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.
The closest town to the Ocoee River is Ducktown, TN. This makes Ducktown a great starting point for Ocoee River Rafting and all the outdoor activities the Cherokee National Forest offers.
The Ocoee River became famous when it hosted the 1996 Olympic whitewater events and has since become a white water destination. Experienced paddlers and summer travelers now visit this wild and scenic river every year during the summer months. Ducktown, TN is the closest town to the Ocoee River. This makes Ducktown, TN the best option for rafters coming from Blue Ridge, Murphy, Ellijay, Hiawassee, Blairsville and Atlanta.
Our Carolina Ocoee outpost is located in Ducktown, TN and is just minutes away from the Ocoee River. The Ocoee River is a paradise of exciting white water, beautiful scenery and warm water! It has 10 miles of white water that is rafted March thru October. Two TVA dams release the water and divide the river into sections. This allows for two rafting trip options:
- The Middle Ocoee Trips is a half day trip that follows the historic flume line through the Ocoee River Gorge. This beautiful section of river is action packed with exciting white water rapids.
- The Combo Ocoee Trip is an exciting and challenging full day on the river. This trip combines the challenge of the Olympic White Water Course on the Upper Ocoee with the flowy waves of the Middle Ocoee. We serve a grilled riverside lunch half way down the river for hungry rafters.
Ducktown, Tennessee is also conveniently located near the Ocoee White Water Center. The White Water Center is a popular hub for mountain biking and day hiking on the Tanasi Trail System (Map). On weekdays the Ocoee Whitewater Center has swimming available in its picturesque natural pools.
If you are thinking about a whitewater rafting trip on the Ocoee River, then consider Ducktown, TN as the hub for your adventure.
Awesome white water rafting near Huntsville, AL can be found on the Ocoee River. Located in East Tennessee the Ocoee River is only 3 hours from Alabama so it makes a great day trip!
Home to the 1996 Olympic whitewater events the Ocoee River serves up 10 miles of exciting white water rafting that has something for everyone. Rafters can pick between two different trip options.
Middle Ocoee Rafting and Combo Ocoee Rafting.
The Middle Ocoee Trip is an exciting and splashy half day excursion that winds its way through the wild & scenic Cherokee National Forest.
The Combo Ocoee Trip is an exciting and challenging full day on the river. This trip combines the challenge of the Olympic white water course on the Upper Ocoee with the flowy waves of the Middle Ocoee. We serve a grilled riverside lunch half way down the river for hungry rafters.
All rafting trips are fully guided so no experience is necessary. All equipment and transportation is provided. The minimum age for Ocoee River Rafting is 12 years old.
If you are thinking about a whitewater rafting trip near Huntsville, Alabama then your next adventure is waiting for you on the Ocoee River.
Taking a white water rafting trip on the Ocoee River in early spring or fall is a great time to be on the water. In the spring, everything is blooming and in the fall the leaves put on a colorful show.
But! You need to dress for the occasion. Think Layers! Layers are the key to staying warm.
Basic Layering 101:
1. Base layer:
A good base layer is made out of synthetic fabrics. Athletic clothes that are made out of polyester or nylon are good examples. These fabrics wick away moisture to keep you cool in summer but the same tech helps keep you warm in cool weather. Synthetic fabrics also pack down small, so they can easily be stashed away when you don’t need them.
2. Fleece and Wool:
Fleece and wool are a great second layer because they insulate so well and dry quickly. Fleece is cozy warm and is great for pants and tops. I like wool socks for your feet because you can still wear your Chacos and the itchy part of wool is not a factor.
3. Outer Layer:
A splash jacket makes a great outer layer. It repels water and has Velcro closures for your wrists and neck to help keep you dry and to keep your body heat in. On the Ocoee River a splash jacket is usually all you need because our water is warm by mountain river standards. If the day happens to be especially cool a neoprene wet-suit is just the ticket. A wet-suit works by trapping in your body heat with a layer of neoprene. We like the farmer john type wets suits paired with a splash jacket.
We schedule our spring and fall Ocoee River rafting trips so that you are on the river during the warmest part of the day. This kind of white water rafting schedule helps keep rafters their warmest. If you are warm you can enjoy the great white water and take in the beautiful Cherokee National Forest!
