I developed this 101 - Middle Ocoee Rapids and Routes course with the intention of help new and aspiring guides. My friend Sofia deserves credit for motiving me to create this guidebook during 2016. She pointed out my zany videos of rafting fails seemed harsh to the young guides often featured crashing in them. I still think my humorous commentary in those carnage videos is educational as I often point out the sources of failure. Since then I have become aware many private boaters and members of the public considering rafting the Ocoee River use these materials.
I am currently devloping kayaking lines for this guidebook. This might be a long work shifting through old footage and shooting new footage. Thus I am beginning with the basic lines I generally show first timers to the Ocoee and then adding challenge lines. You won't fin the classic sneaks here. If you need the sneaks not shown then spend more time working your current rivers and catching every possible eddy before running the Ocoee River. I also suggest hole surfing practice before running the Ocoee River. Awareness and comfort around rafts is a must. During July kayaking the Ocoee is akin to riding a motorcycle in rush hour traffic. Remember the first year guides often have less experience than you do on your first Ocoee descent. They likely cannot read water the first year.
Whitewater activities while fun and exciting do come with inherent risks. Carefully consider your level of fitness and skills before attempting to paddle the Ocoee River. Moreover the challenge lines provided contain additional exposure to risks. Consider seeking competent instruction.
The names of rapids along the Middle Ocoee section of the Ocoee River are colorful and 70's pop culture as a result of the times. The rapids on the Middle Ocoee River are listed in the order they are incountered Grumpy's, North Shore, Staging Eddy, Gonzo Shoals, Broken Nose, Second Helping, Dragon Slayer, Slice & Dice, Moon Chute, Double Suck, Hell's Half Mile, Double Trouble, Left Right Left, Squeeze Play, Flipper, Hollywood, Hiawassee Shoals, Sneaky Pete, Surprise Ledge, Table Saw, Diamond Splitter, Western Flyer, Dixie Drive, Swimmers, Sling Shot, Cat's Pajamas, Hell Hole, and Powerhouse.
The middle section of the Ocoee River is class III in nature at normal flows and features 27 rapids in five miles all of which is roadside. Two of those rapids are considered benchmark class III+ rapids by which others are measured in the southeast. This guide will breakdown the routs and provide video links for normal and high water flows. The routes change as the river approaches 3,000 cfs. CFS stands for cubic feet per second. Normal flow on the Ocoee is considered between 1,200 and 1,600 cfs. The rapids will be listed and discussed in the order you will encounter them on the river.
This video is index by rapid names so you can quickly find the information you are seeking. With the exception of Table Saw all line shown are standard. I'll admit I was just showing off and having a little fun at Table Saw when I shot this video. Each rapid is covered in the video and additional video links will be provided for each rapid for normal and higher flows below. Remember rafting is fun and attitude is everything!
Grumpy's Ledge is rated Class III between 1,200 and 1600 cfs. At higher flows Grumpy's Ledge really deserves respect. To run this rapid clean make a nice controlled peel out from the ramp eddy. Then follow and ride the current to just left of White Face Rock. Beware getting to close to pyramid rock as there is a shallow rock lurking there. If you should make contact with said rock with your raft there is a high potential you will meet Horseshoe Rock sideways or with significant angle.
Horseshoe Rock has been the scene of many accidents that can result in long swims through the ledge hole or potential foot or body entrapment at Horseshoe Rock. You want to be right of Horseshoe Rock! After safely navigating between Pyramid Rock and White Face Rock continue following the wave train to the tongue through Grumpy's Ledge hole. Guide ejector will be to your right as you ride the tongue. Guard rocks are rocks pointed out in the normal video.
At high water the line is similar but you will drive further left and drop the the ledge to the left of Guide Ejector. Also note the rocks lurking to the right of Pyramid Rock are well covered at high water and no longer in play.
North Shore is a fun and easy Class III rapid located just below Grumpy's Ledge. Easy boogie water just follow the flow gradually working from left to right. It names is derived from the fact there is a sweet wave trough for hard boater and several surf able waves. There is a spot or two to surf a raft as well.
Staging Eddy is easy Class III you will eddy out your raft river left to regroup. The opening feature of this rapid is called Power Flow a great surf spot for hard boats. While awaiting the rest of your trip get in line to surf the fun hole in the center of the river. Be careful not to break ranks with another company's trip that is already surfing. Try to be courteous to kayakers in the river right eddy.
