Originally managed by the Eastern Tennessee Power Company, the Ocoee River was dammed to build hydroelectric plants. The Ocoee No. 1 and Ocoee No. 2 Dams were built between 1910 and 1913 featuring a wooden flume that diverted the waters of the Upper and Middle Ocoee along an elevated path, concentrating water pressure for the hydroelectric powerhouses. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) purchased the power system in 1939, and in September 1976, the wooden flume diverting water on the Middle Ocoee was shut down for reconstruction and, once again, the river ran unabated. The river attracted lots of attention, as boaters flocked to the Middle Ocoee to run its five miles of continuous whitewater rapids. Rafting companies sprang up while the TVA hurried to repair the flume and again divert water from the Ocoee. After much resistance and a Congressional Act, TVA agreed to schedule 116 days of recreational whitewater releases per year on the Middle Ocoee. Whitewater racing events have been held on the Ocoee since 1978, bringing the river to the attention of the world. The Ocoee has also been called the birthplace of freestyle kayaking, hosting the first-ever Ocoee Rodeo at Second Helping in 1983. The Ocoee has become one of the most popular whitewater rivers in the world, attracting over 250,000 visitors annually.
The Upper Ocoee riverbed had remained dry
throughout most of the 20th century, which allowed for the
manipulation and construction of a world-class racing
course. The Ocoee Gorge is wider at this point,
allowing ample room for spectators. With the Ocoee
approximately 100 miles north of Atlanta, all three
of these factors made the Upper Ocoee the ideal place
to host the 1996 Summer Olympics Whitewater Slalom
The Ocoee would be the first natural river used for
Olympic whitewater competition, but this upper stretch
was shallow and too wide to generate the desired intensity
for whitewater slalom. Course designers rechanneled
the riverbed to create an Olympic course one-third the
width of the original riverbed. To estimate the effects
of this rechanneling, the design team used a 300-foot,
1:10-scale physical model for calculation purposes,
and to minimize the time and cost for experimental boulder
placement, the amout of water required for full-scale
testing, and disruption to the river. Sandstone boulders
harvested from the area shaped the course banks and
venue, some weighing up to seven tons each. The design
team developed the concept to build a river within a
river. They used levees or banks to create the narrow
"inner" whitewater course. This allowed the "outer"
river to be used for viewing areas during events and
to convey high flows during floods. The project of
rechanneling the original riverbed took less than two years to complete,
and created what would soon be called "America's Olympic
River." July 1996 brought over 15,000 visitors and more
than 1,000 volunteers and staff to the banks of the
Upper Ocoee River.
River Description: The first stretch of the Upper
Ocoee is primarily Class II tree dodging.
Much of the riverbed is cluttered with low-lying bushes
and dimunitive trees, forming a maze of sorts.
After a little less than a mile, you will reach the
first major rapid below the put-in. The left channel
is often called David's Pride, and features
a double-drop into a pool. The right channel
is called Tombstone and is recognizable
by the large tombstone-shaped rock on the left side
side of this channel. Either way, be sure to catch
Dee Dee's Secret, the popular playspot
with a marvelous surfing wave and two ledge-holes found
directly below Tombstone. Dee Dee's Secret can be difficult
to find, especially if you run David's Pride -- you
will have to weave your way through the bushes on the
right in order to find it.
On and off Class II-III continues
downstream until you reach the next major rapid,
Mikey's is the largest rapid above the Olympic course,
and can be scouted from the island in the middle of
the river. You will see an island and a chute to the
right. Rocks at the top split this chute, and make
two moves possible here -- a right to left move above
and around the rocks near the top of the drop, and a
straight right-side line over the five foot ledge into
the deep hole at the bottom. If you run left of the
scouting island, you will find a four foot ledge with
a nice boof move.
The stretch from Mikey's, through the Olympic Course,
to Roach Motel, will suprise most newcomers
to the Upper, as it shows a tremendous strength and
power not found on the Middle Ocoee. Blue Hole
is the last rapid above race course. Start far
right, then paddle left over the tight main drop
into the large waves that continue downstream toward
the bridge. Use caution . . . a rafter drowned in
a sieve here.
