Since Florida is the flattest state in the nation, whitewater rafting is obviously not one of its major attractions. However, just because whitewater rafting in Florida is scarce, that doesn’t mean there isn’t good whitewater rafting near Florida. Just a few hours north of the border, Floridians can raft on Tennessee’s famous Ocoee River, the most popular rafting destination in the entire country.
Read on to find out why so many rafters choose the Ocoee River, the many rafting deals offered and the incredible array of other activities you can enjoy during your stay.
Reasons to Choose the Ocoee for Group Rafting Trips Near Florida
One of the reasons Florida residents love the Ocoee is its proximity, being only a six-hour drive from Tallahassee, a seven-hour drive from Jacksonville and an eight-hour drive from Orlando. But this river attracts Florida residents for many other reasons as well, including the following.
1. Breathtaking Scenery
Whitewater rafting on the Ocoee doesn’t only offer excitement — it also offers stunning natural beauty and landscapes very different from those found in Florida. While on the river, you’ll pass through the Cherokee National Forest, where you can admire the lush canopy and majestic peaks in the distance.
2. A River Fit for Olympians
We mean this literally, as the Ocoee River was the site of the whitewater, canoe and kayak competitions for the 1996 Olympic Games. Typically, the Olympic Games have to create a purpose-built area for these types of contests, but the Ocoee River was so perfect for these sports that it is the only natural river to ever host Olympic kayak and canoe events.
3. No Experience Necessary
If you live in Florida, there’s a good chance you’ve never been whitewater rafting before, and you may wonder whether you can handle a river that once played a role in the Olympic Games. However, the Ocoee has sections that range from Class I — easy — to IV — highly challenging — so whether you’re a first-timer or a longtime rafting fanatic, there is a section of the Ocoee that’s perfect for your skill level. The only requirement for the best Florida river rafting experience is that you’re at least 12 years old.
4. Reliable Water Flow
Many rivers around the world, including ones ideal for whitewater rafting, run dry during droughts or less rainy seasons. However, with the Ocoee, this is never a concern — in 1983, the U.S. government agreed to release water from the dams along the Ocoee for the sake of whitewater recreation on the river.
That means you can always rely on the middle section of the Ocoee for the more challenging Class III and IV rapids and the Upper Ocoee for over 20 Class IV rapids. During the summer, the dam releases 1,250 cubic feet of water per second, which makes for a thrilling rafting experience.
The Ocoee doesn’t just attract visitors from Florida, but from all over. The Ocoee’s middle section draws over a quarter of a million visitors every year. Come and see for yourself why so many rafters choose the Ocoee for their rafting adventure.
Unlike many other top tourist destinations, you won’t have to break the bank for a trip on the Ocoee. Raft1 offers affordable Florida group rafting trip costs, including ones for corporate teambuilding, family vacations and solo adventures.
7. Access to Amenities
Because the Ocoee attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, there are many amenities available in the area, all of which exist without compromising the scenic beauty. Whether it’s a hotel, restaurant, campground, or another type of lodging, you can easily find anything you need.
8. Proximity to Other Fun Activities
The Ocoee River and surrounding Cherokee National Forest offer a variety of outdoor adventures, some of which you cannot experience in Florida.
- Canoeing, kayaking and tubing: Gentler sections of the Ocoee are great for canoeing, kayaking, boating and other activities. When the Ocoee crosses over into nearby Georgia, where it changes names to the Toccoa River, the waters are perfect for tubing.
- Hiking: The Appalachians have no shortage of natural beauty, and there are countless hiking trails you can take to experience its beauty up close.
- Mountain biking: Raft1 offers visitors the opportunity to go mountain biking on the hundreds of miles of trails in the nearby national forest.
- Zip line canopy tours: If you’d like to enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, you can join one of Raft1’s zip line canopy tours, which feature zip lines, suspension bridges, treetop sky towers and a cargo net at the peak of Southern Pine Forest.
- Horseback riding: Explore the beautiful Tennessee and Georgia mountains in an equestrian fashion by taking one of Raft1’s horseback riding adventures.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the country’s most visited national park, and its eastern entrance is just a two-hour drive from the Ocoee.
Although beautiful natural scenery surrounds the Ocoee River, that doesn’t mean it’s in the middle of nowhere. It’s just over an hour’s drive from the city of Chattanooga, where you can check out the following attractions.
- Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park: Chattanooga is well-known for the battles that took place here during the Civil War, and is home to the country’s oldest and largest Civil War park.
- Tennessee Aquarium: As one of the largest freshwater aquariums in the world, this famous attraction features a vast array of animals that live both above and below the ocean.
- The Creative Discovery Museum: If you’re traveling with kids, you can’t miss out on this fascinating children’s museum, which features exhibits and activities for all ages.
Ocoee River Florida Rafting Trip Prices
Rafting on the Ocoee is thrilling no matter how large your party is. However, we believe there’s something special about paddling down rapids with your family, friends and teammates from work, which is why we’ve made it easy for groups to raft together by offering discounted rates.
The price for a rafting trip on the Ocoee depends on the size of your party and the day of the week. For instance, if you travel with a group of 11 people or fewer and go on a Saturday, the per-person rate is $43. If you visit with a group of 40+ people on a weekday, however, the per-person cost drops to $32.
Rafting, Zip Line and Mountain Biking Combos
As we mentioned before, there’s a lot more to do on the Ocoee, including zip lining canopy tours. If you’re interested in both rafting and zip lining, we offer the following combo packages.
