About The Ocoee River

Generating Power & Tourism

About The Name

The Toccoa River and Ocoee River are the names in use for a single 93-mile-long (150 km)river that flows northwestward through the southern Appalachian Mountains of the southeastern United States. It is a tributary of the Hiwassee River, which it joins in Polk County, Tennessee, near the town of Benton. Three power generating dams are operated along it.

The river is called the Toccoa for its 56 miles (90 km) through Georgia, until it reaches the twin cities of McCaysville, Georgia and Copperhill, Tennessee, at the truss bridge which connects Georgia 5 (Blue Ridge Street) with Tennessee 68 and Georgia 60 (Ocoee Street and Toccoa Street). The remainder is called the Ocoee through Tennessee. The Ocoee is globally known for its Class III-V whitewater rapids, appealing to kayakers and rafting enthusiasts. It is also home to the local salamander, Desmognathus Ocoee. The upper section of the Ocoee was host to whitewater slalom events during the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics held primarily in Atlanta, about 100 miles (160 km) to the south.

The name Ocoee originates from the Cherokee name for Passiflora incarnata, ocoee. Toccoa comes from the Cherokee term for “where the Catawbas lived” or “beautiful”.

On February 16, 1990 flooding of the river submerged much of the central business district of the riverfront towns of Copperhill, Tennessee and McCaysville, Georgia. The area was once heavily mined for copper ore from the Copper Basin and polluted by smelting operations. Extensive logging and plant destroying smog depleted topsoil and polluted acid and metals into the area’s streams. The area has since been cleaned and greened. Olympic kayaker Joe Jacobi led a successful effort to bring the Atlanta Olympic white-water event to the Ocoee River in 1996, and his wife Lisa, a former CNN news producer, left her job to open a downtown bed-and- breakfast and become a local internet entrepreneur.

Our dam helped shape the area not only by supplying power, but increasing tourism through recreational whitewater rafting!

Throughout The Years

The Ocoee River is located in Polk County, Tennessee, and is surrounded by the Cherokee National Forest. Between 1910 and 1913, the Eastern Tennessee Power Company completed Ocoee Dams No. 1 and 2 creating sections of the Ocoee – Upper, Middle and Lower – separated by the dams. A wooden flume that diverts water from the Ocoee River at the dam takes the water into hydroelectric powerhouse to generate power to provide electricity for the region. TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) purchased the power system in 1939.

 In 1976, the flume line broke. During the flume repairs, the river ran free and whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River was born!

“The river attracted lots of attention, as boaters flocked to the Middle Ocoee to run its five miles of continuous whitewater rapids. Rafting companies sprang up while the TVA hurried to repair the flume to again divert water from the Ocoee. After much resistance and a Congressional Act, TVA agreed to schedule [an initially negotiated] 116 days of recreational whitewater releases per year on the Middle Ocoee.

“Whitewater racing events have been held on the Ocoee since 1978, bringing the river to the attention of the world. The Ocoee has also been called the birthplace of freestyle kayaking, hosting the first-ever Ocoee Rodeo at Second Helping in 1983. The Ocoee has become one of the most popular whitewater rivers in the world, attracting over 250,000 visitors annually.”  (americanwhitewater.org)

The Ocoee River was the site of the 1996 Olympic Canoe and Kayak Competition, serving that year as the only Olympic venue outside the state of Georgia. The Olympic Village, housing the whitewater athletes, was located at Lee University in nearby Cleveland, Tennessee. The Ocoee Whitewater Center and a beautiful suspension bridge are giant souvenirs from the Centennial Olympic Games. Since the world came to see us, hundreds of thousands of visitors have rafted the same rapids the Olympic athletes rode.

The Ocoee Outfitters Association invites you to ride these world class rapids. Let us take you on the adventure of a lifetime on the Ocoee River!

Cherokee National Forest

650,000 Acres of Adventure

The 650,000-acre forest is the largest tract of public land in Tennessee and adjoins other national forests in Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. The forest is home to 30 developed campgrounds and numerous picnic areas, over 700 miles of trails, seven whitewater rivers including The Ocoee River, two Forest Service scenic byways — The Ocoee Scenic Byway and The Cherohala Skyway, where you can drive through the mountains. Enjoy the pursuit of wildlife, see the thrill of whitewater, unwind with a night under the stars, or solitude hike on a backcountry trail.

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