Upper Ocoee 9:00am
Trip Details9:00am Trip
Difficulty: Class 4
Minimum Age: 12 yrs
The five-mile upper section of the Ocoee River includes the actual Olympic course from the 1996-whitewater events. This section features the biggest drops on the river with slightly more intense rapids in a few places than on the middle section. When you launch your raft into the Upper section of the river you will have about two miles of warm-up time before hitting the first class 4 rapid called Mickey’s Ledge and shortly after you will encounter your second class 4 rapid called Screaming Left Hand Turn and then comes the famous Olympic section where you will meet Godzilla and Humongous, the biggest, most celebrated rapids on this section.
With a certified guide in every raft, you don't have to be an Olympian to navigate this rollicking waterway; just follow instructions from your guide.
TVA only releases water in this section on a select number of weekends so demand is high for this limited release time. Hang onto your helmet! This is the real deal.
Experienced rafters as well as adventurous first timers will enjoy this adventure through the Cherokee National Forest.
At the rafting center
You should check-in at our rafting center at least 30 minutes prior to your reserved trip time. Remember, we are in the Eastern Time Zone. If you are going on a trip on a Saturday in July or August, you should arrive about 45 minutes prior to your reserved trip time. Please print and bring your reservation confirmation to check-in along with your signed waiver of liability (form is on our website). If you are a group organizer it is not necessary for every member of your group to come in for check-in.
You can lock all of your personal belongings (towels, dry clothes) up in your car and leave your keys in our office before time for your trip. The U. S. Forest Service requires us to instruct you not to take anything on the river with you, i.e. bottled drinks, snacks, etc. because they do not want it to end up in the river creating litter which they will have to clean up.
At trip time, our trip leader will gather the entire rafting group together and each rafter will be fitted with the appropriate gear for the trip, i.e. personal flotation device (called PFD's) which you know as life jackets, helmets and paddles. Once everyone has their equipment, the trip leader will provide instructions such as how to sit in the raft, how to hold a paddle properly and safety tips.
On the bus
When the safety orientation is finished, everyone will board the Thunder buses for a 20 minute ride to the Ocoee River put-in where we launch the rafts. Bus ride times will vary depending upon traffic in the Gorge. You may take bottled drinks and snacks to consume on the bus ride but not in the rafts. You may not be riding on the same bus back from the river that you went up in so don't plan on leaving any belongings on the bus.
On the river
At the put-in on the Upper section rafts are unloaded and you will help carry your rafts to the river. Your guide will give you last minute instructions and then lead you into the river. You'll get a little time to warm up before hitting Mikey's, one of the Upper section's most famous rapids. Our photographer will be taking pictures as you come down the river so show us your biggest smile. About 20 rambunctious rapids later you will come out of the river at "the pond". Rafts are loaded back onto the bus and you will return to the rafting center.
Back at the rafting center
Back at the rafting center, you can change into your dry clothes and check out our colorful array of fun tee shirts. You can view photos of your trip on a large flat screen television and enjoy the general hilarity as photos are viewed. Order a CD of your pictures and we will get it ready while you wait. If you don't wish to wait, identify your photos and pay for them. We will mail them to you on the next business day.
Our photos are not online so be sure to look at them before you leave the rafting center.
During the summer months, Saturdays are extremely busy and trips can take longer than usual because the river is crowded.
Ocoee River Rafting Center Directions
OCOEE RIVER RAFTING CENTER
20 Hughes Street
Many people have the notion that a rafting trip involves a long, tiring bus ride to a remote wilderness area. While this is often true for western river trips, it is not the case with our conveniently located rivers. Our rafting center is located in an easy to get to, easy to find location with an abundance of nearby places to stay and eat while visiting us.
Our location is convenient for day trips if you're looking for a quick way to rejuvenate your spirit. Our Ocoee River rafting center is about 100 miles north of Atlanta, 70 miles from Chattanooga and 136 miles from Asheville.
Rolling Thunder's Ocoee River rafting center is located in the heart of downtown McCaysville, Georgia which straddles the Georgia/ Tennessee state line. We are about 15 minutes from Blue Ridge, Georgia. We run our Ocoee River rafting trips and Toccoa River tubing trips out of this one location so you can enjoy both adventures in the same day without changing locations.
Caution: GPS devices are not always dependable once you get into the mountains. Cell phones are also undependable once you get into the mountains so don't wait until the last minute to call us for directions. You are more likely to enjoy a stress-free drive to our center and to arrive on time if you are clear about your driving directions before leaving home.
Approx. 3 Hrs. Heading south on 1-75 take exit 25 in Cleveland Tenn. You will loop around Cleveland on highway 40 east, following signs for Rt. 64 towards Ocoee Tenn. Rt. 64/74 east will bring you through the Cherokee National Forest, Ocoee lake and the Ocoee river. Once you have passed the river you will come to Ducktown, TN and see an Exxon gas station on your left and a Chevron and Hardees on your right. Directly after the Hardees, veer to your right onto Rt. 68 south to Copper Hill Tennessee. You will go five miles into Copperhill. In Copperhill, go through two lights and come to a three way stop sign. At the stop sign, go straight. You will be on 60 S heading towards Mineral Bluff and will have crossed over into Georgia. Rolling Thunder will be 1/2 mile on your left and parking is on the right next to the river.
