I already did a story on the lower Ocoee; now it’s time to talk abou upper Ocoee, home to the famed olympic section. I remember the first time my friend told me we were hitting the upper Ocoee. Uhm, no. So I pushed it off a couple weekends before finally agreeing to paddling the upper section. Upper Ocoee = Wahoo!
While, in my mind, not technically as difficult as the lower section, the upper Ocoee is a meatier part of the river. Getting to the put-in is just a matter of driving past the lower put in, past the olympic section, and down a small road on the right. Once there, you’ve got a decent amount of flat water and small boogie. Be warned, though, the waves are bigger, the holes are hungrier for unsuspecting boaters, and the rocks hurt more when you whack into them.
Just like the lower section, the upper Ocoee has plenty of easier routes to take for most of the rapids. The classic examle of this is Alien Boof vs. Mikeys. Alien boof is a super fun auto boof that surprisingly favors play boats over the longer kayaks. First time runs are usually on this rapid, which is on river left.
However, if you’ve done the river a couple times or just have your big boater pants on,
Mikey’s offers another fun boof and an interesting spot to the right of that boof separated by not-fun rocks. Avoid these rocks; they have some sieves, one of which took a life earlier this year. That aside, the right side is fun to watch your friends run because good chance is they will peton, which, given it’s not dangerous, is pretty funny to watch. I’ve honestly only seen a handful of people hit that right line successfully. An undercut lies pretty close behind that drop, too, which has knocked a couple people down.
After that section, one more rapid called Let’s Make a Deal stands before the olympic section. This is my equivelent of Broken Nose; i.e., I suck something fierce on this rapid. With the exception of one or two River’s pitying me moments, I mess the line up to this one every time. However, if you’re not me, Let’s Make a Deal is great for eddy hopping. Just make sure to avoid giant-a$$ hole in center and second slightly smaller giant-a$$ hole somewhere after that.
Now comes the Olympic section! Actually, this part is more fun for me to get out my boat and watch the epic beat downs of rafters and their customers at Humongous, the biggest rapid on the entire Ocoee. A lot of people like to surf the various waves in this area too. If you swim, chances are good it’ll be a long swim until the stretch of calm at the end of the section. The calm spot lasts around 200 yards until the last biggish rapid, my favorite, Roach Motel. Skirt the first hole that’s on river right then split between the two middle rapids finishing on the right of the last rapid. More calm stuff then finally edge of the world. Boof this right, or the hole sucks.
After that last rapid, you’ve got a big chunk of flat water joining you to the lower Ocoee. This is a good spot to just relax and reflect on the fun run you just had on the Upper. This is such a classic section of whitewater in the Southeast, fun, and always exciting. Happy boating!