Have you ever considered the rock that forms the classic surfing feature at Staging Eddy?
Gonzo Shoals is Class III but very shallow with multiple gate rocks. You will begin near the center of the river as you leave Staging Eddy. Follow the flow somewhat toward the left of center before working back towards the huge Gonzo Shoals Rock near the center of the river. There is a marker rock to thirty feet or so from the big rock. Pass it just to the right and follow the main flow over a ledge and work your way left with the flow to the bigger double ledge. Your main concern and primary hazard of this rapid is getting flat pinned so pay attention.
After dropping the largest ledge in Gonzo look for the lurking gate rock just down stream navigate them and work towards the right thirty or forty feet to towards the flow headed to Good Luck Rook. Be alert the line is narrow and rafts tend to bunch up and get stuck here. As soon as you pass Good luck rock begin heading river right and following the flow. Don't be lazy here or you will pay! You will be about 30 feet from the river right bank as you begin the approach to Broken Nose. Watch these video careful for cues and the gate rocks.
Broken Nose is rated Class III+ between 1,200 and 1,600 cfs. The approach is shallow so look for the green water and avoid rocks. Pile up occur in the approach. If you get stuck senior guides will have no mercy! Be aware of the shallow rocks in the approach. Meet the seam in S-wave square and maintain your left boat angle with a right draw stroke (lefties will use a pry stroke) as you drop into the breaking wave. Don't point at the river right bank. If you get hung up on the rocks along the river right banks because you failed to maintain left boat angle Look Upstream.
Do not pull back out into traffic with out verifying you have time and space. Keep your paddle in the water driving at all times. Avoid the Eddy #5 Kayakers catch as it can be a bad pin for rafts. Coffee Break Rock left of center in the final ledge should also be avoided. No matter what you do keep your raft perpendicular over both ledges. If you are out of control have your guests get down before dropping the ledges. Some guides either surf the bottom ledge on purpose or by accident so pay attention.
New guides will have trouble escaping the surf if they get caught by the bottom ledge. And what ever you do don't even look at Kimberly's Rock as it can be a horrible pin. You should be right of Kimberly's but there is a route to the left. Watch videos to see alternate high water line a Broken Nose.
High water line at Broken Nose goes right of the island avoid the S-wave and bother ledges. The ledges can become trashy at high water and swimmers can be difficult to recover!
Also consider the hydrology of Broken Nose and the underlying rock structures. This is added to help with reading water and understanding flow dynamics that form S-wave and the ledge holes.
Second Helping is Class III and comes with great splash potential to please guests. As you exit there are a few options through gate rocks to begin working left to follow the flow. Do not be lazy! Take the highest option you can. Because if you wait to the last minute to work left and miss the move you will be screwed and pinned. Many a rookie has lost a lot of swim beer here and help trips up for long periods of time. Thus dropping further to the bottom of the rotation. You have been warned. This rapid is likely most challenging at 1,200 cfs and below due to shallow rocks and pin potential.
After navigating the gate rocks successfully work left in a diagonal line toward the ledge and obvious wave train. Make this line have no mercy for lost, confused, or out of control rafts. Penalty point are high for those who miss this move. After dropping the ledge preferably on the tongue follow the wave train to the big pool below. If you are just a little left of the wave train you will encounter two pin rocks just below the water surface likely ejecting yourself and almost certainly losing guest in the shallow rocky rapid. You will not be able to rescue said guests due to pin. Watch the video carefully for cues and the shallow pin rocks.
Slice and Dice is rated Class III. Beware swims here can be nasty. The rocks lurking at Washing Machine are sharp and the rapid lived up to its name! The opening move is either dropping the big ledge called Dragon Slayer just left of center. Watch the video carefully for cues. There is a bad hazard called Ankle Breaker if you drop the ledge too far left. Be careful not to lose guest dropping this high ledge. If someone pops out make sure you recover them ASAP! As mentioned above swimming Washing Machine is likely to create injuries. If your ran the ledge successfully and quickly work right and point upstream you will see a surf opportunity.
Alternately there is a ramp move closer to the river left bank to avoid the big ledge. If you take this route follow the current. You will angle right and charge between gate rock as your drop a smaller ledge.
After successfully running either of these options you will head toward the center of the river to run the obvious tongue through Washing Machine. The sticky hole will be to your left. This part of the rapid is made up of offset holes. There are some great splash opportunities in the run out. Watch for kayakers in the shallow river left eddy or better still catch the river right eddy and regroup with your trip.
