Tag Archives: Ocoee River

20th Anniversary of 1996 Summer Olympics

July 19, 2016 marks the 20 year anniversary of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games held in

Atlanta, Georgia. The 1996 Olympics hold a special place in our hearts here at Rolling Thunder because one of our most popular rafting destinations – The Ocoee River – got to spend some much-deserved time in the spotlight.

1996 Summer Olympic Games on the Ocoee River

Image Source: John Anderson

Image Source: John Anderson

The Ocoee River was chosen as the site for the canoe course during the 1996 Olympics. It is the only in-river course to ever be used for an Olympic slalom competition.

To create the necessary drops and eddies for the slalom course, a 1,640 foot section of the Upper Ocoee River was narrowed by two-thirds. Levees were built along the shore and covered with natural rock. The Ocoee is a dam-controlled river, and during the Olympics, water was released at a rate of 1,400 cu ft/s.

The Ocoee River hosted a total of 16 events. The events included slalom canoeing and sprint canoeing, and there were four events for women and 12 for men.

The Ocoee TodayOcoee River

Twenty years after the close of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the Ocoee River remains a popular travel destination for whitewater enthusiasts. What was once one of the best kept secrets in the Southeast has now been named the one of the best whitewater rafting destination in the entire United States. Hundreds of thousands of eager adventurers visit the Ocoee River each year and leave with memories that last a lifetime.

The Ocoee is still a dam-controlled river, and it is broken up into the upper and middle sections. Water is released in the upper second on selected weekends during the summer while the middle has water every weekend during the summer months. With the longest continuous stretch of class III and IV rapids in the US, the Ocoee River provides incredible adventures even 20 years after the close of the Olympic Games.

Experience the Ocoee

You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to experience the Ocoee River. At Rolling Thunder River Company, we offer exhilarating guided Ocoee river rafting trips throughout the summer rafting season. Experience the thrill of rafting down a world famous river. Whether you’re new to rafting or you’re a whitewater expert, the Ocoee River is a destination that no rafter should miss!

What You Need to Know About River Classifications

The Southeast provides some amazing spots for whitewater rafting. The Ocoee River and the Nantahala River offer some of the best adventures in the United States, and they are definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for an exciting adventure.

While planning your trip, you’ve probably noticed the classifications for rivers and rapids, but do you really know what these numbers mean?

We’ve put together this little guide to help you determine which rivers are best for you based upon your skill level and experience.

Rivers for BeginnersRiver Classifications

If you’re totally new to whitewater rafting, you’ll want to look for a river with a lower classification. Class I and II rapids are your safest best if you’ve never been on the water before.

On a class I river, you can expect fast-moving water and small waves. Any obstacles in the water are easy to spot and avoid.

Slightly larger waves make class II rapids a bit more exciting, and you might need to maneuver around some rocks in the water.

With primarily class I and II with a single class III rapid at the end, the Nantahala River is perfect for newbies and kids who are over the age of 7 or weigh at least 60 pounds.

Intermediate Rivers

Intermediate rivers are best for those who have experienced a bit of rafting before or for adventurous beginners who will be hitting the water with a guide. Rivers with class III and IV rapids fall into the intermediate category. Class III rapids have stronger currents and irregular waves that may be difficult to dodge, and class IV rapids have large waves and require precise boat maneuvering.

The Ocoee River, home of the 1996 Olympic whitewater events, features the most continuous stretch of class III and IV rapids of any US river, and it is a popular destination that provides thrills for intermediate and experienced rafters alike.

Rafting for Experts

Only experienced, expert rafters should attempt class V rapids. With the proper knowledge and skills, rivers with class V rapids can be extremely dangerous, and you should never put your safety at risk for the sake of an adrenaline rush.

Ready for your next adventure? What are you waiting for? At Rolling Thunder River Company, we offer amazing adventures for rafters of all skill levels, and we would love to help you experience the adventure of a lifetime!

Save the Ocoee

Ocoee River CouncilThe Ocoee River in Tennessee is one of the only places in the world where an average rafter can be an Olympian for a day. This river hosted the whitewater events during the Olympic Games in 1996 and has been a popular rafting destination ever since. Sadly, it is in danger of being significantly diminished or even lost completely to rafters in just a few short years.

Why the Ocoee River is in Danger

After October 2018, whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River could come to a standstill unless a plan to preserve releases at a frequency and at cost levels that justify investment by quality outfitted services is developed.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, or TVA, manages the three Ocoee dams. In addition to generating power, these dams also make the Ocoee one of the best rivers for rafting in the southeastern US. Both the rafting area and whitewater course are fed by regular releases of water from the TVA’s dams.

The TVA Board of Directors is responsible for setting the terms and conditions for Ocoee water releases. Because the TVA is not subject to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing, these terms and conditions are only influenced by political support and federal legislation for whitewater recreation.

Rafting outfitters, such as Rolling Thunder River Co., are required to pay the TVA as reimbursement for lost power when water is released. Currently the TVA is collecting $1.8 million annually from over 25 outfitters, and terms are to be renegotiated every five years. TVA now wants $9 million to renew the contract to secure releases for the next five years. Since the terms are to be renegotiated every five years, this creates an ongoing cycle of uncertainty and rising fees for rafters.

What’s Currently at Stake?

The effects of losing the Ocoee River extend well beyond the loss of one of the nation’s most popular whitewater destinations. Within 60 miles of the river, $43 million in economic benefits will be lost, and the equivalent of 622 full-time jobs will be eliminated.

How You Can Help

The best solution for this situation is for legislation to require the Tennessee Valley Authority board to designate the Ocoee No. 2 and No. 3 as multi-purpose projects including whitewater recreation as a project purpose. This will force the TVA to consider rafters and the economic boost they provide to the local community.

You can help by urging members of Congress to enact legislation that forces the Tennessee Valley Authority to make whitewater recreation a designated purpose of the Ocoee No. 2 and Ocoee No. 3 projects and requires the TVA to provide water releases that are consistent with the current schedule for the life of the Ocoee No. 2 project. You can do this by sending a letter to Congress here.

From all of us here at Rolling Thunder River Company thank you for your support in preserving this remarkable recreation area.