Since 1978, Cherokee Rafting is the Ocoee River’s #1 family-friendly Ocoee River Whitewater Rafting & Ocoee River Rafting company. We love working with families, youth groups and corporate team building outings. With 10 incredible miles of continuous class III & IV rapids, we invite you to take the plunge on America’s favorite river. Join us for an exciting rafting adventure on the Ocoee River flowing through a beautiful gorge inside the Cherokee National Forest. Southeast Tennessee is famous for its big waves, mountains and beautiful scenery. We take pride in our reputation with a friendly and relaxing atmosphere that keeps folks returning year after year. Because the Ocoee River is dam controlled, the rapids are always guaranteed. There’s a reason we call this place home, We’d love to share the Ocoee whitewater rafting experience with you.


Cherokee Rafting was founded in 1978 on the Ocoee River and has grown into one of the top preferred and most respected white water rafting companies in the country. Our competitive edge lies in a passion for safety, superior customer service and building long-standing relationships with satisfied guests. We have one of the best groups of hand-selected river guides who share our same passion for the love of our sport and the Ocoee River. They’re friendly, funny, and well-trained professionals who’ll help you at every step of the way. An exciting, wholesome, action-packed white water adventure is waiting for you at Cherokee Rafting. Come experience the exhilarating rush and see what the Ocoee River is all about!


In the upper mountain highlands, natural springs release pure water down mountain slopes known as watersheds. These waters gather into streams that find their way to creeks, flowing until they merge with mountain rivers as they journey across the lands and out to sea. In 1911, President Theodore Roosevelt sought to protect these watersheds and therefore authorized the purchase of these public lands, creating The Cherokee National Forest.
The Ocoee River, has its beginnings in the mountains of Northeast Georgia where it is known as the Toccoa River. Its headwaters descend from the mountains in northern Georgia cutting its way into southeastern Tennessee, weaving its rushing whitewater westward, through the Ocoee Gorge and into Parksville Lake.

Originally owned by the Eastern Tennessee Power Company, the river was dammed to build hydro-electric plants. The river is now controlled by three dams, operated by the TVA [Tennessee Valley Authority] power company.

Dam No.1 is a hydro-electric plant in the community known as Parksville. The dam itself lies where the Ocoee emerges from the Appalachian Mountains. The East Tennessee Power Company began construction in 1910 and completed it in 1911. The lake is 1,930 surface acres with 109 miles of shoreline developed for recreation. The dam is 135 ft high and 840 ft across. Here, the Ocoee flows east & northward for several miles before feeding into the Hiwassee River which in turn feeds into the Tennessee River and thus the Mississippi.

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Dam No.2 was also originally built by the East Tennessee Power Company in 1913. It is 30 ft high and 450 ft across. This structure diverts the water into a wooden flume at the end of which lies the historical Ocoee #2 Hydro-electric Plant. The historic wooden flume still to this day diverts the waters of the Ocoee River into an elevated path, concentrating water pressure for the hydro-electric powerhouse. If you have never seen the Flume it may be hard to imagine. It is a wooden trough measuring 14’ X 10’ stretching 4.7 miles long…yet it falls only 17 feet over that distance. The river itself drops about 250 ft in elevation. The force of the falling water is the secret behind its ability to generate. It was built from yellow pine from the forests of Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee…using just over eight million board feet of lumber. Mules, wheelbarrows, picks, shovels, dynamite were the tools of the times. Manpower being the most important one of them all.
TVA purchased the power system in 1939. In September 1976, the wooden flume was shut down for reconstruction and once again the river ran free. Soon, people began showing up to the Ocoee with army surplus rafts to run the whitewater rapids. Rafters struggled with TVA to obtain the right to ride the whitewater. After much resistance, TVA agreed to schedule water releases into the river, and commercial rafting found a home on the Ocoee in 1977.

In 1978, friends thought they were crazy, but owners John and Judy Thomason had a vision. At a time when the sport of whitewater rafting was in its infancy and only a handful of people even had the nerve to run the Ocoee, someone had to do it…right? Having grown up just minutes from the river, John had a plan. There weren’t any self-bailing rafts, the paddles were short and flimsy, and the life jackets looked quite funny. Cherokee Rafting was born.

Aside from commercial rafting trips, whitewater racing events have been held on the Ocoee since 1977, bringing the infamous gorge to the attention of the world making it a world class whitewater river. The Upper Ocoee had been a dry riverbed throughout most of this century, which enabled the manipulation and construction of a world class racing course. Being approximately 100 miles north of Atlanta, helped make the Ocoee the ideal place to hold the 1996 Summer Olympics Slalom Canoe/Kayak competition.

July 1996 brought 14,000 spectators and more than 1,000 volunteers/staff to the banks of the Ocoee River to witness the excitement of approximately 135 world Olympic competitors. The Olympics created a new course and awakened more people to the excitement of whitewater sports.