You may see some senior guides drop surfing Washing Machine and many of us can make it look easy. Beware there is a steep learning curve here. Injuries and evacs are common when rafts flip here! If you are a first year guide absolutely do not attempt this move.
It is wise to take the river left line into Slice and Dice at high water avoid the big ledge. See video.
Moon Chute is a rated Class III. It is super fun and great place to spin. It is possible to enter this rapid in front or behind Elephant Rock; if you have a really weak crew consider the right line behind the Elephant. Spin on the eddy line or at least use the eddy line to avoid pinning to the left of Butt Crack Rock. If blow the line and go left Butt Crack Rock aka Dark Side of the Moon don't panic. There is an escape route look for the current leading left of the island and commit! Ask you trainer about this option and maybe they will show you.
Assuming you successfully made the move right of Butt Crack Rock follow the flow and stay toward the river right side of the final chute. Look for shallow rocks to avoid. You really want to follow the green water here.
At high water there is a much more direct line on river right. See video.
Double Suck is rated Class III. The standard line ran by most rafts begins near the center of the river working river left until you pass just left of Alligator Rock. At which point you will work right through some gate rocks and over a small ledge. At this point to join the other line.
My favorite line is often referred to as the kayak line. It is found river right and while more direct it is also more technical with less margin for error as you navigate narrow gates. Once you drop the small ledge you merge with the other line.
So having successfully navigated over the small ledge you work downstream be aware of the power eddy lines will small they will impact your boat angle. I prefer to go left rock directly in front of the raft. Going right is possible but avoid getting lost in the trees. If you have a weak crew it is best to go left. After making the move look left and follow the flow to the main line over the big ledge. You will pass a marker rock to your right. If you miss this move it is going to be rocky and you won't get to surf later. When dropping the ledge use left angle if you intent to join the queue in the big eddy behind the island. If you are not stopping to surf you will point straight downstream through the hole. Regardless of the line you choose try not to hit the guide setting safety for surfers.
Hell's Half Mile is easy Class III boogie water. It is best to enter the rapid close to the large rock protruding from the center of good sized ledge below Double Suck. If you are too far left there is a lot of pin potential. Some of these pins can be really bad. Once you have made this move follow the water towards Choppin' Broccoli a popular play spot for throwing loops in playboats. You want to thread between the ledge and an exposed rock to the right of the ledge. From here you will follow the flow left of center down towards the river right bank and Double Trouble.
Double Trouble is a fun Class III rapid with two large standing waves followed by a breaking wave for a really good splash. You begin working toward left following the current. Be sure to line up for the wave train and two big standing waves. Don't forget to angle right for the best possible photos. Maintain proper spacing or photographers will be angry. You could slip lower into the rotation line up and lose trips is you don't deliver good photo for your outpost to sell. Remember to remind your guests to smile for the photos here!
Left Right Left is super easy class II and is named to help rookies remember how to run it. Assuming they can remember the name. You enter this rapid close to the river left bank. Watch for a pretty bad pin rock you will pass to the left near the top of the rapid. After passing this rock you will point a little to the right. and then you will point a bit to the left to follow the flow. There is a good chance to splash a really weak wave hole at the bottom.
Squeeze Play is rafted Class III. It is really just fun splashy boogie water. In the days of bucket boats it was a bit of a squeeze between the angular boulder and the river left bank. But now using today's self bailing boats it is really easy. I like to run much of it sideways for better splashes and I do much the same in my kayak. The wave train after the squeeze has some real fun potential. Some guides love to do pop ups here but I focus on the fun my guests can have instead.
Flipper is rated Class III. This rapid earned its name for its ability to flip rafts or kayaks. Beware of Flipper Rock just below the first ledge near the main flow. If you are kayaking it is cool move to catch the micro eddy behind Flipper Rock before paddling upstream back into the hole to throw and ender. If an unsuspecting raft hits the rock there is a strong chance of an unintended surf quickly followed by a flip.
That said many kayakers play here and more than a few guides love to queue up to surf the ledge below Flippers first ledge. I can be done safely but safety should always be set because flips are common here.
After successfully running the first ledge follow the flow aka wave train toward a pyramid wave over the second ledge there if potential for tow great splashes and there is another breaking hole wave just below the second ledge. Be careful not to hit O.S. Island just to the left of the desired line through the second ledge. If you blew you line at the first ledge there is a rocky escape left of O.S. Island but coach your guest and consider having them get down to they don't fall out on to the rocks.
