Everything you need to know to conquer your next river rafting or kayaking trip on the Ocoee River. Ocoee River rapids, classes, and professional tips to enjoy your next day on the water.
Where is the Ocoee River?
The Ocoee River is located in Eastern Tennessee and is an easy drive from Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Knoxville.
What class rapids are on the Ocoee?
The Ocoee is a quick-moving, fun and splashy river that contains mostly Class III and IV rapids. It consists of two sections: the Upper Ocoee, which has Class II-IV rapids and includes the 1996 Olympic slalom course, and the Middle Ocoee, which has four miles of Class III and IV rapids.
NOC offers fully guided rafting trips on both sections for ages 12+, but if you choose to paddle yourself down the river, purchase a river map and review definitive guidelines on navigating the rapids.
The following suggestions will help you get started with navigating the popular Middle Ocoee section, beginning at the base of the dam at the put-in. If you choose a rafting adventure with us, our highly trained guides know just have to navigate through each section of the river.
- Put-in – US 64 closely follows the entire length of the Middle Ocoee, making it easy to access and scout from the road. Put-in at the base of the Ocoee #2 dam. There is a large parking area at the top. (Beginner option: Put in halfway down at Goforth Creek before tackling the full run.)
- Grumpy – Pick your way down this long Class III by using the eddies on the river left. About a hundred yards down, watch out for an obvious ledge with a large hole behind it. A fast-moving Class III continues below this hole.
- Staging Eddy – Avoid the playboaters and use the large river left eddy to get in line to surf.
- Gonzo Shoals – A long section of shallow ledges; lookout for stuck rafts.
- Broken Nose – A tough-to-navigate Class III+ rapid that’s located on the far river right and has three drops, with a powerful hole at the bottom. See American Whitewater’s wonderful description of the moves required here.
- Second Helping – Run left or right of the large ledge to avoid pinning.
- Moonshot – A great place for spins and then some Class II-III fun.
- Double Suck – Marked by a metal plate on a boulder, a Double Suck is a Class III ledge with two holes. To run this drop, strongly angle river-left to eddy out behind the large rock; this will let you avoid the second hole.
- Double Trouble – A Class III rapid with a double set of holes and some of the biggest waves on the river. Work your way up the river left eddy to play in the bottom hole and watch for rafts and other river traffic as you surf.
- Flipper – A well-known play-spot. On river right, the eddy will help you avoid other paddlers.
- Doldrums – A half-mile run of shallow Class I-II shoals. Near the bottom, watch out for a Surprise Ledge, a 3-foot drop.
- Tablesaw – A turbulent Class III+ rapid. Stay left of center and paddle through large waves and holes. At the bottom on the right, watch out for a rock with an underwater pothole.
- Diamond Splitter – A Class III rapid marked by a huge rock, the Diamond Splitter, which sits in the middle of the rapid. Most run river-right of the rock. Witches Hole, at the bottom of the river-left side, is a great surf spot. From here, fun Class II-III rapids continue for another half mile before Acceleratorand Cat’s Pajamas.
- Hell Hole – A legendary play-spot. Make sure to skirt the hole while coming downstream, entering the river left eddy.
- Powerhouse – Run the Middle Ocoee’s final rapid on the river right to avoid the large hole at the bottom on the left. Then paddle about 3/4 mile to the takeout.
When is the best time to raft the Ocoee River?
When visiting the Ocoee River as a private boater, keep in mind the dam release schedule and the season; these factors will influence access, comfort, and crowd level.
Always check the TVA Release Schedule or NOC’s Guide to Ocoee Releases to make sure you’ll have water for your trip, and remember that the Middle and Upper sections operate on different schedules. The general release schedule is as follows:
The Upper Ocoee runs on weekends only from May 7 to September 10.
The Middle Ocoee runs on weekends from March 19 – May 29 (plus Memorial Day); every day except for Tuesday and Wednesday from June 2 – September 5. Then on weekends only from September 10 – October 30 (with a full week from September 25-October 2).
You will also want to keep in mind the season of your trip, as it will affect crowd levels and weather. General seasonal information is as follows:
- March-May: The Middle Ocoee runs only on Saturdays and Sundays (plus Memorial Day). Rafters should expect the water temperature to be in the 50’s and anticipate cooler weather.
- June-August: The summer months (June to early August) are the most popular time to raft. The weather and water are warm, but the river is usually crowded, with peak crowd times falling on Saturdays at mid-day. From June 2-September 5, both sections of the Ocoee River run every day except Tuesdays and Thursdays.
- September-October: After September 5, the Ocoee only runs on weekends, and the Upper Ocoee stops on September 17. Since the water and weather are still warm, early September Saturdays remain busy, but October weekends tend to be calmer and offer gorgeous fall colors.
What types of animals can you find along the Ocoee River?
When your trip slows down in the calmer sections, look out for black bear, raccoon, beaver, bobcat, river otter, deer, and woodchuck.
For bird lovers, common species include juncos, indigo buntings, cardinals, towhees, chickadees, as well as raptors such as turkey vultures, hawks, falcons, and American bald eagles.
A mix of reptiles and amphibians can also be found, including timber rattlesnakes, copperheads, eastern box turtles, and frogs.
How to find a guided rafting tour of the Ocoee River
Our NOC Ocoee Outpost offers fully guided trips on the Ocoee River. Some rafting experience options include a half-day adventure on the Middle Ocoee and a full-day trip on the Middle and Upper Ocoee or checkout our newest trip the Middle Ocoee High Adventure that offers more surfing, splashing and fun.