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In 2012, the Ocoee was name the #1 whitewater destination in America hosting over 230,000 rafting visitors every year. Quite an accomplishment for waters born from such a rugged yet almost pleasantly designed fate.


Our doors are opened again to guests, and we are following CDC and local government guidelines in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus. This includes frequent sanitation of gear and equipment, office, bath houses and buses. We also encourage the use of face masks when in the outpost or on the bus. Additionally, we suggest that you book the entire boat (6 seats) when making reservations to ensure that another group will not be placed with yours.

Cherokee Rafting Staff will be required to stay home if they have a fever or have had a fever within the past 48 hours, are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 or have recently been exposed to the virus. We insist that our guests stay home if you or anyone in your group has a fever or has had a fever within the past 48 hours, are experiencing symptoms or have recently been exposed to Covid-19.

Whether you have rafted with Cherokee before or are new to the adventure, we will consider it an honor to get you out on the water and to share the experience of whitewater rafting when this crisis is over. Our office is open if you have any questions or wish to make reservations for later this season.

We hope to see you on the river soon!

Awarded TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence consistently for the past 10 years! Selected by National Geographic as an official destination for Geo-tourism. If there’s any question which rafting company to use for your Ocoee River white water adventure, you’ve found the right place. Grab a paddle, snap your buckles, let’s go! Click the logos to see what they say about Cherokee Rafting!

Whitewater Rafting Death Statistics

George Sayour is an American Canoe Association–certified kayak instructor. He regularly leads workshops on paddling basics, techniques, and safety.

Group of people white water rafting

Accidental deaths from whitewater rafting and kayaking accidents become the focus of news stories in any given year when such deaths spike. In 2006, for example, CNN wrote an article stating that there were 25 whitewater rafting deaths in 12 states in the first eight months of that year, implying that perhaps these deaths were the result of lax regulation.

So just how dangerous is this sport?

Statistics Can Be Misleading

First of all, it must be acknowledged that tallying boating deaths from moving whitewater incidents is very hard to tally. While professional outfitters can and do keep very careful statistics of accidents, a great many accidents occur in the private sector, where statistics are hard to come by.

Simple changes in the sport can affect statistics, too. In the late 1990s, a huge growth spurt in whitewater sports came when whitewater kayaking became enormously popular. The associated spurt in deaths did not mean the sport had suddenly become more dangerous, but only that many more people were participating.

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Finally, some years may see an unusually high number of deaths for environmental and weather reasons. A winter that sees heavy snowpack in the high mountains can lead to unusually high volume in mountain-fed streams and a corresponding increased number of accidents.

So just how does whitewater sporting compare to other forms of recreation when it comes to fatalities?

Deaths by Sport

Here are some widely accepted statistics compiled by American Whitewater researcher Laura Whitman in 1998.

ActivityFatalities per 100,000 Episodes
Scuba Diving3.5
Whitewater Kayaking2.9
Recreational Swimming2.6
Whitewater Boating/Rafting0.86

The conclusion from these statistics indicates that whitewater rafting is less dangerous than recreational bicycling, and even kayaking is only slightly more dangerous than recreational swimming.

Whitewater Deaths by Decade

Another common belief is that whitewater deaths have skyrocketed in recent years, leading some to call for much tighter regulation. Whitewater deaths reached a peak in 2011, with 77 reported deaths. Here are the statistics by decade.

  • 1977 to 1986: 48 deaths
  • 1987 to 1996: 219 deaths
  • 1997 to 2006: 453 deaths
  • 2007 to 2016: 530 deaths

While this would seem to indicate an upward trend, the estimated number of paddlers suggests that the sport is actually growing safer. It is estimated that there are 700,000 avid whitewater paddlers in the U.S. currently, while a mere 15 years ago the number was roughly 400,000. Yet decade-over decade deaths increased only marginally.

Commercial Whitewater Outfitters Offer Maximum Safety

Further, the majority of the whitewater rafting deaths occurred among individuals with their own rafts. American Whitewater reports that on average, there are only 6 to 10 whitewater rafting deaths for each 2.5 million user days on guided rafting trips. In other words, there is one death for every 250,000 to 400,000 “person visits” of whitewater rafting. Furthermore, about 30% of those deaths come from heart conditions or heart attacks. ​

Of course, there are other factors to consider, such as the classification of the river, the time of year, and the maturity of the rafter. But the reality is that far more people die each year in from lightning strikes than in commercially outfitted whitewater rafting trips. The old adage, “you’d be more likely to get hit by lightning,” is indeed true here.

In a typical year, professional whitewater rafting guides see about as many deaths as occur in amusement park accidents—a fairly small handful. And for most of us, a whitewater raft trip is a lot more fun than a rickety roller coaster.

Source https://cherokeerafting.com/about-us/

Source https://www.tripsavvy.com/whitewater-rafting-death-statistics-3969676


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