The Ocoee River is located in eastern Tennessee just over the border from North Carolina. It is a dam release river that runs most of the summer and then weekends during the fall. There is one full week in October that there is a release every day so you can get 9 days of paddling in a row – the locals call this secret week.
This is another river that is fairly straight forward to run and to shuttle. Thanks to the Parks Service, there are nice parking areas at both the put in and take out – paved parking, bathrooms and easy access. The road runs along the entire river so you can scout everything and hitch-hiking for shuttles are pretty easy to do.
There are 20 rapids on this class III+ river (missing from the above list is SECRET rapid). Some are actual full rapids and others are shallow rocky areas that you have to work your way through. On the weekends (and I’m sure during the summer) Raft traffic is the biggest obstacle to worry about. You need to time your run down each rapid in between the never ending raft traffic. Secret week was almost raft free, which make it extra special!
The Ocoee River is a fabulous multi-dimensional river. You can take easy lines for advanced beginners or harder lines to spice things up and make it feel more like a class IV run. With warm water and great weather, you can spend a good 3-4 hours on the river with just one run or you can get in 2-3 laps thanks to the easy shuttle.
We chose to paddle the river in play boats as there are small to large play features all the way down the river. Lots of others paddled it in river runners or creek boats. The Jackson Antix is another great boat for this river as it allows you to mix things up and hit all of the long boat and play boat features.
About half way down the river there is a really fun lunch/rest-stop at Go Forth Creek. It seems a bit odd the first time as you pull your boats off the river and into a HUGE square cement drainage culvert below a bridge. You walk through the culvert and end up at this sunny section of rocks that is perfect to lay out and warm up, grab some food and have the kids play in the creek to stay amused.
The rapids finish just below the powerhouse that is on the side of the river. From there you have about a ten to fifteen minute slow moving/flat water paddle to the public takeout (you will pass by the commercial take out just after the flat water starts). It’s a great “feet out to the takeout” kind of paddle and low key way to finish the day.
We definitely recommend the Ocoee as a place to paddle as a family! Big thanks to “Team Unsafe” for adopting “The Canadians” for the week…
You can also find a shorter version of this writeup at http://jacksonkayak.com/blog/2017/10/13/secret-week-on-the-ocoee-river/