- Zip Line + Half Ocoee River Rafting Trip ($95): With this package, you can raft either the Upper or Middle Ocoee and then take our Ocoee Zip Line and Canopy Tour.
- Zip Line + Full Ocoee River Rafting Trip ($165): As the most popular combo we offer, this package is like the one above, except you get to raft the entire river and enjoy a lunch break between the two sections.
- Raft1 Mini-Ironman: Zip Line + Middle Ocoee River Trip + Three-Hour Mountain Biking ($120): This package is an introduction to our full Ironman trip that allows you to enjoy the excitement and beauty of the Ocoee River gorge, but is not as long as the full Ironman.
- Raft1 Ironman: Full River Rafting + Zip Line + Mountain Biking ($195): This package truly separates the hobbyists from the dedicated athletes. On this trip, we start by guiding you down the rapids on both sections of the river, with a lunch break between. You will then zip line along a mile of cable while taking in views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and Cherokee Forest. Finally, you’ll go mountain biking along the trails of the national forest.
Rafting, Zip Line and Horseback Riding Combos
Raft1 also offers packages that combine rafting, zip lining and horseback riding. If you choose this package, you will start the day by rafting, then enjoy a two-hour zip line canopy tour and end the day with a horseback ride through the mountains of Tennessee and Georgia. You can book this adventure here.
Are you looking for overnight whitewater rafting trips near Florida? Raft1 also offers great lodging rates for large groups, which include the following.
1. The Big Lodge
This two-story, log cabin-style bunkhouse has 44 single-person beds divided among four rooms. Mattresses come included, but you will need to bring along a sleeping bag, pillow and towels. There is also a kitchen with a microwave and refrigerator.
If you’re coming during the summertime, you won’t have to worry about getting hot, as the Big Lodge is air-conditioned. There are also two small bathrooms, and you can shower in the main bathhouse located just down the hill.
There is also a large deck and common room that are great for hanging out, meeting up or playing games. The deck also includes grills and picnic tables, and in the woods nearby, there is also a fire ring.
The rate for the Big Lodge is $15 per person per night. We require a minimum of $250 for a reservation.
2. The Small Lodge
This smaller, rustic lodge has 16 single-person beds divided among two bunk-style rooms. As is the case with Big Lodge, we provide mattresses, but you will need to bring a sleeping bag, pillow and towels. There is a small kitchen in the lodge equipped with a sink, refrigerator and microwave.
The Small Lodge also has air conditioning, which makes the lodge a welcome refuge during the hottest days of summer. There are also two small bathrooms, and showers just down the hill in the main bathhouse. The lodge also features a spacious screened-in porch on the side, which is great for playing games and hanging out.
The rate for the Small Lodge is $15 per person per night, and you must pay a minimum of $75 to reserve it.
3. Ocoee Camping on the Raft1 Outpost
If you and your group are interested in a more adventurous lodging arrangement, consider roughing it one of our campsites. We have two sites, each of which can accommodate three or four small tents.
If you choose to stay in our campground, remember to bring along some firewood, which you can buy locally, as well as garbage bags, water containers, grills, flashlights, matches, ground cloths, towels, sleeping bags, tents and chairs. For grilling, we recommend portable propane grills.
If your party needs more room than is available at our campground, you can stay at the nearby Thunder Rock Campground, only a five-minute drive away. The sites there are spacious and include a fire pit and picnic table. The rate is $12 per site per night.
For an Even Wilder Experience, Check out Rafting on the Chattooga River
If you’re interested in delving deeper into nature and experiencing an even wilder river, you can look into rafting tours on the nearby Chattooga River. This river, which features breathtaking waterfalls and abundant wildlife, is in South Carolina and Northeast Georgia and is an excellent rafting destination for those seeking adventure and thrills. Southeastern Expeditions, the river’s premier outfitter, offers rafting, canoeing and kayaking tours. The Chattooga features rapids ranging from Class II up to Class V, making it a great choice for both timid first-timers and experienced risk-takers.
Consider Joining an Outdoor Social Club
If you would like to take advantage of Raft1’s group rates for Florida whitewater rafting trips, but cannot find enough people to join your party, think about joining an outdoor social club in your area that plans whitewater rafting tours for Florida residents to experience the Ocoee.
The Adventure Club of Gainesville arranges some of the best whitewater rafting trips for Floridians, taking care of all the logistics of planning whitewater rafting for groups from Florida. To become a member, you must pay the minimal monthly fees, which cover the costs of administration. This Florida adventure club has planned rafting trips to both the Ocoee and Chattooga rivers.
Raft1 Offers the Best River Rafting Near Florida
Choosing Ocoee River rafting for Florida residents and Raft1 to guide you down it is, we believe, the perfect combination for an unforgettable rafting experience. After all, the Ocoee River is the most popular rafting destination in the country, and Raft1 is the highest independently rated rafting tour company on the Ocoee River.
Our expert guides are passionate about providing the safest, most memorable experience for all rafters aged 12 or older. Book a tour with us today and find out why Raft1 has received more five-star TripAdvisor ratings than any other rafting company on the Ocoee River.
When you’re looking for whitewater rafting near Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee or anywhere else in Florida, feel free to call us at 423-799-2354 and we’ll be glad to help you plan your trip, including when to raft, where to stay and the best places to eat. After all, we like to think of ourselves as not just raft guides — but tour guides!