Are you looking for adventure on your next trip to Tennessee? Why not try Ocoee River whitewater rafting? Located in the Cherokee National Forest, the Ocoee River is surrounded by beautiful scenery that you will enjoy during the quiet moments of your journey. Don’t be fooled! The Ocoee River can also provide the heart-pumping adventures that thrill seekers will enjoy.
There are a variety of companies that offer tours down the Ocoee River. Read on to discover the similarities and differences among the white water rafting tour companies. Learn what other outdoor adventures are available in the area. Also, learn about how close Tennesseans came to losing this recreational area to the Tennessee Valley Authority.
10 Awesome Tour Guides for Ocoee White Water Rafting
Ocoee Rafting has been in business since 1976. For decades, they have provided rafting tours for tourists and locals on weekends only in April, May, September, and October. Tours are offered five days a week during June, July, and August. The office is closed on Tuesday and Wednesdays during the summer months.
There are four different tours available through Ocoee Rafting. The Middle Ocoee River tour is a five-mile stretch of whitewater. This tour takes visitors through rapids called Grumpy’s Broken Nose, Diamond Splitter, and Table Saw.
The Upper Ocoee River was used during the 1996 Summer Olympics. Raft where the Olympians experienced the Godzilla and Humongous rapids. These rapids are available only 34 days a year.
If you can’t get enough rafting, you should consider booking the Full River Combo. Experience 10 miles of whitewater rafting, which covers the upper and middle Ocoee River.
The fourth experience includes rafting and a two-hour zipline canopy tour.
Even though Olympic athletes navigated these waters, you do not have to have any specific experience or ability to enjoy white water rafting through this company. Participants need to be at least 12 years or older, and all need to sign a waiver.
Although not included in any of the tour packages, Ocoee Rafting also has an Aerial Challenge Course. Participants are clipped to a safety line and allowed to go maneuver over suspended bridges and tightropes that are 15 to 45 feet in the air. Participants seven and over can go through the course at his or her own speed and can enjoy one and one-half hours of physical and mental challenges.
If you are interested in booking a rafting, zip line, or aerial challenge experience, you can call the office at 800-251-4800 or book online at http://www.ocoeerafting.com/ – .
It is no surprise that Cherokee Rafting provides whitewater opportunities on the Ocoee River. After all, the rapids on that river have made the Ocoee River voted the best place for white water rafting in the country. There’s no need to worry about how the weather will affect the rafting. Even during a dry season, tourists can enjoy class three or four rapids because the Ocoee River is dam controlled.
While there are dozens of companies that provide tours of the Ocoee River, Cherokee Rafting has been awarded TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for the past six years.
Participants of the Cherokee Rafting experience can choose among three package options.
The first allows you to raft the middle section of the river. While this is an appropriate section for beginning rafters, it offers 20 continuous class three and four rapids. It starts just below the Ocoee Dam number two and will take you past Grumpy’s, Broken Nose, Roller Coaster, Table Saw, and Hell’s Hole rapids. This tour, featuring the middle section of the river, allows you to raft for five miles. The middle river tour is only available on select days. Book it on Saturdays or Sundays during April; Sundays during May; Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays during June, July, and August, and Saturdays and Sundays during September and October.
The upper section of the river features rapids named Mikey’s, Let’s Make a Deal, Godzilla, and Humongous. Again, this is the area that was used by Olympic rafters in 1996.
The full ten-mile river can be rafted in one day. This tour starts in a remote gorge near Ocoee Dam number three. Half-way through the experience, you will enjoy a riverside lunch that includes sandwich meats, breads, cheese, shrimp, chips, fruits, cookies, and drinks. After lunch, you will experience more rapids called Double Suck, Flipper, Diamond Splitter, and Hell’s Hole. This tour takes five hours to complete and is only available on weekends from mid-May through September.
Owners John and Judy Thomason started the company when white water rafting was in its infancy. John grew up near the Ocoee, and even though people thought he was crazy to open such a company, it has been around since 1977. Call 800-451-7238 to book your adventure for next summer.
