Ocoee River Most Popular Whitewater Rafting River In America According To Recent Study

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Ocoee River is officially the most visited whitewater river in the United States with 229,542 visitors in 2012, according to research results announced today by tourism officials in Chattanooga.

After the Ocoee River, the other four most visited whitewater rivers are: the Arkansas River in Colorado (208,329), Pigeon River in Tennessee (169,060), Nantahala River in North Carolina (165,906) and Lehigh River in Pennsylvania (110,422).

The study was led by Steve Morse, an economist and associate professor in the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management and commissioned by the Ocoee River Outfitters Association and the America Outdoors Association.

Mr. Morse said, “This study shows that tourism and visitor spending at the Ocoee River is fueling small businesses, creating jobs, worker paychecks and taxes in rural Tennessee.”

For the study, Mr. Morse and graduate student Eric Beckman examined the impact of visitors to the 60-mile region surrounding the river. It includes 30 counties—14 in Tennessee, 13 in Georgia and three in North Carolina. They surveyed the spending patterns of 3,118 visitors rafting the Ocoee River between June and September 2012.

Mr. Morse and Mr. Beckman analyzed the spending of 229,542 visitors who took rafting trips during the year. The number of users was taken from the Tennessee Department of the Environment and Conservation’s report on Ocoee River usage. The study revealed that visitors to the Ocoee Region left a $43.8 million economic impact, supported 622 jobs, helped generate $14.12 million in worker paychecks and contributed $3.57 million in tax revenues for the river’s tri-state area.

“Tennessee’s scenic beauty and outdoor adventure are among the state’s best tourism assets,” said Tennessee Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker. “Having the Ocoee now officially the nation’s most popular whitewater river reinforces that Tennessee is a top-tier outdoor destination. Congratulations to all of the outfitters who made this possible.”

The Tennessee counties surrounding the Ocoee River are Bledsoe, Blount, Bradley, Cumberland, Hamilton, Loudon, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Polk, Rhea, Roane and Van Buren. The Georgia counties are Catoosa, Dade, Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Gordon, Lumpkin, Murray, Pickens, Towns, Union, Walker and Whitfield. The North Carolina counties are Cherokee, Clay and Graham.

The Ocoee River is also home to the Ocoee Whitewater Center, American’s only Olympic whitewater venue. Releases on the Ocoee are made possible through a collaborative effort by the Tennessee Valley Authority, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, the United States Forest Service and the Ocoee River Outfitters Association.

For a copy of the study, contact Steve Morse at smorse@utk.edu

Top 5 Whitewater Rivers in US by Number of Visits   Data Source                         

Ocoee River              TN                   237,402          TN Department of Environment and Conservation

Arkansas                   CO                   208,329         Arkansas Headwater Recreation Area, CO State Parks

Pigeon River             TN                   169,060          Cocke County, TN

Nantahala River       NC                   165,906          USDA Forest Service, NC

Lehigh River             PA                   110,422          Lehigh Gorge State Park, PA and Outfitters

Ocoee River Facts

· The five-mile “Middle Ocoee” is the standard Ocoee River whitewater trip. It features five miles of almost continuous whitewater (except for a brief pause at the “doldrums” half-way through the run.) The Middle Ocoee runs at least 116 days every year

· Just upstream of the Middle Ocoee is the “Upper Ocoee” where the 1996 Olympic Canoe/Kayak competition was held. The Upper Ocoee runs 34 days a year. Paddlers running the Upper Ocoee will most likely combine the trip with a run on the Middle, creating an exceptional full-day, ten-mile river trip

· The Ocoee River actually begins in Georgia as the Toccoa River and flows out of Lake Blue Ridge

· Both sections feature exciting Class III/IV whitewater, which ranks as intermediate/advanced for rafters. This popular level of difficulty features powerful, splashy rapids, but does not demand the expert skills required of Class V riders 


Fishing Report From The TWRA

Here is the fishing report from the TWRA: Center Hill Reservoir :  Reservoir Conditions :  Current water elevation is 632.5.  The water surface temperature is averaging 40 degrees.  Saturday the water was stained in the back of creeks and clearer out in the main river. Largemouth Bass :  Fishermen had few bites but when they did, they were ... (click for more)

Land Trust For Tennessee's Emily Parish To Lead March Nature @ Noontime Program

Emily Parish, director of Conservation for the Land Trust for Tennessee will be the featured speaker for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency’s March Nature @ Noontime. The program will be held on Thursday, March 5, at the TWRA’s Region II Ray Bell Building in the Ellington Agriculture Complex. Ms. Parish will speak about the history and programs for The Land Trust for ... (click for more)

2 Hit While Walking On Birmingham Highway; 1 Dies At The Hospital

Two pedestrians were struck by a single vehicle on Highway 11 (Birmingham Highway) in Lookout Valley on Tuesday night. One of those who was struck died after being taken to a local hospital. Police said the other person who was hit was responsive. The incident happened shortly after 7 p.m. at 261 Birmingham Hwy. which is in the area of the Lookout Valley Cracker ... (click for more)

Henry Hopes To Bring E-Filing To Clerk's Office This Year; Saving Almost $222,000 On Personnel

Circuit Court Clerk Larry Henry said he hopes to bring E-Filing of documents and other court papers to the clerk’s office this year.   He said at first it appeared it might take much longer, but that progress is being made to the online program. Mr. Henry told members of the Pachyderm Club that attorneys, litigants and members of the public would be able to go online to ... (click for more)

Tennessee Deserves Better Health Reform - And Response

Tennessee needs health care reform. Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," was not the best solution for Tennesseans. That is why the vast majority of Tennessee legislators never publicly supported the plan defeated in a special legislative session in February.   It is important to distinguish health care from health insurance. As one physician ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Happy Birthday, Mr. Berg

This past Monday we should have closed the Post Office, let kids out of school, and lowered our flags to half-mast. March 2 is the anniversary of Moe Berg’s birthday and the legendary Casey Stengel once said Moe was “the strangest man ever to play baseball.” Moe played major league baseball for 16 years, finishing with the Boston Red Sox in 1939 and a lifetime batting average of ... (click for more)