At high water Flipper Rock is covered up and not in play. See video.
Hollywood is rated Class III. You work your way left after running Flipper and follow the wave train. A very easy rapid. If you want to stop here to surf and play it take a bit more work or control. Be advised it is bad etiquette to knock someone out of a surf here. Such behavior could result in bad river karma.
Hiawassee Shoals is rated Class II. This rapid resembles the Ocoee's sister river Hiawassee hence its name. As shoals suggests it is very shallow. The only challenge here is to remain focused and not get pinned on shallow rocks. You begin toward the center of the river and weave your way through gates following the water. This will lead you toward the river right bank and narrow line much of which is a single boat wide. Pay attention and look for the green water. At high water the shoals totally washout and it is super easy.
The Ledges are rated Class III and are very technical. The greatest hazard is being pinned but both ledges can had out beatings and flips. Surprise is more likely to create flips and beat down so do respect this river section. The entrance to Sneaky Pete begins near the center of the river with a large V tongue pointing down river. Within 50 feet those electing the line to the left with maneuver to go diagonally to avoid the ledge just to the left. Use care there are many shallow rocks to avoid. This will be a test of your water reading skills. Form here you just keep your stick in the water and follow the flow and green water to Surprise Ledge.
The so called hero line over Sneaky Pete Ledge is straight ahead. Follow the small wave train. Do not drop the ledge near the funny little wave. It is warning you about razor rock and another hidden pin rock roughly on boat width to the left of razor rock. You will notice most of the current is flowing over the ledge just before the ledge angle to the right toward river right. Follow the water over the ledge. You are still not out of the woods there are several shallow rocks to work around to reach Surprise Ledge and you will need to merge with the other line. Watch for traffic.
If there is a traffic jam and multiple boats pinned and blocking Surprise Ledge there is an escape route for those brave enough to take the hero line. Once you drop Sneaky Pete follow the water downstream and to the right. You will have to be aggressively paddling to make the right hand turn above the right right side of Surprise Ledge. Once you make this move successfully do not take the first tongue down stream my keep move laterally to the right for the second downstream tongue at least thirty more fee to the right of the first tongue. Then follow the green water down stream though a narrow channel watching for the many shallow rocks. This line is called the Horse With No Name. Ask your trainer to show you this line. I train my rookies how to do this.
Table Saw is a benchmark Class III+ by which others are measure in the southeast. It is one of my favorite rapids despite its rather low rating. Only Rapid Transit on the Green River Narrows by my home is truly more fun. The long shallow approach to Table Saw gives many new guides trouble as well as western big water guides learning the Ocoee River. This is a test of you water reading skills and more so in afternoon when glare makes it nearly impossible to see the rocks just under the surface. You must look for the small ripples and other tells to alert you of the presence of these rocks.
Follow the green water and look for small but visible wave train as you approach the small ledge a 100 feet or so above Table Saw proper. How you run Table Saw will vary depending on level. At normal levels you will punch the break wave to the top with some gusto while maintaining your river left angle. This is important to avoid Prudential Rock at the bottom right of the rapid. Prudential Rock is both under cut and has a sieve. I have a low water video showing Table Saw's features if you are curious.
At high water Prudential Rock is covered up and not in play. You are more concerned with avoid the new holes and hydraulics appearing on river left. Watch the video below to get a feel for the rapid at both levels. I do not advise you attempt the spin I demonstrate in the first normal flow video. Unless you can really read water and understand hydrology it is not a wise move.
Learn about Table Saw's undelying hydrology and the rock features present.
Diamond Splitter is rated Class III. The opening move from the run out of Table Saw is to the right above or below a rock jumble splitting the current. If you go right or above the jumble then you will opt right of Diamond Splitter Rock for the bigger drop. Be aware of large ugly piece of blast rock from recent road construction work. It has potential to harm a raft and toss unwary guests into the river or bank.
If you went to the left or below the rock jumble splitting the current then you are opting to run left of Diamond Splitter rock through Witch's Hole. Do be aware of rafts potentially surfing Witch's Hole. The river is shallow here and a collision could have consequences. However there is plenty of room to avoid a crash by carving left or right.
After running Diamond Splitter eddy out and wait as your trip regroups. If you have time you may wish to try surfing Witch's Hole it take some practice to get good surfs here. Boat angle is everything.
