essence it feels all of our six senses with nature and allows the person to relax and reset. How awesome is that!
Mother nature is the perfect companion for getting your sweat on. Hiking, biking and swimming are just a few ways that being outdoors can help us stay in shape. When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins. These endorphins trigger positive feelings and interact with our brain receptors to reduce the feeling of pain.
Getting regular exercise can help prevent many chronic illnesses like heart disease and high blood pressure. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day elevates energy levels and improves sleep quality. Add that to the fact that outdoor exercise is cheap when compared to a gym membership and I’d say you have a perfect match.
The great outdoors is second to none in beauty, so it’s no surprise that artists like Claude Monet and Andy Goldsworthy channel inspiration from it.
A study done by the University of Utah found that people scored 50% higher on creativity tests after spending time in nature. In fact creatively, focus, productivity and energy all get a boost from being in nature. There is a measurable ability of the natural world to filter into and inspire our lives. So, the next time you feel a little overwhelmed before you reach for that energy drink try a quick walk in the great outdoors instead.
Carolina Ocoee’s Favorite Trail Mixes
Trail Mix is one of those rare foods that literally has something for everyone. Weather you have picky kids or just need that extra boost of energy, here are some of our favorites.
The Go Go Go Mix
This mix is packed with fruit that is an excellent source of vitamin B6, Carbs and Potassium that helps boost your energy. The seeds are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids and combat fatigue and inflammation. This mix is a great way to stay energized for a full day on the Ocoee River.
The Little Adventurer
The Sweet Tooth
Let us know what you think and if you have a good trail mix recipe share it.
See you out there!
Ocoee River Championships
The first (of hopefully many) Ocoee River Championships (ORC) are going to be held on the Olympic section of the Ocoee river. On August 24th – 26th of this year the Olympic section of the Ocoee will host a new kind of whitewater event reminiscent of what this section of the river was created for. Within these three days there will be world class contests in slalom, freestyle, downriver, boater cross, squirt, SUP, rafting, and ducky cross.
For the first time in nearly two decades the Olympic venue at the Ocoee Whitewater Center will cater to a world class whitewater event. This section of river was designed and altered for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic games to host the whitewater events. Since then has the river bed has been dry, only running on weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day for whitewater rafting.
This event will be much like a festival with outdoor vendors, food, and awesome whitewater. So unplug and bring the family to the Ocoee river to see some of the top names in our sport battle to be the best at the first ever Ocoee River Championships.
To get more information about the Ocoee River Championship check out there web page.