Canoeing on the Toccoa River in Georgia
|Origin||Confluence of Canada and Mauldin Creeks in Union County|
|Mouth||Hiwassee River in Polk County|
|Source elevation||~ 2,120 ft (646 m) |
|Mouth elevation||~ 750 ft (229 m) |
The Toccoa River and Ocoee River are actually a single river that flows northwestward through the southern Appalachian Mountains of the southeastern United States. It is called the Toccoa in Georgia, until it reaches the twin cities of McCaysville, Georgia and Copperhill, Tennessee. The remainder is called the Ocoee through Tennessee, known for its whitewater rafting, and host to whitewater slalom events during the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics held primarily in Atlanta, about 100 miles (160 km) to the south.
The Ocoee's flow is controlled by the Tennessee Valley Authority via three dams. Most often the riverbed is nearly dry in the ten-mile stretch used for sporting, the water being diverted through flumes along the side of the mountains. The dam that controls the middle section of the river and diverts the water through the flume was originally built in 1913 by the East Tennessee Power Company to provide hydroelectric power to the new Alcoa company then starting aluminum production operations in Blount County, Tennessee.
The three Ocoee dams are numbered sequentially, with #1 being the farthest downstream and #3 being the farthest upstream. TVA acquired the two original dams (Ocoee #1 and Ocoee #2) in 1939 and started building Ocoee #3 dam in 1940. These dams generate 67,000 kilowatts of electricity in total. The Middle Section contains some 20 named rapids and provides recreational opportunities throughout its 8-month season. One of the largest rapids on the Middle Ocoee, "Hell's Hole," runs right beneath the bridge leading to the power station, with "Powerhouse," a significant ledge with a strong hydraulic, right after it. Upstream (to the south), TVA also operates Blue Ridge Dam, which creates Lake Blue Ridge (called Blue Ridge Reservoir by TVA).
The whitewater slalom events during the 1996 Summer Olympics were conducted on a one-mile Olympic whitewater course that is fed by releases of water from Ocoee #3. A 4.5-mile whitewater rafting area farther downstream is fed by water released from Ocoee Dam #2.