Monday, September 16, 2013

Whitewater Rafting at the Ocoee River, Tennessee


Blairsville, Georgia  (high 79, low 61)

On Sunday we made another trip to Tennessee to see the Tennessee Valley Authority release the damn into the Ocoee River.  

The TVA has a schedule of when and where the water will be released.  It’s usually on the week-ends and holidays. They are winding them down for the year with the last water releases to be done next month.

There are many different whitewater rafting companies, as evidenced by the various buses and different colored rafts. Each commercial raft that floats down the river, has to pay a fee to the TVA for the privilege of using the water they control.

We ran across the Whitewater center by accident last week and discovered it was where the 1996 Olympics held the whitewater competitions.

There was no water in the river.   At least, not much.  :)

no water in Ocoee River at whitewater center

Unfortunately, despite all the literature we had picked up giving us the schedules for the water releases (which apparently we didn’t read), we ended up back there yesterday to still no water!

no water in Ocoee River at whitewater center

We were a little confused because there is Ocoee damn I,II, and III.  We decided we’d better go into the visitor center and ask where we could see water, because from our understanding water was supposed to have been released yesterday.

no water in Ocoee River at whitewater center

We found out we were up river too high and the release was the next damn downriver.


We walked around a bit, admiring the beautiful rocks and beauty all around.





rock cliffs

What’s up with this copper colored water?  


Nice hiking and biking trails.   Watch for bears!

trails at whitewater center

We left there and followed the highway along the river.  There were numerous narrow places to pull over, but very few empty parking places and the trees blocked much of the river view.


We finally found Ocoee damn II and found a nice big parking lot.  This place was where it was all happening.


Ocoee II damn

There was a big dropoff/waterfall from the top down into the river.

Ocoee II damn

The kayakers and rafts were waiting on top of the drop off.  Surely, they weren’t going to make these novice whitewater rafters, take the big plunge off the top of the damn?

Ocoee II damn

As we walked up the road along a path overlooking the river, we discovered a ramp where they could safely enter the water.   It appeared they sat on the top near the calm water, getting lessons and waiting their turns, then that on the top of the hour, was their time to start entering the water.  It was not every man for himself, but appeared they had some sort of preplanned order for who went first.

Here is the ramp they carried the rafts and kayaks down to enter the water.


That drop off doesn’t look to high in the above picture, but it was probably 50+ feet.


This ramp went from being completely empty, to suddenly like a bell was rung and all the waiting rafters headed down towards the water, all in an orderly fashion.



The pathway along the top of the damn went on for a while and it was the perfect place to watch the action.

Ocoee II damn

I’m not sure I’m brave enough to kayak or raft on this river.  As I did some research, I learned that two women died one week-end in late August.  One on a Saturday and the other the next day.   The scuttlebutt was that some of the white water companies sell photos of the trip and if they can get people to fall out of the rafts, they sell more pictures.  At least that is what the theory is.  I don’t know for sure, but I do know, I would not want to fall into those rocky waters and very fast moving waters.  They said if you do fall out, to quickly  lift your feet to keep them from getting caught in the rocks and pulling you under.  Kind of scary.  

After watching the rafts for a long time, we happily did not see anyone fall out and it didn’t seem that anyone was trying to make that happen.  

The week-end of the two fatalities, it appears the water release was a lot more than normal.  The water was deeper and faster moving than normal and the TVA didn’t make anyone aware of the change.  Maybe they are all being a lot more cautious now. I don’t know, but I do know, I’m not sure I want to give it a try.  Al thinks he wants to try.  Maybe next season.

whitewater rafting


whitewater rafting

Downriver a little, there was a large rock.  One of the rafts was turned upside down along the rock and people were taking turns jumping onto the raft and sliding into the water.



Smaller kayaks were plentiful along the river as well as the large commercial rafts.



We wanted to wait until they “turned off the water” to see how fast the rapids stopped and what it looked like afterwards, but we had to get back home.

Our journey yesterday led us out of Georgia, into Murphy, North Carolina and then into Tennessee…..all in about an hour.

It was a fun day.  We took a LOT of pictures and enjoyed all the action.

We plan to go back to the Ocoee Whitewater Center next Saturday for their last water release of the season.  We’re anxious to see it with water flowing.


After we came home, we got on the golf cart for our happy hour/bear hunt.

We didn’t see a bear, but we did see these big boys.

parti poodles

They are called Parti Poodles.  They are big boys at around 100 pounds each.  Their Mom and Dad, Claudia and Roy are staying in our campground, while looking to buy an RV site. 

  We saw lots of pretty wildflowers on out drive along the river.


Al on golf cart


We came across this beautiful guy.  We think he is an Eastern Box Turtle.  Notice the incredible markings on his shell.




After our golf cart ride, we sat in the hot tub for a while, then Al watched some football while I went watched a movie.


Today, we’re back to painting.  We are having to re-stain the cabin and paint the green trim.  We (Al) have two sides done, and hope to complete it today.  We haven’t minded the work because the weather has been so nice.  70’s during the days and 50’s at night is the prediction for the week.


  1. Craig once said he would like to try rafting, but I'm not at all interested in it. Seems like it would be cold, wet, and dangerous. I don't like boats or rollercoasters, so I'm sure I wouldn't like rafting. Hot air balloning is another story!

  2. I've done a little bit of white water rafting in my life, but I find that the older I get the more of a chicken I am.

  3. WOW...that is a lot of kayaks and rafts. I am with you two, I will sit this one out and just enjoy others enjoying themselves.

  4. I don't think I would like to raft the Ocoee although Mike did years ago. I'm with Judy...not anymore thank you!! I did enjoy the Nantahala once upon a time...long long ago!! :-)

  5. I'm not sure about white water rafting although everyone I talk to that have done it loved it. I still think I'd prefer a lazy river tube ride.

  6. Great photos. You live in such a neat area. Years ago a friend of mine said she was going to raft the Ocoee because she was going to be on her son's raft. He worked there as river raft guide so she felt safe. She fell out of the raft and got stuck in the rocks. She lived on a lake, owned a boat so was water comfortable. She said that is what saved her, she didn't panic. She never went on the raft again. Your photos of the rocks were amazing. Can't imagine being brave enough to go after seeing those rocks.

  7. What great photos of the whitewater release and adventurous rafters. We love whitewater rafting, but only have done class III rapids and those look like Class IV. I always seem to end up in the river but it has never been too scary.

    Those poodles are way too cute!

  8. Looks like you had a great day. Glad you finally got to the right place to see all the whitewater. Seems sad to me that the river can't just do what it does. I sure hope the release folks weren't really responsible for the deaths by releasing too much. Great looking turtle. You two are really living the life up there that's for sure.

  9. So the lady that scuba dives with sharks and goes bear hunting in a golf cart is a little scared of some white water? You've got to give it a try, it's lots of fun.

    Plus you've got the hot tub to sooth those sore muscles after paddling and bouncing around in that raft. ;c)


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