As mentioned earlier, the Ocoee River was the ideal place to hold the 1996 Summer Olympics Slalom Canoe and Kayak competition. One hundred thirty-five athletes competed while 14,000 spectators watched. There were over one thousand staff and volunteers lining the banks of the river during the Olympic event. Some of the Olympic participants returned to the area to work for some of the rafting companies.
The Ocoee Adventure Center offers three different tours of the river. The Upper Ocoee River tour lasts approximately three hours. You will spend one and one-half hours on the river.
The Middle Ocoee River tour will give participants two hours of rafting time, but the overall tour lasts three and one-half hours.
The Full Ocoee River tour includes lunch. You will have four and one-half hours on the river. Plan for the experience to last six hours.
Would you like to explore the river area on something other than a raft? Choose from one of the Ocoee Adventure Center packages. If you book on a weekday, you can combine your rafting experience with the use of their mountain bike trails.
Adventure lovers can also have a weekday-rafting experience paired with a guided hike.
Even if you have never tried stand-up paddle-boarding, the Ocoee Adventure Center guides will teach you this skill either the same day as you experience the white water rafting or on a different day. Of course, the stand-up paddle-boarding will be completed on still water. This company is for adventure seekers, but the owners aren’t that crazy.
Participants can also complete whitewater rafting and flatwater kayaking for one low price.
If horses are your thing, the Ocoee Adventure Company has paired with Blanche Manor Horseback Riding Adventures to offer a full weekend of rafting and horseback riding. Blanche Manor has well-conditioned horses that allow you to go on a leisurely stroll or a fast-paced ride.
The Ocoee Adventure Center offers all of these activities from one location. The center also has an outpost store where adventure lovers can purchase souvenirs and snacks. Hot showers are also available for customers who need to get cleaned up after their day on the river.
The Ocoee Adventure guides are certified in CPR and First Aid. Plus, each guide also has at minimum a Wilderness First Aid level of certification. They all go through a training program administered by a staff who have a combined one hundred years of experience among them.
Customers interested in booking can call 888-RAFT-OAC or fill out a contact form on their website. The outpost is located two and one-half miles west of Ducktown, Tennessee. Participants must be twelve years and older.
Even though Quest Expeditions has a tropical bird on their logo, the guides from Quest are more familiar with the birds of Tennessee rather than the tropics. The guides from this company have been traveling down the Ocoee River since 1983.
There are three choices of trips that customers can book through Quest Expeditions. The first goes through the middle section of the river. Participants will enjoy seeing the beautiful gorge as they float down the river through the Cherokee National Forest. These tours are available five days a week, Thursday through Monday from Memorial through Labor Day. Participants planning to book this tour need to schedule four hours on your trip itinerary. Rafting trips are not available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. If you would like to go before Memorial Day or after Labor Day, contact the company. There are bookings available on Saturdays and Sundays during this time. Are you worried about a rainy day? There’s no need to worry. Tours go either rain or shine.
The full river trip takes you through ten miles of steady flowing rapids. Participants of the full-day experience will enjoy a lunch of sandwiches, shrimp, chips, cookies, and drinks. At the end of the trip, you will be given a chance to slow down and splash around in the river for a bit. Schedule seven hours for this rafting trip and book early. The full-day journey is only available on Saturdays and Sundays from mid-May through mid-September.
If you only have time for a half-day trip, and you want to experience the white water rafting that Olympians navigated, you may consider booking the upper only rafting trip. This trip is only offered on Saturdays during peak season.
If your schedule allows, you may consider booking a trip during the offseason. Springtime can often bring with it rains that makes the water a little more tumultuous than later in the season. Those who book their adventure in the fall will enjoy their journey down a river whose bank is decorated with fall foliage.
Quest Expeditions also offers accommodations for travelers. Choose from between a one, two, or three bedroom cabin that offers a full kitchen, bed linens, satellite TV, a front porch, charcoal grill, central heat, and air conditioning. Campgrounds are also available as well as a group bunkhouse. The bunkhouse holds up to 20 people and is an economical choice when you have a large group to lodge.