Approx. 3 Hrs. Head West on I-40 & go to exit 27. You're now on highway 19/74 West, approximately 50 miles from our Nantahala outpost. Follow signs through Waynesville, Sylva, and Cherokee. Continue on 19/74 and go10 miles past Bryson City. 4-lanes go to 2, stay left and you will see sign entering Nantahala. You will pass Rolling Thunder's Nantahala Outpost on your right. Stay on 19/74 West. You will pass through the Nantahala Gorge. Continue on 74 west into Andrews. In Andrews, 2 lanes go back to 4. Continue to Murphy. In Murphy, Hwy 19/74W changes names into Hwy 74/64W, but keep going straight to the Tennessee State line. Cross over into TN and 3 miles later you will see an overpass. Go under it, then make your first left on 68 South. You will go about 5 miles into Copper Hill, Tenn. Go through two red lights to a three way stop sign. At the stop sign, go straight. You will be on 60 S heading towards Mineral Bluff and will have crossed over into Georgia. Rolling Thunder will be 1/2 mile on your left and parking is on the right next to the river.
Approximately one and a half hours from the north side of Atlanta. Take I-75 North to exit 268 (Canton exit) to pick up I-575 North. I-575 becomes Zell Miller Parkway and is also called GA 515. Continue on 515 through Blue Ridge, GA. Turn left on Hwy. 60 (runs beside a Citgo station) towards Mineral Bluff. Go approximately 10 miles and Rolling Thunder will be on the right.
Approx. 1 ½ Hrs. Heading north on 1-75 take exit 20 into Cleveland, Tenn. You will loop around Cleveland on highway 40 east, following signs for Rt. 64 towards Ocoee Tenn. Rt. 64/74 east will bring you through the Cherokee National Forest, Ocoee lake and the Ocoee river. Once you have passed the river you will come to Ducktown, TN and see an Exxon gas station on your left and a Chevron and Hardees on your right. Directly after the Hardees, veer to your right onto Rt. 68 south to Copper Hill Tennessee. You will go five miles into Copperhill. In Copperhill, go through two lights and come to a three way stop sign. At the stop sign, go straight. You will be on 60 S heading towards Mineral Bluff and will have crossed over into Georgia. Rolling Thunder will be 1/2 mile on your left and parking is on the right next to the river.
What happens if it rains?
We go rafting rain or shine. You are going to get wet anyway. We guarantee it. In the event of a storm, we will usually delay the trip until it passes. In the mountains, storms can spring up suddenly and be gone just as quickly.
How long is the rafting trip?
Your time with us will vary considerably depending upon whether you choose to raft just one section of the river or both sections. If you raft just one section, you will be with us about three and a half hours for the entire process which includes a pre-trip safety orientation. Your time on the river will be from one a half hours to two hours depending upon how crowded the river is on any given day. If you are rafting both sections in the same day you will be with us about 5 to 6 hours including time for lunch on the river.
Do you have to have enough people to fill up a raft?
We use six person rafts on the Ocoee River in order to give you the best possible ride and we make every effort to fill every seat. You are not booking a raft; you are booking seats in a raft. We can take a party of one, two or more. Groups of more than six will have to be divided up into separate rafts.
For example, a group of ten may be asked to split up with six in one raft and four in a second raft depending upon how the trip is booked. The river manager will determine how the split should occur. If you have four people, for example, and don’t want anyone else in the raft with you, you have the option of purchasing the other two seats.
How deep is the water?
It varies. The river is not like a swimming pool. It can vary quite a bit from place to place.
Should we tip our guide?
Rolling Thunder’s exceptional level of service is not based on the expectation of a tip for guides. It has however become common practice to tip your guide If you want to express your appreciation for their enthusiastic efforts it will be genuinely appreciated.
Can we take a cooler on the river?
Sorry but the only thing going on the raft is you. The U. S. Forest Service asks that we do not allow you to take even a bottle of water because they do not want the bottles to end up IN the river.
Will there be enough water in the river for rafting?
Since the Ocoee River is a dam-controlled river we are not dependent upon recent rainfall for rafting. This also gives us a consistent, predictable flow of water during the rafting season.
For your safety, all rafters must wear securely fitted shoes.
Tennis shoes, water shoes or sandals with heel straps are fine. Flip flops or bare feet are not acceptable. Our Ocoee River rafting center sells river shoes for your convenience.
In warmer weather wear quick drying shorts and a tee shirt. You don't want to wear heavy clothes such as sweat pants or blue jeans. Quick-drying materials such as nylon are a good choice.
If the weather is chilly, try to wear polypropylene or synthetic fleece fabrics. Cotton is not a good choice during cooler weather.
In the event of rain, we will provide rain jackets free of charge.
If you feel you must wear glasses of some kind, at least secure them with a string or head strap. We sell head straps at our rafting centers as well as inexpensive sunglasses.
What to bring
Bring a towel. You will get wet!
Dry clothes and shoes.
Plastic bag for your wet clothes.
What NOT To Bring On The River
Cell phones, wallets or expensive cameras
Car keys (trust us on this one!)
We sell waterproof one-time use cameras at our center which is your safest option if you want a camera with you on the river.
You will find a wide array of camping and lodging choices near our Ocoee rafting center. There are numerous cabins, hotels, motels and bed and breakfast inns from which you can choose just minutes from our center.
Rolling Thunder does not have a campground or group lodging at the Ocoee center. Some of our groups that want bunkhouse lodging will stay at the Nantahala bunkhouse and drive to the Ocoee location for rafting.
Check out the links below for a sample of area accommodations.
Places to stay for the Ocoee area