Ocoee River Rapids Names and Their Meaning

by | Ocoee River, Whitewater Rafting


Naming rapids on a white water river such as the Ocoee River in Ducktown,Tennessee is a way to bring them alive and give them a personality–make them unique. Some names are derived from rock formations, suckholes, drops, the level of difficulty, the culture and history of the surrounding area, stories, and even pop culture. Naming rapids give guides a heads up on how difficult the rapid is and how to navigate over them and provide the most enjoyment for their boatload of white water rafting customers.
Carolina Ocoee has put together a list of the most popular rapids with their names and meanings. Some rapid names go back as far as 1977 and may have been renamed in later years. Below are the most familiar names.

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Upper Ocoee River Rapids

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Bush Gardens

– Before the water is released on the Upper Ocoee River, this area and trees are on dry ground. Once the dam releases water into the riverbed, you can paddle between trees as if you’re paddling through a garden of bushes

Tombstone

–  This one is aptly named for a large tombstone shaped rock at the rapids.

Mikey’s Ledge

-A ledge named by Rick Covington after the Life Cereal Mikey Likes It TV ad that was popular in the 1970s at the time of his high water trip. Mikey’s Ledge is a six foot drop that will “eat anything” according to some water enthusiasts.

Blue Hole

– Named by locals for the holes that pepper the area providing a popular place to swim when the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) doesn’t release the water.  You can swim through shallow tunnels in the rocks. Some are quite narrow, so don’t swim in if you think you’ll get stuck! When the water is released, rafting Blue Hole is a fun rollercoaster ride.

Best Ledge

– The first ledge of the 1996 Summer Olympics section of the Upper Ocoee River–a diagonal wave that soaks you through and through. It’s the best ledge with some great surfing play time below it.

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Smiley Face

–  At this rapid a smiley face was painted on a rock in the middle of the rapid, but can only be seen at low water levels.

Slam Dunk

– The biggest single drop of the Olympic Section that slam dunks you on the river. It’s a fun wave train right before Godzilla and Humongous with Callihan’s Ledge in between. 

Godzilla & Humongous

These two rapids are back to back monsters, thus the names. Humongous drops into a big hole with a fun wave train to the left.

Roach Motel

– Roach Motel is another rapid named by Rick Covington after a really high water run; his muse was the Roach Motel TV ad that began airing in 1976.

Edge of the World

– a five foot drop that makes you feel as if you’re falling over the edge of the world. 

 

Middle Ocoee River Rapids

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Image Source: Gary Harper – Man of Rubber River Gear

 

Grumpy’s Ledge

 – In the winter, with frost or snow glistening on the Ocoee#2 Diversion Dam, Gary Harper   (Man of Rubber River Gear) named it Snow White. He named the stretch of rapids after Snow White the Seven Dwarfs: Bashful, Sleepy, Dopey, Grumpy, Doc, Sneezy, and Happy, which was the original order of the rapids. The whole section was later shortened to just Grumpy, mainly because everyone remembers the ledge at the Grumpy rapids. It’s also been said that if you fall out of the raft at Grumpy’s Ledge, you’ll be grumpy for the rest of the trip down.

 

North Shore

– This name is derived from the fact there is a sweet wave trough for hard boaters and several surfable waves – named by hard boaters that love the surf features.

Staging Eddy

– This is where you eddy out your raft river left to regroup–a place to surf while you wait for the rest of the group. An eddy is a place immediately downstream from an obstacle where the water moves counter to the current in a circular pattern creating a whirlpool causing the water to flow upstream.

Gonzo Shoals

– Named because of a rock that reportedly looks like Gonzo the Muppet’s nose. Also named by Gary Harper. Shoals are where the water runs shallow.

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Broken Nose

– Gary Harper and his friends were at a launch site right near some rapids. They saw a kayaker walking down the road with blood streaming from his nose. Mr. Harper decided that this rapid would be known as Broken Nose. A class III+  rapid consisting of three drops with a powerful hole at the bottom. Catch the eddy to scout your course. The first drop has a strong left to right curler that can slam boaters into low-hanging trees. Catching the eddies makes this rapid easier to guide.

Second Helping

– Named by Gary Harper back before self-bailing rafts were available. If you hit the rapids a little sideways you would end up with an extra 500 lbs of water in your boat making the raft hard to control. You would need to pull over and dump the water out before continuing your journey. After Broken Nose, there is no good place to pull over and empty your boat so you might get a second helping of water in your boat at the next rapid called Second Helping for that reason.

Slice & Dice

– Named by kayakers this class III rapid boasts some sharp rocks! A swim in this portion of the Ocoee River would be nasty. Hang on and stay in the raft, otherwise, you might get sliced and diced on the rocks if you take a swim

Moon Chute

– Named by Gary Harper because it always looks like someone is mooning over by the easy chute at Butt Crack Rock. He chose the word “chute” because of a passage through the rapid, not because you shoot through the rapid. This is a class III rapid and a fun place to do spins.