At the bottom of Blue Hole, you will notice a large
suspension bridge signifying the start of the Olympic
Course at the Ocoee Whitewater Center. The first drop
after the suspension bridge is called Best
with a large tongue on river right. Best Ledge leads
directly into Smiley Face, named for a
smiling face spraypainted on one of the larger rocks
in the middle of the rapid, visible only at low water.
In fact, this is the only graffiti not removed from
the riverbed in preparation for the Olympics. The hole
is to the left of the rock right of center, and is the
new home of the Ocoee Rodeo. After Smiley's, waves and
eddies abound, leading directly into Slam Dunk
- the biggest single drop on the course.
Ocoee Whitewater Center
Run the slot in the center and eddy out into one of
the large eddies on either side. A wave train called Conveyor Belt
leads into Callihan Ledge, a shallow ledge
created as a rodeo spot and named for a spraypainted
name on the rock ledge. Run to the left or right of
the midstream shoal.
Humongous is next.
It is the largest rapid on the Upper Ocoee. The river
constricts, forming a large wave train which is then
split in two by a large rock with a television
camera mount. The left side has eddies extending
from the river left bank, while the right side features
very small eddies and large waves that plunge into
a violent hydraulic. There have been many bad swims
on both sides of this rapid, including several during
After Humongous (the last major rapid on the
Olympic Course) go left under the bridge where Class
II-III continues for several hundred yards. The
river narrows and drops into three very large offset
holes called Roach Motel. Stay right of
center to avoid the strong middle hole. Be sure to
avoid the numerous small bushes and
trees growing in the riverbed from this point until
After more paddling through bushes, you will be able
to see the Thunder Rock bridge and the Ocoee #3 Powerhouse
on the left. That signals the last major rapid on the
Upper Ocoee, Edge-of-the-World. Just after
the Thunder Rock Bridge, the river drops about four
feet into a very large hydraulic. This drop is adjacent
to the manmade outflow chute that releases the water
for the Middle Ocoee from the Ocoee #3 Powerhouse.
Edge-of-the-World will probably kick you to the left,
upstream toward the turbines. This is one of the most
dangerous spots on the Upper Ocoee because of the very
large hydraulic forming at the base of the drop, especially
at levels above 1800 CFS. If you don't know where to
run this drop, visit the Thunder Rock campground before
you go to the put-in. To skirt this drop, paddle down
the Class I-II natural streambed on river right. The
left side of the turbine chute, across from
Edge-of-the-World, is reinforced with concrete. You want to run the drop
directly across from the concreted-in section, and you don't
want to miss the main slot.
Saturday my son Jesse, Dave Beckner and myself removed all the wood from Alien Boof. We ran Alien on Saturday but the strainer did make it harder to run since it was right where we normally run Alien. There was quit a bit of wood piled up on the drop some pieces were 12 inches in diameter an 8 feet long. I will post some pictures of the wood before we removed it.
As a result of the the accident that occurred last weekend on Alien ledge, I think it is crucial that the streamkeeper add a warning about the terminal seive in order to prevent future tragedy. For more information, read the posts on boater talk or email me firstname.lastname@example.org
We'll always remember you, Stan.
We have had releases on this reach but don't show any currently. This information is
gathered by the public. If you know about releases then contact us about them. If
you would volunteer to enter the releases, then reach out to us.
This is a dam release river that primarily runs on weekends March through October. Check the
TVA release schedule for specific dates and times.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Upper Ocoee - Alien Boof
Olympic Section of Ocoee
TVA releases sludge into Ocoee
Blue Hole skylight - Upper Ocoee
The Blue Hole -- Upper Ocoee
Alien Boof Sieve -- Inside the grotto
Alien Boof Sieve -- Upper Ocoee, TN
Alien Boof Sieve-- Upper Ocoee River, TN
Alien Boof Sieve -- Upper Ocoee River, TN
Alien Boof line passing over sieve -- Upper Ocoee, TN
upper ocoee with water
Yell, Showing up the young punks!
The Costa Rican All Star
Taking a bow in Calahans
Keith Yell Tears It Up
Calahans Rapid 8-21-05
Drunk as sh** at O.A.R.
Reach for the sky
Sieve at Alien Boof ledge (Ocoee)
alien boof, take 23....