Western Flyer is rated Class III. As you run it there is a nice wave hole in the left side of the wide wave train that can produce a huge splash. This is easy read and run.
Dixie Drive is rafted Class III. It is also know as Left Or Right because there are two rocks in the center of the rapid with great pin potential. When training up and coming guides for my outpost I like to get them pinned here. It is great pin practice and they will never forget those rocks are there afterwards. At high water this rapid washes out and there is no pin potential.
A great river stretch to teach up and coming kayakers. Super chill read and run. There are a couple of potential play spots for rafts but you will see those when you are ready. Be ware of the under cut rock at the bottom rapid in the center of the river. It can create awful pins that may take an hour or more to unpin. I have participated in pin practice here and there is some video available on my channel. The rock as know as the Running Rock, Your Fired, and Birth Control. It was blasted off the side of the mountain when the flume line was being constructed from the dam to the power house. This rapid washes out at high water and is just waves.
Slingshot is also known as Accelerator and is an easy Class III rapid. You can spin the raft clockwise along the river right eddy line for lots of great laughs with your guests. However be aware of the rock jumble just above and to the right of Humpty Dumpty Rock. Striking these rocks can eject people and they may have contact with rocks. If you watch for the rocks they are easy to avoid.
Also be aware of Humpty Dumpty Rock and don't hit it sideways. Or you may learn how it got its name. After Humpty Dumpty there is just a fun mild wave train into a big pool above Cat's Pajamas.
Cat's Pajamas is rated Class III and is also known as Torpedo and Champagne. It is made up of a series of broken ledges. There is ample play possible here. The name Torpedo is for the squirt boaters that play and sink here. It is also possible to jump from a rock on river left into a seam to do human mystery moves. A good ride under water here can go 50 feet or more but most are very short. Champagne name comes from the many bubbles the arise far downstream after riding the same under water currents we use doing human mystery moves. There are silly video on my YouTube channel of this play.
Hell Hole is rated Class III and is a popular play spot for kayakers. Hell Hole is an excellent example of a powerful wave hole. It can deliver great surfs and enders. As the water level increases it can surf and flip rafts as well. At high water it is often best to run Hell Hole and Powerhouse as one rapid. It is read and run. However it is always best to run Powerhouse on the river right side. The left side of Powerhouse ledge is manky with sharp rocks and likely construction debris. That said if you get eddied out to river left by Hell Hole don't fight it. Embrace the eddy and do a peel out as high as possible just below Hell Hole for best results.
Take a look at the new and developing section about Ocoee River Hydrology. The hydrology section covers hazards and working to remove the mystery of reading water. Comments and feedback are encouraged.
A lot of experience, time, and effort went into this Guidebook. Your feedback is greatly appreciated. If this information helps you check out please consider leaving some love in my Tip Jar or buying me a beer when you you see me out in the Ocoee River area. I am often seen at Mexico Loco, El Rio, or Buck Bald in Copperhill Tennessee. See you on the river!
I am Fast Fred Ruddock and I would be happy to give you honest answers to your questions about rafting or the Ocoee River. You may email me directly with your questions or concerns at email@example.com and if you would like to come rafting with me be sure to check out Fast Fred Rafts for the latest details.
When I started this online Ocoee River Rafting Guide in 2016 there were none available online or in print. I'd like to this this is still the best Ocoee River Rafting Guide available. That said feedback is always welcomed and this is a constant work in progress.
I began rafting whitewater when I was young during the early 1970 with my family. We had several of our own rafts between my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. My family loved playing in the water; I grew up rafting, sailing, and surfing. As I grew older and technology improved I began to get serious about kayaking and creek boating as well. I became an ACA certified kayak instructor and have shared the sport with countless others over the years. Living along the banks of the Green River in North Carolina I have access to some of the best world class rapids to hone my skills.
During my long off-season from rafting I primarily travel solo through Latin America. Ecuador is likely my favorite country to visit but I also enjoy Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico. Working as a river guide in the southeast during summers in North America I don't earn a lot of money and live close to the federal poverty level. In spite of this I live a rich life on a frugal budget. If you would like to learn more about traveling in Latin America or maybe some frugal travel tips visit Fast Fred Travels.
Curious about how I can travel so light or what I use on the river? Want to know more about the gear I carry abroad on my extend trips in Latin America or while rafting and kayaking? Here's your chance to dig into my Amazon shop for an inside look. If you make purchases via this shop I will get a very small commission but it will not increase your price what so ever.