|Stretch:||Dam #3 to Dam #2|
|Difficulty:||Class III to IV|
|Flows:||~600 to ?,000. Release schedule here|
|Put-in:||Powerhouse 3 Road|
|Shuttle:||4.5 miles, 5 minutes|
|Season:||Dam Release, May thru September on Weekends|
The Upper Ocoee is certainly a step harder than the lower. With that said though, none of it is that hard. I would say it is all easily easier than Troublemaker on the South Fork of the American. That is of course, with the exception of running the meat line in Humongous. That is a big hole, but, I learned from experience that even if you flip on the eddy line (like a rookie) right above it you may get lucky and flush straight through and if you hit a quick roll will be able to paddle away before getting thrashed. With that said, the hole is notorious for making people swim. Also, don’t follow a raft into it as they commonly get stuck (like every rapid on this river).
This section of river was made famous by the 1996 Summer Olympics that were held in Atlanta. Instead of fabricating a river as is coming practice for the river events, a quarter mile long section of the river was engineered to create river features and a whitewater center was constructed alongside it with club house and hundreds of parking spaces. Thus marked the first time that a natural river (if a engineered set of rapids and a dam release can be called that) was used for the Olympics.
The Whitewater Course is certainly the highlight of the run. Several fun features and waves to surf lead to the crux of the run, a large offset of holes called Humongous. Below, the river runs out through a great wave train. Other than this section of rapids however, the Ocoee lacks. There are only two rapids harder than class II above the course and only one below. For a 5 mile run, that is not a high density of rapids.
Although the run is not as rafted as the Lower section of the Ocoee, it still is quite the shit show of rafts. A large pod will be spotted above and below the race course as the rafts spread out in order to allow time to rope rafts out of Humongous and then recollect below to watch the show of the rafts below them. The miles on this run go by quickly. In total, the run can take as little as 1 hour. And as the play on this run is not as good as the Lower, it is likely that you won’t spend much more than an hour playing. The common practice is to continue down through the lower once you get your rush on the upper.
So anyways, if you are in Knoxville, Nashville, Atlanta, Chattonooga, or Huntsville this run is worth doing… but in all honesty I wouldn’t go much further than that out of my way to run this. The rapids are on par with Chili Bar of the South Fork of the American in California but there is no First Threat.
- Some class II-III boogie carries you through the first mile plus.
- Alien Boof / Mikey’s Ledge (III+ to IV-). The left channel is a nice 4 foot tall boof. The right channel has a small ramp into a small hole on river right and a pile of rocks in the center.
Blue Hole (III). Not a hard rapid, but there are some sieves below the water level that have taken a rafter’s life. Start far right in a small chute and then work back left.
- Best Ledge (III-). The first drop of the Olympic Course (just below the first bridge). It is an easy ledge with great surfing.
Smiley’s (III-). Just downstream, the river hits a large rock in the middle of the river. Just above is a fun surf wave to catch on the fly, to the left of the rock is another steep drop into a fun hole.
Slam Dunk (III). A fun wave train with a few holes thrown about lead you quickly to the play spot called “Callihan Ledge” which is immediately above Humongous.
Humongous (III-IV). River right channel has two offset holes with a small window between. Hit the window or likely take a swim. There is an eddy immediately above on the right to scout from. The left channel is much easier just straight down the left. The run out is a great wave train
Roach Motel (III). A few hundred yards downriver is the last significant rapid. A few holes on the left can either be avoided or punched straight through. It is fun to drop into the meat of all of them.
- Edge of the World (III-). Just after the Thunder Rock Powerhouse Bridge you come around a left bend and are presented with a 3 foot ledge. Run far left or just boof. It gets sticky in the center though.
Take-out: Drive 14.1 miles on Highway 74/64 from the Rock Creek center to Dam #2.
Put-in: Continue another 3.9 miles to the right turn through a gate (closed after 4 or 5 pm) on Number 3 Dam Rd. Continue another 1.1 miles down to the river access by the bathroom.
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