Ocoee River Overview
|Ocoee River whitewater (whitneynmatt via Flickr)|
"Forty-five minutes northeast of Chattanooga and just east of Cleveland, Tennessee, near Interstate 75, the Ocoee is a dam-controlled river, runnable Thursday through Monday in the summers and on weekends during the spring and fall, and the first two weeks of October. Site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater venue, the Ocoee is a good warm-up river for wilder area whitewater such as the Nantahala and Chattooga rivers. This is a short run—only five miles—but the drops come quickly with little time to recover in between, so be ready for almost continuous whitewater beginning with Put In rapid, just below the low dam at the launch point. This is a long Class III rapid, a good initial baptism for your week of whitewater fun. Next comes Flipper requiring some quick maneuvering: listen to your guide for directions. The best is yet to come: Table Saw and Diamond Splitter are both Class III to IV drops separated by less than a half mile of churning water.
The Ocoee Whitewater Center, built for the '96 Olympics, is open to the public and receives more than 120,000 tourists and outdoor recreationists annually. What you see as a visitor resembles a public recreation area that blends in with the surrounding rocky river gorge. But underneath the surface lie thousands of tons of concrete, boulders, steel reinforcements and artificial rock. When the dam-controlled water is flowing, visitors can canoe, kayak or raft the river. A large number of paddling outfitters and guides serve the Ocoee. Contact the Center for more information. The Ocoee Whitewater Center is open seven days a week from April through October, and on weekends only from November through March. Please call for opening hours and to ask about special events. In addition to offering paddlers access to the river, the Center also has an easy one-mile hiking trail and access to a ten-mile system of hiking and biking trails. A Wildlife Viewing Area at the Center is a hands-on outdoor laboratory teaching visitors about diverse ecosystems and wildlife habitats. There are picnic areas, and light lunches and soft drinks are available from the Center food cart. The Center building, restrooms, walkways, Native Garden, paved river walk, and picnic sites are wheelchair accessible. Get there by taking Ocoee Scenic Byway (Highway 64) or the Cherohala Skyway (US Highway 165). There is a small fee for all-day parking."
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication