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281 US Highway 64, Ocoee, Tennessee 37361

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Home / White Water Rafting Tips & Experiences Blog / Ocoee River / 4 Fascinating Things to Know About the History of the Ocoee River
ocoee river with rapids

4 Fascinating Things to Know About the History of the Ocoee River

The Ocoee River is not just the home to our action-packed white water rafting adventures, but a unique waterway that has a fascinating history! It took millions of years for the river to cut out a steep, winding channel through a mountainside of hard rock, creating the spectacular gorge and rafting opportunities that we enjoy today! Here are 4 fascinating things to know about the history of the Ocoee River:

1. How the Ocoee River was Named

One interesting piece of information is how the Ocoee River was named in the first place! The river gets its name from the Cherokee people that once lived on its banks and used it for a supply of rich nutrients and natural resources. In the Cherokee language, the name “Ocoee” means apricot and is a reference to the wild apricot vines that grow throughout the region. Our convenient outpost restaurant, the Apricot Place Cafe, is a nod to this Cherokee name. Today, you can still see various Cherokee influences in various towns along the river.

2. Control of the River

hydroelectric dam on the Ocoee RiverAnother fascinating thing about the history of the river is that its power is controlled by several hydroelectric dams! The first two dams, Ocoee #1 and Ocoee #2, were constructed between 1910 and 1913. These were built along a historic wooden flume that diverted the waters of the upper river into an elevated water path, concentrating water pressure for the hydroelectric powerhouses. Ocoee #3 was constructed in 1942 to help produce power for World War II, and it diverts water into a tunnel that carries it down to the powerhouse.

3. Beginnings of Commercial Rafting

Due to the impressive nature of the rapids along the Ocoee River, people started to show up with army surplus rafts to run through the 5 miles of white water rapids! Rafters struggled with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), who owned the three dams, to get the rights to use the whitewater rapids. After much resistance, the TVA finally agreed to schedule releases into the river and commercial rafting began on the river in 1977. This was also the year in which whitewater racing events were first held, bringing national attention to the river!

4. Creation of the 1996 Olympic Whitewater Competition Course

people white water raftingOnce commercial rafting started on the Ocoee, it was discovered that an unused section of the river was ideal for Olympic racing! Thanks to an ancient river bed, expert engineering, strategically placed boulders, and the power of rushing mountain water, the 1996 Olympic Whitewater Competition Course was born! The opening of this upper Ocoee section brought tons of excitement to the area, and today you can join us on our Upper Only Olympic Course to experience it for yourself!

Now that you know about the fascinating history of the Ocoee River, get ready to experience the power of this amazing river with one of our white water rafting trips in Ocoee TN! We look forward to providing you with the adventure of a lifetime!