Book a trip now by calling 800-277-4537. You can also access Quest Expeditions through a variety of social media including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
High Country Adventures has been in business for over forty years, and they offer experiences that differ from those previously mentioned.
Like the other companies, High Country Adventures offers rafting trips on the Ocoee River. Choose between the Middle Ocoee River trip, where you will plunge 269 feet over five miles. This five-mile stretch provides the most continuous class three and four rapids in the country.
Travelers can also choose to traverse down the Upper Ocoee River. Over thirty-five million dollars were spent on this stretch of river before the 1996 Olympic games to create this fantastic white water rafting experience. The final rapid is called the Hungry Mother. Hopefully, the mother won’t be so hungry that it causes you and your fellow rafters to “eat it.”
While the featured activity of High Country Adventures is its white water rafting, the company also offers a wide variety of other activities. Consider booking a rock climbing experience through High Country. The company sets up the ropes and runs the belays on Starr Mountain, the local sandstone crag. Beginners to rock climbing are welcomed.
Are you comfortable in tight spaces? You may consider booking a caving expedition through High Country Adventures. Learn the basics of cave conservation and then hike through a variety of obstacles, including a belly crawl. Advanced caving trips are available for those who can stand the challenge.
After a day full of rafting, climbing, and crawling, you might be ready for a bit of floating. Take an evening kayak trip out on beautiful Lake Ocoee. Go at sunset and relax on the water while watching the red and yellow rays reflect on the surface of the lake. Use High Country Adventure’s two-person or solo kayaks.
Don’t worry about finding overnight accommodations. High Country Adventures also offers remote cabins for rent. Although each comes fully equipped with a full kitchen and bath, they do not have a TV. Unplug for a bit and enjoy stargazing on the deck. Cabins include towels, sheets, blankets, and kitchen necessities. Rent a cabin for more than three consecutive nights and receive a ten percent off discount. Do you want to rough it? There are campsites available as well.
The two original founders who started the company over forty years ago manage high Country Adventures. Call 800-233-8594 or visit their website to book a trip.
Cascade Tours offers two levels of rafting down the Ocoee. Beginners should consider choosing the Middle Ocoee River Rafting tour. This five-mile tour lasts three hours and gives customers highly experienced guides who will lead you over twenty rapids in top-of-the-range rafts. This tour is offered from March through November, every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. This tour starts at Ocoee Dam number two and ends just below the Ocoee number two powerhouse. The rafts hold six people plus a guide. The cost of the tour includes the use of the raft, life jacket, helmet, paddle, spray jacket, and transportation to the river. Participants should weigh no more than 265-275 pounds and be in relatively good health. Children twelve and under cannot go on the tour.
The full-day tour is offered mid-May through mid-September. It is available every weekend from June through August and Saturdays only May and September. The full-day tour starts at Ocoee Dam number three and ends at the number two powerhouse. Although each raft holds six plus a guide, do not be deterred from booking if you are on your own. The tour company will find you a spot with other like-minded travelers. Unlike the earlier tour, it is suggested that you are a relatively competent swimmer if you take the full-day tour. Wear a bathing suit and or shorts (but leave your bikini at home.) Bring a t-shirt and fleece clothing. Wear old sports shoes, but do not wear flip-flops. Also bring sunscreen, dry clothes, a towel, shower supplies, inhalers, sunglass straps, plastic bags, and bottled water. Lunch is provided on the full-day excursion at Cascade Outdoor’s riverside pavilion. Professional photos are available for purchase once you are finished with the trip.
Do you have a large group? Cascade Outdoors can accommodate groups as large as 72 people. Groups of youth are okay to bring as long as everyone is twelve or older and as long as they have a parent-signed waiver. Scouting groups can earn whitewater badges through Cascade.
Customers can call 800-338-7238 or visit their website (https://cascadeoutdoors.com/)to book a trip. The company is located near Nashville, Knoxville, and Atlanta.