Double Suck 

– Where two keeper hydraulics form to the river right of two large boulders. The river comes over a class III ledge just right of the main boulder (forming the first suckhole), and then pours over a smaller boulder (forming the second suckhole). Gary Harper named this rapid Double Suck. He almost gave up guiding that summer because he got tossed out of the raft so many times. He wanted to call it Head Job (because it messed with his head), but they thought the name was too risque and named it Double Suck instead…

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Hell’s Half Mile

– A half mile of rocks to avoid, but with fun waves. Named Hell’s Half Mile because a long swim through there would not be fun. 

Double Trouble

– Class III rapids where two holes (double trouble) are located closely together, with some of the biggest waves on the Ocoee River. It’s also known as Maypop because of the Maypop Passion Flower that grows along the Ocoee river. Ocoee is a Cherokee word that means “place where the maypop grows.” Other sources say it means “apricot vine” in the Cherokee language. The flower is also known as wild apricot.

Left Right Left

– This rapid was named by commercial rafting company lines moving from the river left side, to just right of center, and then making their way back to the river left side to guide through the rapid.

Squeeze Play

– This one was named by J.T. Lemons–one of the pioneers of white water rafting on the Ocoee River. Named Squeeze Play because the main channel is pushed (squeezed) into the left river bank.

Flipper

Named for a rock that has the potential to flip rafts. 

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Hollywood

– Listed as the best play spot on the Ocoee River. Come play in Hollywood!

Doldrums

A half mile section of the Middle Ocoee where the river is calmer so boaters and rafters can get out and play in the water and cool off before tackling the rest of the rapids. Also named by Gary Harper because it sounded better and, perhaps, more accurate, than The Horse Latitudes, which is one of the names he considered for that rapid.

Hiawassee Shoals

– Named for the Hiwassee River north of the Ocoee River. This is an easy Class II section, with a few fun waves, where private boaters can pull over and have a picnic.

Sneaky Pete

– Named by Gary Harper because it’s a sneaky hidden ledge right before another sneaky hidden ledge called Surprise. Mr. Harper wouldn’t say anything to his boat of rafters until they spilled over the ledge, then he would yell, Surprise!

Table Saw

– At one time a huge submerged rock created an impressive rooster tail of water creating a table saw effect. In the 90s the rock was washed away by a big flood and is no longer there. There’s still fun to be had in this class III+ rapid as you paddle through some large diagonal waves.

Diamond Splitter

– Also named by Gary Harper in reference to a diamond shaped rock with a current split equally on each side. Witches Hole at the bottom river left makes a great surfing area to play. It’s also the former home of the Ocoee Rodeo.

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Western Flyer

– Named by Gary Harper because the river takes a turn to the west here and picks up speed. His love for the Western Flyer Wagon when he was a  boy inspired the naming of this rapid.

Dixie Drive

Bob Baker, another pioneer of white water rafting, named this rapid after a 1970s band from Tallahassee Florida called Dixie Drive.

Slingshot or Accelerator

– Named by Gary Harper because it’s a narrow shoot where the water speeds up and slingshots you through the rapids. 

Torpedo

– Named by Gary Harper for the torpedo effect of this section. Popular with squirt boaters who sink and play here. The rapid is also known as Cat’s Pajamas. A series of broken ledges provides ample play for boaters.

 

Hell’s Hole

– In 1977 this rapid was more of a true hole, making the drop more abrupt and steeper and much more likely to keep rafters and kayakers stuck in its clutches before spitting them back out. Today it’s the most popular rapid on the Ocoee River where kayakers surf in the eddies, and once was the site of the 1993 World Rodeo Championships. Be sure and watch In The Beginning – Ocoee River 1977 to see what happened to those in rafts, canoes, and kayaks who hit the left column that supported the old bridge (today replaced with a bridge without columns) below Hell’s Hole–nothing tragic, but probably not fun either.

Powerhouse

– Once upon a time this rapid was called Bubba Home Free, possibly because it’s the last rapid on the Middle Ocoee and Bubba is home free after that. Since then it has been renamed Powerhouse–the last rapid on the Middle Ocoee that ends at the powerhouse, thus the name Powerhouse.

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The above are not all of the rapids named on the Ocoee River but are by far the most interesting. Some are terrifyingly fun, others let you catch your breath before the next stomach dropping water ledge. The Ocoee River is the world’s best and favorite white water rafting adventure. Come on out and see for yourself!

 

Don’t forget to book your white water rafting trip with Carolina Ocoee and experience these awesome rapids for yourself. 

 

Sources

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Image Source: Gary Harper rafting the Ocoee River in the 1970s – Man of Rubber River Gear

 

In The Beginning – Ocoee River 1977. A great video about the early days of white water rafting on the Ocoee River by Gary & Beth Harper owners of Man of Rubber River Gear. A great big thank you to Gary Harper who took some time to talk to me about the Ocoee River and gave me great insight on the rapids he named.

American Whitewater.

Margaret Marr, is a local author of paranormal, mystery, and suspense laced with romance. She has written over 15 books available on Amazon. 

 

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