Rowing the Ocoee - Mountain Buzz

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Old 05-11-2018   #1
Watertown, South Dakota
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 17
Rowing the Ocoee

I'm wondering if anyone here has rowed the Ocoee in Tennessee. I'm planning a trip for mid June and haven't found much beta for oar rigs. What water levels are good for rowing? I have a 14' and 13' cat. Back up plan is to head to the New. But I'm already plan a fall trip out there so I'd like to do something else and the Ocoee is closer to me. Any help is greatly appreciated.

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Old 05-12-2018   #2
Definite maybe
Weld county, Colorado
Paddling Since: 0001
Join Date: Jul 2009
Posts: 547
I can't say I've ever ran the ocoee, but since no one has responded (probably because no one knows here) I'd join up on cboats and ask them. Those guys on there run it all the time. They tend to not be rafters but they might know the minimum levels for a raft on it.
"It is fun to have fun but you have to know how"---The Cat In The Hat
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Old 05-13-2018   #3
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 1,000

My first rowing in whitewater was on the Ocoee. A 16' NRS cat was apparently something nobody had ever seen back then.

It was challenging for a first run in a rowing rig. But I knew the river from kayaking it, so I had a pretty good idea of how to navigate.

Rocky here and there. A bit of a narrow channel for oars in a place or two. One really shallow stretch. Potholes and a few strainers you can see when the river is turned off.

It used to be a straight release every day, of pretty much the same volume of nice clear water. Google can tell you if that is still the case.

It is short enough that if you are very efficient, you could get multiple runs in before they turn off the water. Back in the kayak days I sure did.

Be ready for vast numbers of other boats -- private and commercial. It can be a zoo.

Expect a few strange looks and some questions about the rowing rig, then go have fun. And I apologize in advance if my decades old info about management of the river has changed. But the run itself cannot be all that different.

Hope this helps.

Rich Phillips
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Old 05-13-2018   #4
longview, Texas
Join Date: Feb 2015
Posts: 4
I whitewater canoed the Ocoee New and Gauley for over 30 years - seldom saw oared rafts ( but see no reason why not )but lots of paddle rafts- The upper Olympic run is awesome !! Contact for info would be Nantahala outdoors or Ocoee outdoors . The New & Gauley would also be great choices Gauley is dam released like the Ocoee - so want to check flows . Ocoee and Gauley both have great class 3 + to class 4's
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Old 05-14-2018   #5
Sherwood, Oregon
Join Date: May 2018
Posts: 9
My wife rowed it many years ago (early 2000s) while I kayaked along with her. She rowed a 14 ft raft. and was quite a novelty then. She did not have any issues or problems with the rapids except Broken Nose. A paddle raft decided not to give her space and entered the rapid right on her tail. Going into the last drop they were side by side. She needed to take a stroke but the paddle raft was where her oar needed to go. She put the blade on one of the paddlers chest and pushed off. Every one came through okay but the paddle rafts gave her more room after that.

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Old 05-16-2018   #6
Boston Mountains, Arkansas
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 114
Lots of us Arkansas rowers have taken oar rigs down the Ocoee. I have only done that once, in a Puma: memorable but fun. The small size was an advantage I'd say. Most of us run Super Pumas. I'd think a 14' rig would be quite an adventure.

As has been noted: you will have to watch out for lots of other boats getting in the way of oar strokes. If you start early, you can avoid some crowds.

I say go for it. Expect lots of gooberness and raft guides who may not give way, kayakers who will run under your oars. Have fun!
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Old 05-16-2018   #7
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Huson, Montana
Paddling Since: 1988
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,188
Super fun river go for it. The Appalachian boaters are territorial but tell them to go have a cig and chill the hell out.
"You're gonna be doin a lot of doobie rolling when youre LIVIN IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER"
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Old 05-17-2018   #8
., Washington, D.C.
Paddling Since: 95
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 35
Good to go, but

The run is totally good to go with oars. I wouldn't take a 16 footer with 11 foot oars but otherwise its fine.
It is crowded but less people early and late.

Those crowds are southerners so keep an eye on your gear. Unattended gear will walk away... check Boatertalk on any random Monday for the Stolen Gear threads.

Have fun.
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Old 05-17-2018   #9
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Lexington, Kentucky
Paddling Since: 2008
Join Date: Aug 2009
Posts: 34
Yeah, like everyone has said, the Ocoee is good to go. It's a dam released river so if the spigot is open, it's good to go. There is a middle section, or "Olympic" section that was the site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater course. A 16' boat would be large for that river. It's more of a Puma or Super Puma river, but it will defiantly go if that's all in the quiver on hand. I find the Nolichucky a blast to row above 1,000 CFS or so. Very technical for an oar rig and not quite as crowded. The Ocoee really brings them in during the summer months. The New and Big South Fork are also wonderful options for overnight trips. You can string about 43 miles together on the New and some great camping spots. The only decent whitewater would be in the last eight miles or so though. Hope this helps and have fun!
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Old 05-17-2018   #10
Andy H.'s Avatar
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,621
Originally Posted by Sam Arnold IV View Post
A 16' boat would be large for that river.
Obviously y'all have never seen Toni Frank running her big, yellow 16' Aire with full expedition frame and gear down the Boulder Creek town run...
Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse
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