Best American Adventures: Raft the Ocoee

We've just updated our popular America's
Best Adventures
feature with 50 new trips, bringing our grand total to 100 iconic escapes (see the map, state-by-state list, and photo gallery, too). So no matter what your pleasure—hiking,
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By Kate Siber; Photograph by Scott Thompson

There are few places in the country where average
Joes and Janes can play Olympian for a day, but Tennessee’s Ocoee River
is one of them. This waterway hosted the whitewater events for the 1996
Olympic Games, and now, all summer long, raft companies guide
aquaphiles on both the Middle and Upper sections of the river. The
Olympic course itself, a quarter-mile-long (0.4-kilometer-long)
section, was designed by engineers for maximum whitewater fun. And with
consistent flows thanks to regular dam releases, the river virtually
guarantees a good time, making it one of the Southeast’s premier
whitewater runs.

Within driving distance of
several big cities, the Ocoee is certainly no secret, however, and some
300,000 people ride its wave trains every year. Picture a riotous,
dripping-wet, nonstop party on an all-natural theme park ride. Still,
flanked by lush forested hills, sheer cliffs, and blooming azaleas,
mountain laurel, and rhododendron, the Ocoee is a large step up from
Six Flags. Connect the Upper and Middle Ocoee runs into one 10-mile
(16-kilometer) day with more than 30 named Class II-IV rapids.
Barreling through tumblers and hearing the roar of cheers from fellow
rafters, it’s not too hard to conjure the thrill of an Olympic ride.

Need to Know: Contact Wildwater Rafting (www.wildwaterrafting.com) for the release schedule. Ocoee combo trips on the Upper and Middle are $99 to $104.

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