Ocoee River History

Rafting the Ocoee River in Tennessee. White water Rafting Grumpy's ledge on the Middle Ocoee.

Ocoee Rafting: Dropping Grumpy’s ledge on the middle Ocoee River.

Unlike many whitewater rivers around the world the Ocoee River is considered a pure boulder river.  Most white water rivers are a drop pool rivers (long stretches of calm water with rapids in between) or canyon rivers (long stretches of calm water with rapids in between). For a overview of the different types of rivers and a comparison of many of the most popular rivers around the world see our white water rivers section. Learn More

Unlike these, the Ocoee River combines a steep continuous grade (55 feet/ mile) with rocks and boulders obstructing the water flow to create an exciting array of challenging and exciting white water rapids.  Some white water boaters argue that the 4.5 miles of whitewater on the middle Ocoee River is in reality only 2 long rapids.  Of course the guides have labeled 23 rapids for the more exciting parts of the middle Ocoee River.  This means you don’t spend a lot of time paddling through boring calm water.  Even when you’re taking a break from paddling the river drives the raft forward into the next big section.

The dams controlling the water flow into the river guarantee the Ocoee River always has enough water for a fantastic Ocoee rafting trip.  The middle Ocoee River is guaranteed a minimum of 1200 cfs (cubic feet per second) of water.  The upper Ocoee River is guaranteed 1600 cfs.  At these water levels you never have to worry about having to drag your raft across rocks to get to the next rapid.

So what does this all mean?  It means if you’re looking for continuous white water fun, rafting the Ocoee River can’t be beat.


The Ocoee River was once owned by Eastern Tennessee Power Company. During 1910 to 1913, the Ocoee Dam #1 and Ocoee Dam #2 were constructed along with the wooden floom line to divert the river water to the power house to feed the hydro-electrical turbines and started generating power.
In 1939, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) purchased the Ocoee River and the power system. When the floom line needed repair in 1976, river water ran through the river bed again and Ocoee River whitewater rafting got its start. The first Ocoee whitewater rafting on the river was in military surplus rafts and the call of the river quickly made Ocoee rafting a favored sport. Soon after, Ocoee rafting outfitters began negotiating river water usage terms with TVA and this has continued till today.
The Ocoee area now sees more than 250,000 Ocoee whitewater rafting visitors per year. People know a good thing when they Raft One it.

Safety speach at put in on the Ocoee River in Tennessee

Safety speach at put in on the Ocoee River in Tennessee.