Unlike many whitewater rivers around the world the Ocoee River is considered a pure boulder river. Most white water rivers are a drop pool rivers (long stretches of calm water with rapids in between) or canyon rivers (long stretches of calm water with rapids in between). For a overview of the different types of rivers and a comparison of many of the most popular rivers around the world see our white water rivers section. Learn More
Ocoee River, Copper Hill Area Have Rich History
The Ocoee River is a mountain river in the Cherokee National Forest that begins in Northern Georgia and leads into the southeast part of Tennessee and eventually turns into Lake Ocoee. Its name is thought to mean apricot vine place in the Cherokee language. It has also been called by other names, such as the Tacoy or Taccoy River.
Three dams are on the Ocoee River and are operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority power company and the first is 135 feet high and 840 feet across and was built in 1911, the second is 30 feet high and 450 across and was built in 1913.
These were built by the East Tennessee Power Company and the last was built in 1942 and is 110 feet high and 612 feet across and was constructed by the TVA. This trio of dams generates over 67,000 kilowatts of electricity, which provides a lot of power for people in the Ocoee River areas.
Rafting the Ocoee River Begins
TVA allowed commercial Ocoee rafting as of 1977 after people started showing up in army surplus rafts to travel the Ocoee to do the five mile stretch of white water rafting Ocoee with army surplus rafts. Since then, the Ocoee River has been considered as a world class whitewater river, and has hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, as white water rafting is now considered a major tourism draw to the area of Copper Hill, Tenn. Ocoee rafting is available in Class 1 to 3 at Raft 1, one of the premiere Ocoee River rafting companies in the Copper Hill area that offers safety conscious, expert tour-guided white water rapid adventures.
The area is considered as the Copper Basin due to the mining of copper, thus how the city of Copper Hill got its name. Copper Hill is a small town of only a little over 500 people and is the birthplace of the Ocoee River. You can find rental homes in the area that cater to tourists, or stay in one of the nearby cabins or camping areas. The average annual temperature in the area ranges from around 26 degrees in the wintertime to the high 80s in the summer, so it is relatively mild and that bodes well for the tourists industry.
The area also boasts other resources besides the former copper craze and tourism is one of the biggest for keeping the area economy going. The Ocoee River is one of those tourism treasures and was even picked for the site of the white water rafting Ocoee treks for the Olympics in 1996, as well as kayak and canoe competition. Along with the Ocoee River rafting, the Copper Hill/Ocoee River area is an outdoor lover’s paradise with plenty of opportunities for swimming, fishing, and boating, with the U.S. Forest Service managing several open recreational areas for tourists. Besides the activities that focus on the Ocoee River, there are many opportunities to go hiking, camping, wildlife watching, biking, horseback riding and mountain climbing.
Native Americans used the copper in the area for centuries before the Europeans who came later did after 1843. Prior to 1900, Copper Hill mines were the largest mining district in the entire Southeast U.S. and many local residents made their fortunes from the profit from these mines. The last mine, however, closed in 1987. Due to the copper mining in the Ocoee River area, much of the region used to be pretty barren and the damage was so bad that the Apollo astronauts could even see a large red line from space where the area had been denuded due to the old practice of burning the copper ore to get rid of sulfur made acid rain.
This early practice had caused many trees to be sacrificed to use as fuel and sulfur dioxide poisoned the surrounding area and plant life. This caused the area rainfall to erode away tons of soil, which got pushed into the area streams.
However, ever since the 19030s restoration efforts have been in place to correct the problems and return the Ocoee River area to its original glory. More than 16 million trees have been planted in the surrounding area over the years and this has helped it to recover quite nicely.
Thankfully, the TVA, along with several other groups, have managed to get the Copper Hill area and the Ocoee River nearly back to its own magnificent self. With the first efforts in the 30s, as well as the recent construction of two water treatment plants, the river now meets the majority of set standards for water quality and has started to live again.
If you are looking for a great vacation in one of the most beautiful spots in the world, then come to Copper Hill and take a Ocoee rafting trip, fish in the river, camp out or just take in the scenery and wildlife. You will never forget your trip to the Ocoee River area.
Unlike these, the Ocoee River combines a steep continuous grade (55 feet/ mile) with rocks and boulders obstructing the water flow to create an exciting array of challenging and exciting white water rapids. Some white water boaters argue that the 4.5 miles of whitewater on the middle Ocoee River is in reality only 2 long rapids. Of course the guides have labeled 23 rapids for the more exciting parts of the middle Ocoee River. This means you don’t spend a lot of time paddling through boring calm water. Even when you’re taking a break from paddling the river drives the raft forward into the next big section.
The dams controlling the water flow into the river guarantee the Ocoee River always has enough water for a fantastic Ocoee rafting trip. The middle Ocoee River is guaranteed a minimum of 1200 cfs (cubic feet per second) of water. The upper Ocoee River is guaranteed 1600 cfs. At these water levels you never have to worry about having to drag your raft across rocks to get to the next rapid.
So what does this all mean? It means if you’re looking for continuous white water fun, rafting the Ocoee River can’t be beat.
The Ocoee River was once owned by Eastern Tennessee Power Company. During 1910 to 1913, the Ocoee Dam #1 and Ocoee Dam #2 were constructed along with the wooden floom line to divert the river water to the power house to feed the hydro-electrical turbines and started generating power.
In 1939, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) purchased the Ocoee River and the power system. When the floom line needed repair in 1976, river water ran through the river bed again and Ocoee River whitewater rafting got its start. The first Ocoee whitewater rafting on the river was in military surplus rafts and the call of the river quickly made Ocoee rafting a favored sport. Soon after, Ocoee rafting outfitters began negotiating river water usage terms with TVA and this has continued till today.
The Ocoee area now sees more than 250,000 Ocoee whitewater rafting visitors per year. People know a good thing when they Raft One it.