The Ocoee River is a dam release river that sits just on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. It releases 3 days a week throughout the summer and on weekends starting in September. Through an agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority, there is also a draw down week that happens the last week of September. Locals refer to this as Secret Week and it means you can paddle the river for 9 days straight.
This year the weather was warm and sunny for all 9 of those days and it felt like a lazy summer as a kid, where you knew exactly what you were going to do every day… wake up, pack up your gear for the river, drive to the river, meet up with friends, spend the day having too much fun, hang out in the take out parking lot, eventually wander home, hang up gear with great optimism that it might dry and then fall asleep in your bed – REPEAT for 9 straight days!
The Ocoee River was a brand new river to us when we started on day one of nine. We had a locals tour down the first day and loved the river – there is potential around every bend. As one of our guides said, you can make this a II+ river or a IV river depending on the lines you take. This means there is something for everyone and the possibility for a new adventure with every run.
 
We chose to paddle our rock stars most days, however Tim did take his Zen down twice to give himself a rest and to take advantage of some of the greener surf waves. Friends had their Antix out and that made for a nice in between boat that could play in most of the play spots and catch some of the longer boat green waves. We even had a few “senior” paddlers with us that were enjoying the run in their Nirvana’s – talking about how it seamlessly went through everything yet was still manoeverable.
Release dates can be found by a quick google search or by checking with any of the local rafting companies. Rafts were definitely an issue on the weekends but surprisingly absent during secret week – some days it was downright spacious on the river!
 
Paddling nine days in a row was pretty exhausting BUT the river was sooo much fun that it was hard to come up with a reason not to get up and play every day. The put in and take out are well maintained with large parking lots and washrooms and the road (US 74/64) runs along side the river so scouting is easy and thumb shuttles are totally doable if you only have one vehicle.  We definitely recommend this as a family friendly paddling stop in the south east!
The Vincent family are currently  travelling throughout North America in their RV in search of great family friendly outdoor adventures and can be found on a river somewhere most days. Find more information at www.chasingthesun.ca // www.facebook.com/chasingthesunyt // www.instagram.com/chasingthesunyt
– The Vincent Family