Raft The Ocoee: While not technically a western North Carolina river, the Ocoee River’s close proximity to the mountains of North Carolina make it a top trip for those looking to sample some of the southeast’s finest whitewater. The dam-released whitewater of the Ocoee River offers southeastern whitewater enthusiasts the opportunity to sample reliable whitewater even during the hottest and driest summer months. Middle Ocoee’s numerous rapids and river formations offer a wealth of currents and surf for creative and skilled paddlers. Boaters often launch from the put-in at the base of the dam, which offers a powerful display of the whitewater that is soon to follow. Nearly immediately paddlers encounter the first major rapid on the Ocoee, known as Grumpy. Grumpy is a long and pushy Class III that puts rafters straight into the action without even the slightest warm up. The nearly relentless Class III whitewater of the Ocoee is sure to keep paddlers smiling and having fun, even as the current then slows before rafters drop into the rapid known as Staging Eddy. Other rapids such as Broken Nose – a benchmark Class III+ rapid that cannot be seen from the road – the Class II-III, Double Trouble, Flipper, the Doldrums and Surprise Ledge await paddlers. Without a doubt, the Ocoee River is one of the premier whitewater rafting rivers in the entire U.S. and its close proximity to western North Carolina make it a must-do whitewater adventure for all who seek the thrill of adventure that comes with whitewater paddling.
Local’s Pick – Kayak The Ocoee – Dan Zink, Lookout Mountain Flight School
A perfect day for me is to start the day out by paddling the Ocoee River. I love getting out on the Ocoee early in the morning because the water is warm, it’s dam controlled so the river levels are very consistent, the rapids are exciting, and there are usually a lot of us out there paddling. It’s like Disneyland for adults. After a good day on the river, I like to head up to Lookout Mountain Flight School for an afternoon flight with my hanglider. It’s a great feeling to circle around the valley like a hawk, or an eagle. To me, it’s the purest form of actual flight. In the afternoons, usually there are some really nice thermals, which allows us to circle up and climb above the surrounding mountains. There’s nothing quite like circling up on a thermal in a hanglider, soaring around the valleys, checking out the view – for me, that’s a perfect way to spend the afternoon.
Whitewater Safety Tips: Always keep your feet up in swift current and never try to stand up, always wear a helmet, personal flotation device and adequate shoes, always go with a friend and learn the basics of whitewater safety before venturing into a whitewater river.
Directions from Asheville: Merge onto I-240 W/US-70 W. Keep right at the fork to continue on I-240 W/I-26 E, follow signs for Interstate 240 W/Interstate 26 E/Interstate 40. Take exit 31B to merge onto I-40 W towardCanton/Knoxville. Use the right 2 lanes to take exit 27 for US-74 towardUS-19/US-23 Clyde, Waynesville, Maggie Valley, Franklin, Murphy, Atlanta. Continue onto US-74 W. Use the left lane to merge onto TN-68 S. Merge onto TN-68 S. Turn right onto Grassy Creek Rd