Whitewater activities began almost as soon as the Ocoee #2 flume fails. Thus allowing the Ocoee River to run free once again! Ocoee Dam #2 construction begins in 1913 and completes within a single year. The Ocoee #2 consists of three major parts being the dam, flume, and powerhouse. Thus leaving the river dry for better than half a century. The dam diverts water into the flue which runs above the right side of the riverbed for five miles. This gaining an elevation of over 250 feet above the powerhouse. The additional fall of the water produces more power for electrical generation.
Not until the 1970s would the river run wild again. By 1976 poor maintenance leaves the old wooden flume line for Ocoee Dam Number Two in disrepair. Essentially collapsing and leaking severely. In spite of the small railway on top of the flume for maintaining the structure and moving materials and men. But in 1976 structure could no longer support the railway.
Considerable discussion began regarding abandoning or removing the old flume line altogether. As compared to the new massive power generation of TVA’s nuclear plants makes the power generation of the Ocoee insignificant. How preservationists intervene and reconstruction was began. During the the six years rebuilding the flume. However during these six years the Middle Ocoee became a mecca of whitewater attracting many whitewater boater. However by 1983 the new flume began operations leaving the riverbed dry again.
Outdoor enthusiasts take notice and bring canoes, kayaks, and rubber rafts. The rapids of the Ocoee River were thrilling much like those of the Chattooga. But these rapids were more continuous with far less flat water in-between. And soon commercial outfitters began developing. Seeing an opportunity to market rafting to the masses in nearby cities and states.
Sunburst Outfitters forming 1977 becomes the first commercial rafting company. Lacking outposts and showers rafters or perks of today, rafters carry and drag boats down the river banks to put-in. Then back up the river bank at the take out. But over time access points improve, standards of operation set, and profits rise. But Outfitters see flume construction as a threat to business.
Businesses create the Outfitters Association and an additional lobbying organization to promote their cause. Many private boaters and clubs were also in the game. After all they came before the outfitters. TVA makes demands of full reimbursement for lost revenue due to lost water and power generation. Of course private boaters and outfitters alike view the water as a natural local resource of the people.
Differences lead to long and often controversial negotiations. Making progress following considerable involvement from the Tennessee Governor and The Tennessee Congressional delegation. So in 1983 the Congress passed Public Law No. 98-151 signed into law by Reagan. This law giving $7.4 million to TVA for the purpose of providing recreation on the Middle Ocoee River. And TVA agreed to provide 116 days of recreational whitewater releases per year on the Middle Ocoee for 35 years. The $7.4 million was to be reimbursed to the Federal Government via fees placed on commercial rafting customers. Payments were made annually and in 2018 the US government was repaid in full at the end of the 35-year contract.
There is a new TVA agreement with Tennessee allowing for the current recreational releases. Outfitters now pay the state of Tennessee 10% of income generated by rafting. Come enjoy the fruit of these efforts and enjoy some Ocoee rafting with Paddleman and friends at the Ocoee Adventure Center.