If you have questions about what to wear or bring for your white water trip feel free to call us at 423-496-5050. Our friendly staff would be glad to help.
Ruth’s Golden Aster – Ocoee River Wild Flower Spotlight
As you raft down the Ocoee River keep and eye out for the Ruth’s Golden Aster (Pityopsis ruthii). This gorgeous little flower only grows along the Ocoee River and the Hiwassee River in Polk County, TN.
Preferring full sun this wild flower grows in the rock cracks and crevasses along the rivers edge and on the rock croppings in the middle of the river. The Flowers grow on stems about 8 to 12 inches tall and have narrow green leaves that have silver hairs covering them. They bloom a brilliant yellow, August thru September, so they are easy to spot while rafting most any section of the Ocoee River.
Ruth’s Golden Aster is on the federal endangered species list due to habitat loss and the encroachment of competing plant species. Efforts to save the flower are underway and include greenhouse propagation, habitat preservation and removal of the competing vegetation.
One of the best spots to see the aster is on the Middle Ocoee Rafting Trip. Just past Double-Suck Rapid there is a rock island in the middle of the river. A plaque on the stone island informs guests about the rare wild flowers and warns guests not to walk or pick the flowers as part of the conservation effort.
If you see this wonderful specimen on the river please take only pictures and help us get the word out about this native wildflower.
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. White Water Rafting On The Ocoee River.
Ducktown is the gateway to the awesome whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River. The Ocoee River is a splashy and fun Class III and IV white water rafting river. Adventure seekers can choose from several trip options: The Middle Ocoee River Trip (Half Day), The Upper Ocoee River Trip (Half Day) or The Combo Ocoee Trip with a grilled riverside lunch (Full Day). No Experience is necessary since all trips are guided. Rafting the Ocoee River is a great way to connect as a family and experience the natural beauty of the Cherokee National Park. Ocoee River Rafting Info
2. Blue Hole Swimming On The Ocoee River
Located at the Ocoee Whitewater Center, Blue Hole is a great place to swim and snorkel or just cool off. The water is super clear so you can see a variety of fish and turtles. Blue Hole also has some unique rock croppings that look like swiss cheese. You can swim thru and explore these interesting tunnels. Swimming and snorkeling are only allowed during the week (Monday- Friday) when the water is turned off. On Saturdays and Sundays the water is turned on and the river becomes a swift Class IV white water rafting area and absolutely no swimming is allowed. The area also has a nice picnic area and museum so pack a lunch!
3. Turtletown Creek Falls
If a short hike to a great waterfall is what you’re looking for, then here it is. Turtletown Creek Falls is an easy to moderate 3.8 mile loop trail. The hike usually takes about 2 hours, but allow for more time because there is an upper and lower falls and folks tend to hang out and take photos. Dogs are allowed on the trail but must be on a leach, so take Fido they will love it! Don’t forget your camera!
4. Toccoa River Fishing
The Toccoa River is considered to be some of the best trout fishing in Georgia. Anglers can fish for brown trout, rainbow trout and brook trout in the waters of the Toccoa. The river is stocked by the fishery and has a healthy population of large trophy trout. There are several access points for wading trips including the easily accessible Horse Shoe Bend Park. If you have a boat then drift fishing on the Lower Toccoa is just the ticket. Drift fishing allows anglers to access several great fishing holes that aren’t accessible any other way. There are also guided fishing tours available in the area if you don’t have your own equipment.
5. Brush Creek Bike Trail
The Brush Creek Mountain Bike Trail is 14 miles of flowing single track located in the Cherokee National Forrest. The trial is well maintained and mostly hard packed with a few gravel areas. The trail starts at Boyds Gap Overlook and winds around to meet the Ocoee River. There are long range mountain views and lots of great spots to take in. Brush Creek trail is part of the larger Tanasi Trail System which is worth checking out if your going to be mountain biking in the area.
6. Copperhill, TN Shops
Copperhill is a charming old mining town that has great walk appeal. By that I mean it is a great place to just park your car and walk around town. There are specialty boutiques, open air restaurants and several good antique stores worth checking out. There are also two local breweries in town to help you unwind from a busy day of adventuring.