Would you like to raft the Ocoee with real Olympians? Four of the Nantahala Outdoor Center staff members competed in the 1996 Olympics. Learn about their Olympic journeys as your journey down the Ocoee River.
There are two tour options through this company. The first is a five-mile tour that takes between three and three and one-half hours. Enjoy huge waves at Double Trouble and the Hell Hole rapids. This tour is considered to be moderately difficult.
The full-day river rafting combo includes ten miles of rafting and lunch. Plan on spending at least five and a half hours on the activity that day. This tour is considered intense.
On both tours, all the gear and equipment that you would need is provided for the cost of the tour.
The Nantahala Outdoor Center is also the place to go to learn more about the outdoors. Go to paddling school and learn how to canoe and kayak at what Outside Magazine calls “the best place to learn.” Learn swift water rescue and begin your career as a professional river guide. Become a survival man after attending wilderness survival school. Learn about the proper gear, techniques, and tactics that will keep you alive if you find yourself lost in the woods. Also, take the SOLO Wilderness Medicine course. If you love the Ocoee River region so much that you never want to leave, you may consider enrolling in their raft guide school. You’ll learn how to be a professional river guide by taking this class.
Nantahala provides one-stop shopping. Stay at one of their deluxe cabins that features a view of the Nantahala Gorge and Western North Carolina. If you don’t need the extra space, you could also consider staying at the newly renovated Dogwood Motel. Nantahala also has a budget-friendly bunkhouse where hikers of the Appalachian Trail stay on their journeys. If tent camping is more your style, use one of the waterproof platform tents that Nantahala provides. The tents sit on raised platforms.
Besides offering rafting and overnight accommodations, the Nantahala Outdoor Center also offers a mountaintop zip line tour. Do you want to experience white water rafting on other rivers besides the Ocoee? The Nantahala Center offers rafting on eight different southeastern rivers with experiences ranging from relaxing to daring. Raft the Nantahala, Chattooga, French Broad, Chattahoochee, Pigeon, or Nolichucky Rivers.
Call 828-785-5082 to make your reservation or visit their website at https://noc.com/.
Adventures Unlimited was started in 1993 by the Smith Family. The guides working for Adventures Unlimited are all First Aid and CPR certified and have Wilderness First Responder certifications.
The classic middle tour gives rafters the opportunity to enjoy rapids called Broken Nose, Slice and Dice, and Second Helping. Don’t forget about the Double Suck and Moonshoot rapids that you will traverse before having your photo taken at the infamous Double Trouble rapids. Your five-mile adventure ends and the Adventures Unlimited bus will be waiting for you with your dry clothes. Use the Adventures Unlimited showers and consider purchasing your photos at the end of the tour. The middle trip is available on the weekends only during the spring and fall. The tour is offered five days per week in June, July, and August.
The Ocoee Full River Deluxe trip will take you over rapids called Smiley’s, Humongous, Roach Motel, and the Edge of the World. Lunch is provided on this tour, but remember it is only offered on weekends starting in late May through early September. Double check tour availability on the interactive calendar on the website.
Would you like to experience adventure on dry land? Consider trying Adventure’s Unlimited paintball adventure. Enjoy the wooded outdoor course that offers many obstacles and covers. The fee includes equipment rental, field fee, carbon dioxide, and 250 paintballs.
Adventures Unlimited also offers the full Ocoee River express trip. This ten-mile trip down the river will take four and one-half hours. This trip books up quickly and is only available on weekends starting in late May and continuing through early September. Lunch is not included with this adventure.
Yes, Adventures Unlimited also offers overnight accommodations. You may want to choose the Bear’s Den Cabin if you have a party of ten. Bungalows are available for smaller groups. These one-bedroom cabins have two double beds and a bathroom. If you prefer to rough it, campsites and RV parks are available as well.
To book a tour, call 800-662-0667 or visit their website at http://adventuresunlimited.net/adventures/ocoee/classic/.
