Ocoee River Whitewater Rafting

The 1996 Olympic Competition brings Ocoee River Whitewater Rafting to a New Level of Excitement!

The Ocoee River near Ducktown Tennessee was the event venue for the whitewater canoe and kayak slalom event of the 1996 Olympic competition. The site for the Olympic course was chosen to be built in the typically dry riverbed of the Upper Ocoee River. Construction required that the river be narrowed by two-thirds, and natural boulders were moved and cemented into place to create the drops and eddies needed for a whitewater slalom course. The Ocoee venue is the only natural river course to ever be used for Olympic slalom competition. Water flow through the Upper Ocoee is controlled by TVA’s Ocoee Dam # 3, located approximately two miles upstream from the course. The hydroelectric power plant for Dam # 3 is located downstream from the Olympic Course. The water passes from the dam to the power plant via a tunnel buried in the mountain, thus bypassing the upper section of river. Consequently, all water that runs through the Olympic course must be released directly into the river from Dam #3, bypassing the tunnel. Since the water is not being used for electrical power production when it is released into the river bed, TVA must be reimbursed for the cost of the power. This reimbursement is one of the reasons water is only released 34 days per year and whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River has restricted use.

Prior to the development of the Olympic venue this section of the river was not viewed as having the potential for Ocoee River whitewater rafting as it occurs on the Middle Ocoee. The design and construction of the Olympic course created a much more exciting level of rapids and made Upper Ocoee river white water rafting possible.

Whitewater Rafting on the Ocoee River Today

Today, the course has water releases only on summer weekends and Saturdays in May and September for use by guided rafts and private boaters who want whitewater rafting Ocoee river style. The whitewater slalom gates hanging along the Olympic course have long been removed, but the big fun rapids and the excitement remain, and on every summer weekend Ocoee river whitewater is going strong.