The Ocoee River; The Only Olympic Whitewater Run in the US

July 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Travel information

The Ocoee River, which flows through the Cherokee National Forest in Polk County, Tennessee, is one of the most popular whitewater destinations in the U.S. and the only one to boast an Olympic Whitewater Course. The Ocoee whitewater is a roughly 10 mile long stretch of river with over 30 major rapids. Rafters are welcome to try the full 10 mile run, but those short on time might choose from two 5 mile runs, the Upper and Middle Ocoee, each boasting impressive rapids.

Entrance to middle ocoee river tennessee


Middle Ocoee

The Middle Ocoee’s five mile stretch is one of the most popular whitewater runs in the United States. The run is 90% whitewater and contains over 17 major rapids, guaranteeing an exciting trip from beginning to end. You’ll wish you had more time to admire the gorgeous scenery as you ride through a deep gorge that cuts through the Cherokee National Forest.


Upper Ocoee

The Upper Ocoee doesn’t have quite as many continuous rapids as the Middle Ocoee run, clocking in at “just” 70% whitewater with 13 major rapids. However, the Upper Ocoee has something no other run in America can claim: The 1996 Olympic Course. The Olympic Course is 1500 meters of pure whitewater excitement. Nothing quite compares to it. Don’t worry though. Although the Ocoee can be an intense rafting experience, beginners can rely on experienced river guides to help them through it safely while having a great time.

Ocoee whitewater rapids are rated Class III and IV (intermediate to advanced) on the International Scale of River Difficulty. Don’t let that scare you though. Even inexperienced rafters will be fine going with a river guide company such as Quest Expeditions, which does individual runs on both the Upper and Middle Ocoee as well as combined runs all summer long.

If you’re not convinced after all that, I really don’t know what to tell you. Oh, what’s that? You’re worried the water is too cold? Although that can often be a problem on whitewater runs, you don’t have to worry about it rafting the Ocoee. The Ocoee River is fed from a lake where the water sits under the sun until it flows down the river nice and warm. I wouldn’t take a bath in it, but don’t worry about the water being too cold. You can even do it wearing a kilt!

whitewater rafter wearing lifejacket and kilt

I bet you thought I was joking, didn’t you?



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