Water, water everywhere!
Imagine tranquil lakes and gentle streams as well as rushing white water all surrounded by the lush Cherokee National Forest in eastern Tennessee.
Site of the 1996 Olympic Canoe and Kayak Slalom Races, commercial river outfitters offer expert guides to help you capture the excitement of the Class III and Class IV rapids. Private paddlers and floaters can take advantage of the calm waters of the Lower Ocoee.
The Ocoee River, site of the 1996 Olympic Canoe & Kayak Slalom competition, offers thrilling rafting on Class III and IV rapids. Be sure to include a visit to the 1996 Olympic Games venue, the Ocoee Whitewater Center.
The Ocoee River is America’s #1 Whitewater River and the only Olympic river. The Ocoee is broken into 3 separate parts. The Upper Ocoee is the site of the 1996 Olympic course, the Middle Ocoee has been the site of commercial rafting since 1976 and the Lower Ocoee (below Parksville Lake Dam) is great for lazy tube floats.
The Upper Ocoee was developed for use as the whitewater venue during the 1996 Olympic Games. This effort required the riverbed to be reshaped to provide the required hydraulic action to ensure world class rapids.
The Middle Ocoee has been used for commercial rafting since 1976, when the flume line was shut down for rebuilding. Once the flume line work was completed it was too late to stop the whitewater enthusiasts. Today, over 250,000 visitors a year get their thrills going down the Ocoee. This is an experience you will never forget. Approximate trip duration is 4 hours. The Lower Ocoee starts at the base of Parksville Lake Dam, at Sugarloaf Mountain State Park; and lazily winds its way to the Hiwassee River a few miles away. It is great for tubing- and for those without their own tube- fear not, there are outfitters that can help you out.
See our whitewater rafting page for a list of outfitters on the Ocoee.
Canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and tubing are enjoyed on the Class I and Class II Hiwassee River. Regularly stocked with trout, this scenic river is also a premier trout fishing destination.
The Hiwassee River, which winds through the Cherokee National Forest is a favorite for canoeists, kayakers, and fishermen. Designated as a Tennessee State Scenic River, it has class II rapids it is a great place for family outings and introduction to water recreation.
Unguided trips are a fun way to set your own pace floating down the river. In addition to floating and canoeing, the Hiwassee River is a popular fishing stream and anglers of all ages enjoy fine catches of trout, large-mouth bass, yellow perch, catfish and other species. There is no park fishing fee but state license and permit rules apply.
The Hiwassee River originates on the northwest slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia. It flows into North Carolina and then turns west into Tennessee. The name “Hiwassee” comes from a Cherokee word meaning a meadow place at the foot of the hills. The river gorge is a process of geology dating back about 800 million years. Rocks exposed along the river were formed of sediments that eroded from highland masses into shallow seas that once covered the area. These sandstones and shales were transformed by heat and pressure into quartzites and slates with trace stones and minerals such as gold, garnet, quartz, ruby and emerald. Archaeological studies indicate ancient people populated the region, long before various Native American groups called the area home.
Enjoy canoeing and fishing on this pristine mountain stream, located in the Cherokee National Forest. Excellent river for fish viewing.
The pristine Conasauga River has one of the only underwater wildlife viewing areas in Tennessee. The Conasauga River begins high in the lush, forested slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Cohutta Wilderness Area in Georgia, flowing about 100 miles to join the Coosawattee River. Crossing the state line into Tennessee, the river pauses in deep pools, dropping now and then through a number of small rapids.
The Conasauga River is an important part of the Coosa River system and the great Mobile River drainage of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee– the second largest river system flowing into the northern Gulf of Mexico. Stretching like a giant inverted letter “J”, the Conasauga River initially flows northwest into Polk County, Tennessee, and is joined by Jacks River just above the Georgia/Tennessee state line, it then turns south and reenters Georgia. Clean water, which is so crucial to residential users, farmers and industry alike is one reason the Conasauga River is so valuable. Prehistoric structures found along the banks of the Conasauga remind us of this river’s importance to Native Americians. It provides boating, excellent fishing and hunting opportunities.
The Conasauga River supports 24 rare and imperiled aquatic species, including 12 that are federally listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Its clear waters are home to a colorful array of rare fishes, including the holiday darter (Etheostoma brevirostrum), the blue shiner (Cyprinella caerulea) and the endangered Conasauga logperch (Percina jenkinsi). Flowing farther through Tennessee and back into Georgia, the river harbors other rare fishes, including the frecklebelly madtom (Noturus munitus) and the amber darter (Percina antesella). Some of the rarest river inhabitants live quietly at the bottom of the river; a half dozen species of freshwater mussels. These animals, including the endangered southern pigetoe (Pleurobema georgianum) and triangular kidneyshell (Ptychobranchus greenii), filter the river’s waters for nourishment. There is even fresh evidence that three species of mussels believed to be extinct may actually be surviving in the Conasauga.
