After the Middle Ocoee agreement was reached commercial rafting growth continued at a steady pace. And soon over twenty commercial rafting companies were in operation. By the early 90’s about 200,000 commercial guests rafting down the now famous Ocoee Middle. The next major occurrence in the Ocoee river valley started with Atlanta Georgia getting the bid for the 1996 Olympics.
Olympic Whitewater slalom racing had gained traction in the 1992 Olympics. The games in Spain returned whitewater slalom after being left out of competition since its inaugural debut in the 1972 Munich games. When Atlanta entered their bid for 1996 they included the whitewater event without indicating a venue. Once they obtained the bid and started planning the budget minds changed. And the decision was reached to exclude Whitewater events from the Atlanta games. A group of Atlanta whitewater enthusiasts reacted quickly at the news of the exclusion and formed a lobby group WIN (Whitewater in Ninety Six).
They quickly recognized that the Ocoee was the perfect place. However it could not be the Middle Ocoee because there was not enough river side space to host an event. The Upper Ocoee was chosen because it had the riverside space. And the riverbed could be reshaped to form the required level of rapids. The location was decided and partners came on board including TVA, the State of Tennessee and the US Forest Service. Funding was procured from these three entities and the games were on.
The reshaping of the riverbed made the Upper Ocoee much more desirable for Commercial Rafting due to larger continuous rapids and the fame of the Olympics. The Outfitters again formed up to lobby for water releases from TVA for the Upper Ocoee. After a test year in 1997 with seven days of releases, a contract was secured for 34 days per year of water releases on the Upper Ocoee until the same end date as the Middle Ocoee in 2018.
The 34 days were weekend days from Memorial Day to Labor Day and some additional Saturdays in May and September. Outfitters could now offer three rafting options for their guest: Middle Ocoee; Upper Ocoee and a full river trip which combined the two sections. New Contract on the Ocoee. Beginning 2019 there is a new 15-year contract in place for both sections of the Ocoee River. The State of Tennessee negotiated with TVA for water releases for this time period and a 10% will be charged by the Outfitters to repay the funds.