Choose among four different adventures from the staff at Ocoee Outdoors. The first is appropriate for the whole family, as long as the kids are twelve and older. During this half-day whitewater adventure, guides will lead you over twenty class three and four rapids in the middle Ocoee River.
The second choice is the all-day upper and middle excursion. This package includes four hours on the water and a lunch served on the riverbank. Plan approximately six hours for this experience. Participants need to be under 260 pounds, and of course, older than twelve years old.
Explore another river in the region by booking the Hiwassee River Trip. This river has been designated as a Tennessee State Scenic River. With easier to navigate waters, the class one and two whitewater is an excellent place for a family raft float. The Ocoee Outdoors trip includes two hours on the water. Children as young as six can enjoy this experience. Like the other tours, the booking costs include the use of the raft, paddle, helmet, life vest, and bus transportation.
You may choose to book the raft and zip combo. The zip line tour boasts seven zip lines covering over 6,000 feet. View the Ocoee River from a raft and then get a different perspective of the area as you fly through the air.
Ocoee Outdoors accommodates large groups of people as well. They welcome corporate groups, youth groups, and wedding parties. The leader of a group of twenty is awarded a free booking.
This company has been in business since 1977. To book a trip, call 800-533-7767 or visit their website at https://ocoeeoutdoors.com/.
The middle Ocoee rafting tour is a three and one-half hour trip that is accessible for beginners. The upper Ocoee river trip begins with sedate class two rapids and then builds to the Olympic-quality rafting. The tour lasts for three and one-half hours and is available for kids twelve and older. The full river trip comes with a lunch of chips, sandwiches, pasta salad, oatmeal cookies ice tea, and lemonade.
Most tour companies do not offer a more intense experience than the full Ocoee river trip, but Outdoor Adventure Rafting does. This trip is not for first-time rafters. In fact, you must be able to swim well and self-rescue using a raft. You also must have experience surfing inside a hydraulic. Participants must be sixteen years or older to complete this adventure.
Outdoor Adventure Rafting also offers tubing. One guide will be assigned for every ten participants. The only restriction on this activity is that your little one needs to be able to fit into a life jacket designed for someone who is fifty pounds. If you know that your little one would “swim” in a life jacket for children that size, you are required to bring a personal floatation device that fits your loved one.
OAR also offers climbing and rappelling activities. Designed as a team building activity for groups ages eight and up, OAR offers a thirty-foot climbing wall and an alpine tower. If you want to start out in rock climbing or another climbing sport, this is the activity for you! You will be taught how to lower yourself off a thirty-foot cliff. In the shadows of the alpine tower are the low ropes activities. OAR offers ten unique challenges that will push your teamwork capabilities to their fullest extent.
Outdoor Adventure Rafting offers overnight accommodations for visitors. There are small bunkhouses that hold 16 people, and large ones that hold 32 visitors. The bunkhouses are incredibly affordable. OAR also has a campground right next to the lower Ocoee River. Pets are allowed on the campgrounds, but they are not permitted in the bunkhouses.
Visit the OAR website (https://www.ocoee.com/ocoee-rafting-oar/) to book your adventure.
How the Ocoee River was Nearly Lost
The Ocoee River has been under a contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority for 35 years, and the contract ended this fall. The businesses whose livelihood depends on the river has been working on getting a new contract for eight years, and at the last minute, it looks as if authorities from the state of Tennessee have stepped in to save the day.
The Tennessee Valley Authority uses the dams to generate power for local customers. When the water is released to be used as recreation, the company cannot produce energy. In turn, they charge the rafting companies millions of dollars annually as reimbursement for lost power. The TVA is increasing the 1.8 million dollar fee to $9 million to renew the contract and secure the releases for the next five years. In the latest set of negotiations, the state agreed to pay TVA $11.8 million for the use of the area for fifteen years. In fifteen years, negotiations will start over again.
If the Ocoee is no longer used as a recreation area, over 600 full-time jobs will be eliminated. This will impact the area to the tune of $43 million.