Parksville Lake (Lake Ocoee)
Pontoon boats drift lazily around on this 1, 900 acre lake surrounded by the southern Appalachians. This is what getting away is all about! Even the jet skiers aren’t enough to disturb the tranquility. In fact, there’s lots of room on Parksville Lake if you are jet ski aficianado. You can’t say that about many lakes.
As the oldest man-made lake in the Cherokee National Forest, Parksville Lake sits just below the Ocoee River and above the stunning Parksville Dam. The Lake front goes on for miles and miles and is one of the prettiest scenic drives in the area. Located all along Hwy 64.
Part of the Ocoee Recreation Area, Parksville Lake is popular for water skiing, pontoon boating, jet skiing, swimming, and picnicking. It has two public boat launches and two public swimming areas located along Hwy 64. $3.00 parking fee applies.
Chilhowee Lake (McCamy Lake)
Make sure to have your camera ready, because the drive up the mountain offers several different breathtaking vistas of the Ocoee region. Sitting atop Chilhowee Mountain, this lake is equivalent to a private paradise. Bring a picnic and spend the afternoon splashing in the waters of this small oasis in the forest. The adventurous can take a short hike to beautiful Benton Falls viewing various flora and fauna along the way.
Home to the Chilhowee Trail system, hikers and mountain bikers utilize the more than 20 miles of trails.
Part of Chilhowee Recreation Area, Chilhowee Lake is popular for hiking, biking, swimming and picnicking. Picnic, bathhouse, and campground facilities available. Non-motorized boats are allowed, but gasoline motors are not. ($3.00 day parking fee). Location: From Hwy 64 turn onto Forest Service Rd 77. Drive 7.5 miles to Chilhowee Recreation Area.
There is something fascinating about water carving its course through the mountains until it thunders over rocks edge, cascading into pools of crystal clear water below…and here in Ocoee Country, we promise our falls will delight! Due to our mountainous terrain and ample rainfall, there are many beautiful waterfalls throughout the Cherokee National Forest.
Those listed below are in Polk County and are easily accessible by Cherokee National Forest trails. Remember to watch your step and leave no trace!
Benton Falls 65’ – FS trail 131. Located in Chilhowee Recreation Area, the water from Rock Creek cascades down 65 feet of step-like rocks to create Benton Falls. Three mile round-trip hike. Trailhead located at Chilhowee (MacKamy) Lake parking lot. ($3.00 day use fee) Rated easy/moderate. From Ocoee Scenic Byway (US Hwy 64) take FS road #77 to Chilhowee Recreation Area (GPS: 35.14047, -84.5961)
Gee Creek Falls 25’ – TN State Park trail 191. Round trip less than 2 miles. Rated easy. Turn off Hwy 411 in Delano, TN onto Gee Creek Road, which is on the mountain side of Hwy 411. Cross over the railroad tracks and bear right. Travel about two miles. Keep to the right on the road because of limited site distance. Paved road becomes dirt and ends at the parking area/trailhead for the Gee Creek Trail. During the spring the area is covered in wildflowers. At Gee Creek Falls is a small pool that visitors use for swimming. (GPS: 35.247, -84.5261)
Lowry Falls 10’ – FS trail 168. Short hike about 0.4 miles round trip. Rated moderate – difficult. From Hwy 411/Hwy 30 junction near Reliance, travel about 2.2 miles on Hwy 30. Park at Taylor’s Island parking on left side of road. Walk on Hwy 30 for about .15 miles. Sign for trailhead for FS Trail 168 is located on right side of road. Along trail there are several small waterfalls. (GPS: 35.2218m -84.5347)
Turtletown Falls 40’ and Lower Turtletown Falls 20’ – FS trail 185. Round trip 3 plus miles. Rated moderate – difficult. On Hwy 68, turn west at Farner post office, cross the railroad, turn left on Duggan Road, then bear left on Farner Road. FSR #1166 is the first road on the right. Follow the dirt road for 1.5 miles down to the FS Trail 185 located at parking lot. Trail is 3 plus miles round trip. (GPS: 35.1639, -84.35276)
For a map of other nearby waterfalls in the Ocoee region, please visit TNOverhill.com