So, I haven’t paddled the Ocoee in a while, but that doesn’t mean I can’t write about how awesome a river it is. Two an upper and lower section equalling around 8.5 miles, the Ocoee has a little something for everyone from barely class III boater to class V rockstar. I’m going to split this post up into two sections. This first one is all about the Lower, where my boating skills grew up.
First off, the Ocoee has a pretty great location. Knoxville is about 2 hours away;Chattanoogans drive around 30 minutes. Atlanta’s about as close as Knoxville, and don’t forget all the smaller towns in between. The put ins and takeouts are also incredibly accessible with large loading docks and parking lots. While not the most environmentally friendly, they do offer a big opening to the huge amount of rafter and paddler traffic. The shuttle for the Ocoee is probably one of the easiest I’ve had the “pleasure” to deal with.
Also, the Ocoee is dam released so during the late spring to early fall, you can expect a regular weekend and almost daily release, which is nice during those long stretches of unavailable free flow.
The lower Ocoee starts off with the hardest rapid, Grumpies, which can easily be
portaged to start lower at Staging Eddy. Grumpies probably gets more people through psyching them out than anything else. It just looks, well, grumpy, and other than the semi epic hole in river center at the bottom, this rapid is not hard. It just psyches people out, like me on my first time, and has a long, long…long swim. Also, a semi epic hole. The hole, though totally avoidable, is big enough to hold you as a swimmer, your boat, and another person inside his boat for a good while (ask me how I know this).
After that though, if you’re not fully rattled, you are good to go for most the rest of this run. When I say rattled, I mean for your first couple runs. After those are out of the way, the Ocoee becomes one of the most fun playing rivers at least I’ve ever experienced. Surf holes and waves can be found at almost every rapid, and the rapids themselves are great for eddy hopping, making the hero moves. Basically, this river is all about goofing off.
I didn’t even realize until a year of paddling it that the memories of the Ocoee merge with joking, daring, showing off, and racing my friends down the rapids. Broken Nose is particularly good for all those as you try to nail all seven eddies and get beaten all to hell on the bottom hole because you missed the fifth (sixth?) eddy.
The Ocoee’s signature rapid is hell hole, a good-sized hole where you can surf or watch
some pretty awesome surfs. After that is Powerhouse, which can easily be run on river right, and then some flatwater before taking out at the public parking lot. You can either run 1.5 hour laps on the Ocoee or enjoy every surf spot that’ll make up a good 3.5-hour run.
I’ve run the Ocoee with as few as one other person to as many as 16 people. Some days have been virtually empty while others I know have capped the maximum 4,000 rafters allowed (not even counting the numerous boaters) on the river. Races like the 3rd annual TVCC and the Halloween scull races see a lot of boaters scramble on the rapids. No matter what, though, taking a day for the Ocoee is sure to be taking a day for fun out with your buddies. To sum this entire story up, I love the Ocoee.
PS-Let me know if you want anything else mentioned about the Ocoee or any of the other rivers I’ve mentioned so far in my blog! I can always use feedback to improve these stories! Happy Paddling!