The Alternate Line at Alien
Boof Class 101...the landing
Boof Class 101...off the lip
Adam Thomas at Alien Boof
Omer Hall at Alien Boof
Bad line at Alien
(RM) Trash Can / Roach Motel / Glass Slipper 2
(RM) Trash Can / Roach Motel / Glass Slipper 1
(RM) Blue Hole
(RM) Mickey's Ledge
(RM) Alien Boof
Congressman Zach Wamp and AW's Kevin Colburn
TVA Director Bill Baxter with AW's Kevin Colburn
Gordon Byrd hands paddling the Opper Ocoee
Jason Foley doing the Alien Boof Move
Gordon Byrd and the G Force doing the Alien Boof
Jason Foley on the Upper Ocoee
Upper Rio Chia Chia (Ocoee) boof
Alien Boof at Mikey's
American Whitewater Teva Championships 2002
Tao Berman rides Smiley
Gordon Byrd doing Alien Boof on the Upper Ocoee
Jeremy Perry Raft Guiding at Dave's Pride Rapid
Jason Foley on the Upper Ocoee River
Gordon Byrd running Dave's Pride Rapid on the Upper Ocoee River.
Dave Wilson running the Upper Ocoee
Wildlife, Ocoee Style
River Right at Huge
River Left at Huge
Summer Fun at the Ocoee
Left of Mikey's Ledge
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
Earlier today American Whitewater filed comments on the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) proposal to largely maintain the existing whitewater release schedule for the next 15 years. American Whitewater asks TVA in our comments to ensure that no net loss in releases occur and that no new fees be imposed on private boaters. We ask that they study the economic benefit of the Ocoee River release program, as well as consider the benefits the releases are known to have on a rare plant species. Lastly, we ask them to consider improved takeout facilities on the Middle Ocoee River and expanded put-in parking hours on the Upper Ocoee.
TVA is seeking public input on a proposed management agreement that would provide recreational releases and management on the Ocoee River. Current agreements on flow releases and management expire at the end of 2018, and this effort aims to replace those agreements. The TVA proposes to continue the current schedule of releases on the Upper and Middle Ocoee except for a block of weekday Middle Ocoee releases in late September. The public comment period ends on July 19, 2017.
A bill has been introduced in the Tennessee Legislature that aims to continue treasured recreational releases on the Ocoee River after current release agreements expire in March of 2019. The Ocoee River Recreation and Economic Development Fund Act would create a fund that would be used to pay the Tennessee Valley Authority for releases and to pay for other river management costs. Paddlers from TN can weigh in on the bill now, and all paddlers will have a chance to voice support or concerns with the TVA this spring or summer.
The agreements that provide recreational releases on the wildly popular Ocoee River expire at the end of 2018. American Whitewater has created a survey to help us better understand and advocate for the interests of paddlers as TVA reconsiders releases. If you paddle the Ocoee, please take 5 minutes to share your thoughts with us.
The decades-old agreements between rafting outfitters and the Tennessee Valley Authority that provide for recreational water releases in the Upper and Middle Ocoee River will expire in 2018. TVA and the outfitters have been attempting to negotiate a new agreement for many months, and thus far no agreement has been reached. This week, American Whitewater and several regional affiliate clubs requested inclusion in those talks to represent our interests in the Ocoee River continuing to be a recreational treasure and economic boon to the region.
TVA is gathering information from stakeholders on how to meet the needs of the Tennessee Valley and its residents for energy, environment, natural resource management and recreation. As users of public lands and waters, please tell TVA what you think. Please submit your comments by August 14, 2009.
A group of ladies started a discussion about the need for an all women's paddling event. Plans progressed and the Boater Chick Festival benefiting American Whitewater was born. This first annual festival is a gathering of female boaters in the class II-V whitewater range. The location will be at Nantahala Outdoor Center in Wesser, North Carolina on Saturday May 17th and Sunday May 18th. The hope is to encourage women in boating to get more involved, show off, improve their skills, meet other women in boating, paddle together, compete, and celebrate.
Click here for instructions
on how to download the
paddlers on the Ocoee have
skyrocketed in recent years
.Whitewater recreation and events
deserve a fair share of the
river's essential resource - the flow.
American Whitewater is
mounting a effort on behalf of all
whitewater paddlers to restore
the Ocoee's flow!
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!