Stepping up to Ocoee - Mountain Buzz

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Old 08-06-2014   #1
Gainesville, Georgia
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 7
Stepping up to Ocoee

Hey guys, new user year. I'm in my 2nd year of paddling my Jefe Grande, and I paddled a Dagger Caper canoe for 2 years before that.

In my Jefe, I mostly do runs around North Ga, where I live: Hooch, Etowah, Amicalola, Chestatee, Cartecay. I recently ran Section III of the Chattooga for this first time, had a blast.

I want to step up to something like the Ocoee and was just checking in to see how big of a shellshock something like that would be. I have a friend that is raft guiding on the Ocoee this summer (but he has never paddled anything else before, so he really can't compare it to me). I was thinking about taking a weekend trip up there with my kayak, rafting it first, and then taking my kayak down.

Or should I try to step up to something like the Nantahala (rafted it several times, but never kayaked it, damn it's cold) first? Or do yall have any other good river recommendations in the North Ga, Tenn, NC area?

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Old 08-06-2014   #2
duct tape's Avatar
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1974
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 794
Did you paddle all of Section 3, Bull Shoals, the upper Ledges? If so you're easily ready for the Ocoee. It is really not that hard of a run. Lots of play spots and at least one guide book which describes nearly every rock, wave, etc. Double Trouble can be a nice hit but friendly. Broken Nose - review the line if you go down in a raft or read guide book, really not that hard. If you hit the lower hole at Double Suck just pull through, or roll up below. Table Saw and Diamond Splitter are only as hard as you make them with eddy turns, attainments, etc. Hell Hole, which used to scare the Hell out of me has been a play spot for years (imagine that). Stay out of the hole below Powerhouse Ledge bottom left (although I hear that may have changed since I was last there).

In spots current is continuous so swims might last a while. Go with a good crew. Nantahala would be a step down after what you've done.

My $0.02
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Old 08-06-2014   #3
Gainesville, Georgia
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 7
Yeah, I ran Chatooga Section III from Earl's Ford to Bull Sluice. Bull Sluice turned me over and I couldn't hit my roll, so I had to bail. Been working really hard on my roll since then, but haven't had a chance to do a combat roll.
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Old 08-06-2014   #4
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2013
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 29
The Pigeon River isn't too far away and isn't a bad option either if you're feeling timid...less beef than Ocoee but way more fun than Nanty
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Old 08-06-2014   #5
Gainesville, Georgia
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 7
Cool, I'll definitely check that out.

I'm also waiting for enough water to run the Tellico. I have an aunt and uncle with a cabin not 20 min away. It was pretty consistent earlier in the summer, but now I just gotta wait for rain.
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Old 08-06-2014   #6
Jenks, Oklahoma
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 1,737
I more or less grew up in my boating career in your area with the Ocoee being the run that most all of us counted as 'The" run that made you a real WW boater.

As mentioned above the Ocoee has several drops that can whup yer backside and some swims are not fun at all.

The key, in my opinion, to what level of difficulty a person has who runs the Ocoee is the lines.

I have a kayaking bud that lives in East TN that is a regular on the Ocoee. I have followed him down the Ocoee on lines that were literally easy as eating apple pie. This was when I was recovering from accidents. He knows lines on almost all the hard drops that are real easy. By the same token, I have followed him down Ocoee lines that were as difficult as many of the drops I have been blessed to run all over the USA, Central and South America. That is what makes the Ocoee such a great training run. A person makes it as hard as they want to that day.

Bottom line. Find your self some one who knows "all" the lines not just the common lines on the Ocoee. Maybe start off half way down or below Grumpy's or Broken Nose or the "normally hard drops" or be prepared to walk a few drops (not easy on some drops to walk tho). Pick a nice day and one where you feel right on the water.

I know some newbie kayakers who took a run down the Ocoee and got beat up to the point they did not come back. Others, took it easy in steps and went on to become Ocoee veterans.

It is a great river, one that makes me give thanks for TVA dams, and is great fun still every time I get to run it.
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Old 08-06-2014   #7
Raleigh, North Carolina
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 14
"Making it down" any given river doesn't mean you're ready to step up to the next level.

At what level did you run Sec. 3? At average levels, there's nothing on Sec 3 that has the push of the Ocoee.
Did you confidently hit eddies, make ferries and play it up?
Were you saddened or relieved to see the take out?

The classic SE progression is Nanty, Pigeon, Ocoee. If you were comfortable on Sec 3, I'd say try the Pigeon as previously mentioned. It has some of the push and gradient of the Ocoee.

Like others have mentioned, the Ocoee is as easy or as hard as you care to make it, but if you find yourself on one of the standard lines and aren't prepared, swims (or even just flips) can be long, shallow, and painful. And then there are the rafts....

Good luck.

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Old 08-06-2014   #8
Gainesville, Georgia
Paddling Since: 2011
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 7
Like I said, I had a blast on Section 3. It was at average levels, between 1.5 and 2 feet, closer to 2 if I remember correctly. I was relieved to see the take out, because it was a 12 mile trip, the longest I had done in a day. It was challenging at times (Bull Sluice), but I never felt in over my head. I'm planning on going back soon (this weekend hopefully).

Thanks for the advice! I looked into the Pigeon today, looks like a great trip.
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Old 08-06-2014   #9
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Jul 2014
Posts: 18
Personally, I think some people make a bigger deal out of the Ocoee than they should. But, I have also seen people take rank beginners down the Ocoee with a day full of carnage. I think the middle Ocoee is fine as long as you have some basic skills. Be able to make a pretty easy ferry in semi-pushy water without flipping, ride a wavetrain without flipping, and punch some intermediate holes.

Honestly, the toughest mandatory move is probably the first one at the put in. Grumpy's is a pretty easy ferry behind the pyramid rock and then just some read and run class 3 boogie water with some intermediate waves and holes. The only real problem here would be if you flip and don't hit your roll fast enough. I haven't seen anyone totally blow the ferry unless they flipped or swam.

Broken Nose I think gets talked up more than it needs to be too. Basically it is a double drop with the bottom drop having a bit of a nasty pourover hole on the right side. Just stay left over both drops and you are fine. There is a weak curler wave between the first and second drop that may try to push you to the right though.

Double Trouble is just a big wave train. Lean forward and paddle hard.

Double suck is easy if you take the easy lead in then run it center-left with left momentum to avoid the sticky second hole in the center.

Tablesaw is easy and fun if you just run it down the middle and ride the wavetrain.

Hellhole may look big, but really just have some momentum and punch it straight on.

Run the right side of powerhouse.

Of course, there are more difficult lines for all of these, but I think that pretty much sums up the easiest lines for the major rapids. Also, I haven't ran the Middle Ocoee in a few years, so think could have changed with the flooding they have had. You could always run the pigeon first to see if you are ready to step up to the Ocoee.
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