Toccoa/Ocoee River

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Toccoa/Ocoee River
Ocoee Canoe Slalom 1996 Olympics Finish Line.JPG
The whitewater rapids of the Upper Ocoee during the 1996 Summer Olympics.
Ocoee (riviere).png
Physical characteristics
  location Confluence of Canada and Mauldin Creeks in Union County, Georgia
  elevation~ 2,120 ft (650 m) [1]
Hiwassee River in Polk County, Tennessee
~ 750 ft (230 m) [2]
The Hiwassee drainage basin, which includes the Ocoee River, located within the upper Tennessee drainage basin Hiwasseerivermap.png
The Hiwassee drainage basin, which includes the Ocoee River, located within the upper Tennessee drainage basin

The Toccoa River and Ocoee River are the names in use for a single 93-mile-long (150 km) [3] [ better source needed ] river that flows northwestward through the southern Appalachian Mountains of the southeastern United States. It is a tributary of the Hiwassee River, which it joins in Polk County, Tennessee, near the town of Benton. Three power generating dams are operated along it.


The river is called the Toccoa for its 56 miles (90 km) through Georgia, [3] until it reaches the twin cities of McCaysville, Georgia and Copperhill, Tennessee, at the truss bridge which connects Georgia 5 (Blue Ridge Street) with Tennessee 68 and Georgia 60 (Ocoee Street and Toccoa Street). The remainder is called the Ocoee through Tennessee. The Ocoee is known for its Class III-V whitewater rapids, appealing to kayakers and rafting enthusiasts. It is also home to the local salamander, Desmognathus ocoee . The upper section of the Ocoee was host to whitewater slalom events during the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics held primarily in Atlanta, about 100 miles (160 km) to the south.

The name Ocoee originates from the Cherokee name for Passiflora incarnata, ocoee. [4] Toccoa comes from the Cherokee term for "where the Catawbas lived" [5] or "beautiful". [6]

On February 16, 1990 flooding of the river submerged much of the central business district of the riverfront towns of Copperhill, Tennessee and McCaysville, Georgia. [7] The area was once heavily mined for copper ore from the Copper Basin and polluted by smelting operations. Extensive logging and plant destroying smog depleted topsoil and polluted acid and metals into the area's streams. [8] The area has since been cleaned and greened. [9] Olympic kayaker Joe Jacobi led a successful effort to bring the Atlanta Olympic white-water event to the Ocoee River in 1996, and his wife Lisa, a former CNN news producer, left her job to open a downtown bed-and-breakfast and become a local internet entrepreneur. [9]

Dams and power generation

The Ocoee's flow is controlled by the Tennessee Valley Authority via three dams. Most often the riverbed is nearly dry in the ten-mile (16 km) stretch used for sporting, the water being diverted through flumes along the side of the river gorge. The dam was originally built in 1913 by the East Tennessee Power Company to provide hydroelectric power to the new Alcoa company, which was starting aluminum production operations in Blount County, Tennessee, south of Knoxville.

The three Ocoee dams are numbered sequentially, with #1 being the farthest downstream and #3 being the farthest upstream. TVA acquired the two original dams (Ocoee #1 and Ocoee #2) in 1939 and started building Ocoee #3 dam in 1940. These dams generate an average of 67,000 kilowatts of electricity in total. The Ocoee #2 dam diverts water from the middle section of the river through the flume. After a rock slide in September 1976 that damaged the flume, the TVA began a major overhaul of the flume system. During this time, the river, which had been dry during the early years of recreational whitewater sports, ran without diversion. The Ocoee gained the attention of paddlers and rafting companies who offered rafting trips to the public while the repairs were taking place. When the flume overhaul was finished, the Ocoee River Council was formed in order to secure future recreational releases from the TVA. After an extensive legal battle requiring an act of Congress, recreational releases were conceded by the TVA and the river runs most weekends from March through October. [10] The Middle Section contains some 20 named Class III and IV rapids and provides recreational opportunities throughout its eight-month season. One of the largest rapids on the Middle Ocoee, "Hell's Hole," runs right beneath the bridge leading to the power station, with "Powerhouse", a significant ledge with a strong hydraulic, right after it. Upstream (to the southeast), TVA also operates Blue Ridge Dam, which creates Lake Blue Ridge (called Blue Ridge Reservoir by TVA).

TVA's Ocoee Dam No. 3 on the Ocoee River in Polk County, Tennessee, ca. 1945 Ocoee-dam-3-tva1.jpg
TVA's Ocoee Dam No. 3 on the Ocoee River in Polk County, Tennessee, ca. 1945

Whitewater kayaking and rafting

The Canoe slalom events during the 1996 Summer Olympics were conducted on a half-mile Olympic whitewater course that is fed by releases of water from Ocoee #3. The Ocoee Whitewater Center was built by the U.S. Forest Service for this purpose, including a large building along U.S. 64, whose eastbound lanes were originally built for traffic which are now converted to be used as a parking and staging area. A 4.5-mile whitewater rafting area farther downstream is fed by water released from Ocoee Dam #2. [11] The Olympic section was not open to the public until after the Olympics, while the middle section had been open to the public since the late 1970s. After the Olympics, rafting tours (including bus transportation) are provided by several different companies located in both directions on U.S. 64, which runs next to the river for a few miles (several kilometers). These outfitters provide other activities on and along the river such as biking, hiking, kayaking and lodging. Whitewater rafting is the most popular and is led by trained river guides through a number of rapids.

