Located in Southeast Tennessee, the Ocoee River is a 93-mile river that flows northwest through the southern Appalachian Mountains.
The river is world-renowned for its Class III-V rapids, which served as the dramatic setting for the 1996 Olympics Whitewater Slalom events.
The Ocoee is a dam-controlled river, and it’s one of the best places to find whitewater near Atlanta.
Thanks to the water released from the Ocoee dams, the Ocoee River offers some of the most exhilarating whitewater rafting in Georgia.
Rafting the Ocoee River makes for an exciting day trip from Atlanta (109 miles) or Chattanooga (65 miles), and is incredibly popular with residents of both areas.
Despite the fact that I’ve lived in Chattanooga for years, I’d never taken the time to experience Ocoee River rafting until the recent Memorial Day weekend.
Read on for an overview of my experience with Outdoor Adventure Rafting (OAR), as well as a look at other attractions, activities, and rafting tour operators in the area.
The Ultimate Ocoee River Rafting Guide
- General Ocoee Rafting Info
- Rafting the Middle Section of the Ocoee River
- Camping and Rappelling at Outdoor Adventure Rafting
- Other Ocoee Rafting Companies
General Ocoee River Info
The river is split into three recreational sections: the Upper, Middle, and Lower sections.
The Upper Ocoee, which includes large Class II-IV rapids, is famous for hosting the whitewater slalom in the 1996 Summer Olympics. It was the world’s first Olympic whitewater event ever hosted on a natural river.
The Upper Ocoee has a limited water release schedule, and is only available for rafting and kayaking on weekends from May to early September.
The Ocoee Whitewater Center, which was opened as the Olympic center, was completely destroyed by fire in April 2022.
The recreation areas (including all hiking trails) have since reopened, but visitors should note that their strobe and siren warning system is down. This means that the Ocoee River water levels could rise quickly, with no notice!
The Middle Ocoee River, the most popular recreational section, is open every Thursday through Monday. With smaller (but still exciting) rapids, this section is an obvious choice for first-time rafters.
The Lower section is the calmest, with options for short river tubing trips. Outdoor Adventure Rafting is the only company that offers a Lower Ocoee tubing trip.
U.S. Forest Service rules state that all rafters must be at least 12 years of age. But for these guided tubing trips, kids of any age are allowed.
Rafting the Middle Section of the Ocoee River
I chose OAR for my solo Ocoee River whitewater rafting trip. It was my first time rafting in class III+ rapids, so I booked a 3-hour trip down the Middle section.
Lower, Middle, and Full-River Ocoee rafting trips with OAR cost $20, $39.50, and $95.
Lower Ocoee River tubing trips are available all week, while Middle Ocoee tours are available Thursday through Monday, and Full-River tours are only offered on weekends.
The trip started off with a safety briefing. Our guide, Cleveland, went over all of the pertinent safety information we would need rafting the Ocoee. He kept it brief, but made sure we all felt completely comfortable before we departed.
We each grabbed our gear– a life vest, paddle, and helmet– then took a 15-minute shuttle to Ocoee Dam #2. From there, Cleveland and his fellow guides Lily and Hayden taught us how to paddle in unison before launching our rafts into the river.
My favorite rapid of the day was Table Saw, where we saw instructors from Raft One training new guides to swim the huge rapid.
Another highlight was Hell’s Hole, where Hayden let us “Superman” the rapid, laying on our stomachs on the front of the raft instead of paddling. We breathed in a lot of water, but the huge smiles on our faces afterward said it all!
I also loved it when Hayden jumped out of the boat, ran up a boulder beside the river, and front flipped back into the water right next to our boat.
Later our guides took us to the Mystery Move for an unplanned jump into one of the rapid’s hydraulics. It was incredible to watch as rafters jumped in the water and popped back up some 20 feet down the river.
Despite being a little nervous at the beginning of the trip, I ended up having an awful lot of fun white water rafting with OAR. I would absolutely return to take the full-day Ocoee River rafting tour in the future.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Kayaking Rivers in Georgia
Camping and Rappelling at Outdoor Adventure Rafting
In addition to their whitewater rafting and tubing tours, OAR also offers camping, climbing, and rappelling adventures.
I stayed in an open group camping spot for $8, bit it was near the river campground (which costs $10 per night). The space was clean and shaded, and all the other groups were far enough away to make it quiet and peaceful.
Four bunkhouses on the property make a perfect camping opportunity for large groups. They sleep anywhere from 16 to 32 people, and cost between $186-$340 a night, depending on the size of the cabin rental.
In the morning before my rafting trip, I walked up the path to the shop’s deck to meet my guide for a $19 rappelling course. My guide, Rob, was fun and informative, explaining the rappelling system thoroughly to make sure we felt safe.
I connected my harness to the two points of contact– the rappelling system and a regular belay– and went over the wall first.
I’ll admit that the first couple of tentative steps were absolutely nerve-wracking. But with Rob’s guidance, the rest of the wall descent was surprisingly easy.
The ropes, rappelling, and/or alpine tour adventures are a perfect addition to an adventure-filled weekend getaway.
Other Ocoee Rafting Companies
- Adventures Unlimited
- Big Frog Expeditions
- Cherokee Rafting
- High Country Adventures
- Nantahala Outdoor Center
- Outdoor Adventure Rafting
- Ocoee Rafting
- Outland Expeditions
- Raft One
- Whitewater Express
If you’re looking for a place to go white water rafting in Chattanooga, or river rafting in Georgia, the Ocoee is home to some of the best places to whitewater raft in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
In addition to OAR, there are many other Ocoee River rafting companies located between Cleveland and Ducktown TN.
All of the Ocoee River rafting companies offer a Middle Ocoee rafting tour and a Full Ocoee rafting tour. Most of the Middle Ocoee trips range from $36-$51 per person for a 3.5-hour trip from Ocoee Dam #2.
Upper Ocoee trips range from $75-$120, with most including a lunch halfway through the trip. Less than half of the Ocoee rafting companies offer Upper Ocoee tours, including OAR, Cherokee Rafting, Bigfoot Outfitters, and Ace Ocoee Adventures.
Whatever company you ultimately choose for your whitewater rafting adventure, you’ll be sure to have a thrilling trip on the Class III+ rapids! –by Amy Lewis