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Navigating the Full Ocoee River: A Comprehensive Whitewater Rafting Guide

Navigating the Full Ocoee River

If you’re looking for an unforgettable adventure,  whitewater rafting down the full Ocoee River is the perfect experience. Our comprehensive guide will provide all the information necessary to ensure a safe and exhilarating trip through this Tennessee River’s rapids.

The Ocoee River has been thrilling rafters from around the world since 1976, when it was first used as a venue for slalom canoe events during the Atlanta Olympics. With its class III-IV rapids, crystal clear water, and stunning views of mountain ranges along the way, it’s no surprise why so many choose to make this their go-to destination for whitewater rafting.

Whether you’re an experienced paddler or have never set foot in a raft before, there’s something here for everyone! Get ready for a wild ride – have the best time navigating the full Ocoee River!

Safety Considerations

Safety is of the utmost importance when whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River. It’s important to be aware of potential risks and take proper precautions before heading out on the water. Here are a few safety considerations to keep in mind:

    • Rafting Safety

Always wear an appropriate life jacket while rafting, and use it correctly according to manufacturer instructions. Make sure any equipment you use is properly inspected and maintained before each trip. Be aware of potential hazards such as sharp rocks, low-hanging branches, or other obstacles that may make your trip dangerous.

    • River Safety 

Know the river conditions before you go, and always check with local authorities for recommended routes and times for safe navigation. If there is thunder or lightning nearby, leave immediately; water conducts electricity very well so being near it poses a serious risk to rafters. Monitor weather forecasts regularly since storms can quickly change water levels and flow rates, making them hazardous for inexperienced boaters.

    • Whitewater Safety

Whitewater rapids can pose more danger than calm waters, so familiarize yourself with reading about whitewater rivers using the International Scale of River Difficulty (ISRD). Learn how to identify different types of waves, eddies, hydraulics, holes, etc., which will help you understand what type of rapid you’re navigating through and how best to tackle it safely. Another key skill is understanding self-rescue techniques in case something goes wrong during your voyage downriver.

It is also essential to have all required safety equipment with you before launching onto the river, including personal flotation devices (PFDs), throw bags/ropes, helmets, and repair kits containing spare parts should anything break down mid-trip. Equipping yourself with these supplies ahead of time will ensure a safer experience on the Ocoee River.

Essential Equipment and Supplies

Essential equipment and supplies are a must for a safe and successful whitewater rafting experience. It is important to plan ahead, ensuring that all necessary gear has been gathered before heading out on the Ocoee River. 


Item Description
Rafting Gear Life jackets, helmets, paddles, oars
First Aid Kit Band-Aids, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, pain reliever/anti-inflammatory medication
Wetsuits Temperature-appropriate wetsuits or drysuits (for cooler temperatures)


This gear should be checked prior to departure to ensure it is in good condition. The life jackets should fit snugly with adjustable straps and buckles for comfort; the helmets should have no cracks or dents. Make sure you have enough paddles and oars for each person in your group as well as extra ones just in case of any damage during the trip. 

A first aid kit should also be brought along containing items such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, and over-the-counter (OTC) medications like ibuprofen for minor injuries that may occur during the trip. Finally, temperature-appropriate wetsuits are recommended when rafting in colder weather conditions. They will help keep you warm while also providing protection from any potential hazards you may encounter while navigating through rapids.

How to Navigate the Rapids

Navigating the Full Ocoee River A Comprehensive Whitewater Rafting Guide

Navigating the rapids of the Ocoee River requires skill, knowledge, and proper technique. Below are some tips to help you explore the rapids safely:


    • Follow the Guide’s Instructions: If you’re going on a guided trip, listen carefully to your guide’s instructions. They will provide important information about the rapids, paddling techniques, and safety guidelines.

    • Paddle as a Team: Rafting is a team sport, so it’s important to paddle together with your group. Communicate with your fellow rafters and follow the guide’s commands. Work together to maintain stability and maneuver the raft through the rapids.

    • Read the River: Learn to read the river and understand its features. Look for indicators such as waves, rocks, and currents that can help you anticipate obstacles and choose the best route through the rapids. The guide will often point out these features and provide guidance.

    • Use Proper Paddling Techniques: Mastering proper paddling techniques is essential for effective navigation. Your guide will teach you the basic strokes, such as forward stroke, backstroke, draw stroke, and pry stroke. Practice these techniques and use them to maneuver the raft as instructed.

    • Stay Balanced: Maintain a balanced position in the raft to prevent capsizing. Keep your center of gravity low and distribute weight evenly among the rafters. Avoid sudden movements that may destabilize the raft.

    • Prepare for Drops and Waves: Drops and waves are exciting features of whitewater rafting, but they can also be challenging. Listen to your guide’s instructions on how to approach drops and waves, and brace yourself when necessary. Lean into the wave to avoid getting washed out of the raft.

    • Be Prepared for Swims: Despite your best efforts, it’s possible to fall out of the raft in a rapid. If you do end up in the water, stay calm, and follow your guide’s instructions. Keep your feet up, point them downstream, and swim to the nearest safety position as directed.

    • Practice Self-Rescue Techniques: Learn self-rescue techniques in case you get separated from the raft or encounter an emergency situation. This includes knowing how to swim in whitewater, how to re-enter a raft, and how to rescue others if needed. Your guide will provide instructions and demonstrations.


Remember, the Ocoee River is known for its exhilarating rapids, so it’s important to respect the power of the water and approach the experience with caution. By following these tips and listening to your guide, you can have a thrilling and safe whitewater rafting adventure.

Camping Options

Camping near the Ocoee River is a great way to extend your whitewater rafting experience. There are several camping sites located within close proximity to the river, making it easy and convenient for campers. 

1. Ocoee Whitewater Center Campground

Located near the Ocoee River and operated by the U.S. Forest Service, this campground offers both tent and RV camping options. It provides a convenient base for exploring the river and offers amenities such as restrooms, picnic tables, and fire rings. Reservations may be required, so it’s advisable to check availability in advance.

2. Thunder Rock Campground

Situated along the scenic banks of the Ocoee River, Thunder Rock Campground is a popular choice for outdoor enthusiasts. It offers tent camping sites, as well as a few RV sites. Amenities include picnic tables, fire rings, and access to restroom facilities. Like other campgrounds, it’s recommended to check for availability and make reservations if required.

3. Parksville Lake Campground

Located near the Ocoee River, Parksville Lake Campground offers a serene camping experience. It features both tent and RV sites with beautiful lake views. Amenities include picnic tables, fire rings, restrooms, and a boat ramp for easy access to the lake. Reservations may be necessary during peak season.

4. Chilhowee Recreation Area

Situated in the nearby Cherokee National Forest, Chilhowee Recreation Area offers a range of camping options. From tent camping to RV sites and even cabins, there’s something for everyone. The area is known for its scenic beauty and provides amenities such as picnic tables, fire rings, restrooms, and hiking trails.

Final Thoughts

As you navigate the Ocoee River, be sure to stay safe and enjoy your trip. It’s essential that you have all the necessary safety equipment and supplies on hand before setting out on the water. When it comes to navigating the rapids, make sure you know what you’re doing – don’t take any unnecessary risks! 

If you’re planning to visit the Ocoee River to raft, Bigfoot Outfitters can guarantee that your whitewater adventure will be one for the books. Contact us today to learn how we can help you plan the best adventure of your life!

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