Rapids on the Middle:

0.0Dam No. 2
0.2Staging EddyIII
0.3Gonzo ShoalsIII
0.7Broken NoseIII+
0.8Second HelpingIII
1.2Double SuckIII+
1.4Double TroubleIII
1.6Left Right LeftIII
3.2Diamond SplitterIII
4.1Cat's PajamasIII
4.2Hell's HoleIV
4.3Powerhouse LedgeIV
4.6Outfitter Takeout
5.4Private Boater Takeout

Variant names

The river was once known as the Ocowee River and, according to the Geographic Names Information System, the Toccoa/Ocoee River has also been known as: [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Ocoee may refer to:

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bee Cliff (Tennessee)</span>

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These are the results of the men's K-1 slalom competition in canoeing at the 1996 Summer Olympics. The K-1 event is raced by one-man kayaks through a whitewater course. The venue for the 1996 Olympic competition was along the Toccoa/Ocoee River near the Georgia-Tennessee state line.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ocoee Dam No. 1</span> United States historic place

Ocoee Dam Number 1 is a hydroelectric dam on the Ocoee River in Polk County in the U.S. state of Tennessee. The dam impounds the 1,930-acre (780 ha) Parksville Reservoir, and is the farthest downstream of four dams on the Toccoa/Ocoee River owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Completed in 1911, Ocoee No. 1 was one of the first hydroelectric projects in Tennessee.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ocoee Dam No. 2</span> United States historic place

Ocoee Dam Number 2 is a hydroelectric dam on the Ocoee River in Polk County in the U.S. state of Tennessee. The dam impounds the Ocoee No. 2 Reservoir and is one of three dams on the Toccoa/Ocoee River owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. It was completed in 1913.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blue Ridge Dam</span> Dam in Georgia, United States

Blue Ridge Dam is a hydroelectric dam on the Toccoa River in Fannin County, in the U.S. state of Georgia. It is the uppermost of four dams on the Toccoa/Ocoee River owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The dam impounds the 3,300-acre (1,300 ha) Blue Ridge Lake on the southwestern fringe of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ocoee Dam No. 3</span> Dam in Tennessee, United States

Ocoee Dam No. 3 is a hydroelectric dam on the Ocoee River in Polk County, in the U.S. state of Tennessee. It is one of four dams on the Toccoa/Ocoee River owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority, which built the dam in the early 1940s to meet emergency demands for electricity during World War II. The dam impounds the 360-acre (150 ha) Ocoee No. 3 Reservoir, which stretches 11 miles (18 km) upriver to the Tennessee-Georgia state line. Ocoee No. 3's powerhouse is actually located several miles downstream from the dam, and is fed by a 2.5-mile (4.0 km) conduit that carries water to it from the reservoir.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ocoee Whitewater Center</span>

The Ocoee Whitewater Center, near Ducktown, Tennessee, United States, was the canoe slalom venue for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and is the only in-river course to be used for Olympic slalom competition. A 1,640 foot stretch of the Upper Ocoee River was narrowed by two-thirds to create the drops and eddies needed for a slalom course. Today, the course is watered only on summer weekends, 34 days a year, for use by guided rafts and private boaters. When the river has water, 24 commercial rafting companies take more than 750 raft passengers through the course each day.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ocoee Scenic Byway</span>

The Ocoee Scenic Byway is a 26-mile (42 km) National Forest Scenic Byway and Tennessee Scenic Byway that traverses through the Cherokee National Forest, in East Tennessee. It is part of both U.S. Route 64 and U.S. Route 74, and features the Ocoee Whitewater Center and scenic bluffs along Ocoee River and Gorge.


  1. U.S. Geological Survey. Suches quadrangle, Georgia. 1:24,000. 7.5 Minute Series. Washington D.C.: USGS, 1988.
  2. U.S. Geological Survey. Benton quadrangle, Tennessee. 1:24,000. 7.5 Minute Series. Washington D.C.: USGS, 1974.
  3. 1 2 "The National Map". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved Feb 16, 2011.
  4. "State Symbols". Tennessee State Government. Archived from the original on June 25, 2014. Retrieved Dec 21, 2014.
  5. "Toccoa, Georgia City Information". ePodunk.
  6. Krakow, Kenneth K. (1975). Georgia Place-Names: Their History and Origins (PDF). Macon, Ga.: Winship Press. p. 221. ISBN   0-915430-00-2 . Retrieved 5 February 2020.
  7. "Two Towns Divided Between Two States: Copperhill, TN and McCaysville, Georgia". Archived from the original on 2008-02-23.
  8. Flood May Be Last Straw for Troubled Copper Town LAURAN NEERGAARD, Associated Press Mar. 1, 1990
  9. 1 2 Up From the Mines in Tennessee Erik S. Lesser for The New York Times By CHRIS DIXON December 14, 2007
  10. "OCOEE RIVER COUNCIL v. T. V. A". Leagle, Inc. Retrieved Oct 11, 2013.
  11. Ocoee Whitewater, TVA website
  12. U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Toccoa/Ocoee River

35°12′22″N84°39′28″W / 35.2061°N 84.6578°W / 35.2061; -84.6578