1996 Olympics on the Ocoee River

July 13 – 26, 2015

While Guy and I have been here in Blue Ridge, Ga. our main focus has been getting the 2 other RV pads done and ready for use. It’s been fun watching all the action but you can only watch so long and you need to do something more exciting. I will show pictures and do a write up about the new CAMP ALEXANDER once the construction is finished.

We knew that the 1996 Olympics were held on the Ocoee River in Tennessee which is about an hour from here, so off we went to check it out. It’s been fun staying here in Blue Ridge as we can be in three different states in one day in little more than an hour. Our property is between two cities, Blue Ridge and Blairsville, Ga, McCaysville, Ga is located on the Georgia – Tennessee line adjacent to Copperhill, Tennessee and is only 25 mins away, Murphy, N.C. is about an hour drive. There are multiple lakes with in an hour drive as well, Blue Ridge Lake, Notterly Lake, Carters Lake,  there is also Lake Lanier, Ga,as well as Lake Ocoee,Tennessee, Chatuge Lake, N.C. with part of the lake in Georgia.

The Ocoee River

The Ocoee River was dammed to build hydroelectric plants. The Ocoee No. 1 and Ocoee No. 2 Dams were built between 1910 and 1913 featuring a wooden flume that diverted the waters of the Upper and Middle Ocoee along an elevated path, concentrating water pressure for the hydroelectric powerhouses.  The river attracted lots of attention, as boaters flocked to the Middle Ocoee to run its five miles of continuous whitewater rapids. Rafting companies sprang up while the TVA hurried to repair the flume and again divert water from the Ocoee. After much resistance and a Congressional Act, TVA agreed to schedule 116 days of recreational whitewater releases per year on the Middle Ocoee. Whitewater racing events have been held on the Ocoee since 1978, bringing the river to the attention of the world. The Ocoee has become one of the most popular whitewater rivers in the world, attracting over 250,000 visitors annually.

Whitewater River Center

The Upper Ocoee riverbed had remained dry throughout most of the 20th century, which allowed for the manipulation and construction of a world-class racing course. The Ocoee Gorge is wider at this point, allowing ample room for spectators. With the Ocoee approximately 100 miles north of Atlanta, all three of these factors made the Upper Ocoee the ideal place to host the 1996 Summer Olympics Whitewater Slalom competition.

Walking Bridge built in 1996 for the Olympics
Ocoee Whitewater Center



The Ocoee Whitewater Center

The Ocoee would be the first natural river used for Olympic whitewater competition, but this upper stretch was shallow and too wide to generate the desired intensity for whitewater slalom. Course designers rechanneled the riverbed to create an Olympic course one-third the width of the original riverbed.  Sandstone boulders harvested from the area shaped the course banks and venue, some weighing up to seven tons each. The design team developed the concept to build a river within a river. They used levees or banks to create the narrow “inner” whitewater course. This allowed the “outer” river to be used for viewing areas during events and to convey high flows during floods. The project of rechanneling the original riverbed took less than two years to complete, and created what would soon be called “America’s Olympic River.” July 1996 brought over 15,000 visitors and more than 1,000 volunteers and staff to the banks of the Upper Ocoee River.

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There were 25 gates built through the 500meters of the course with 6 up stream, 19 down stream, There were 6 rapids built with the names, Best Ledge, Smileys, Slam Dunk, Conveyor Belt, Callahan, Humongous. The water is diverted during the week to the water tunnel that runs beside the river, the water runs down the riverbed on weekends only, 34 days a year. When the water is running  there is a loss of electricity of 35 mega watts or $2100 an hour. The rafting companies take more than 750 people on a weekend down the river, which then because it is so profitable some of the money they make goes to the Tennessee Valley Authority to help offset the loss of electricity.



After walking around the center, talking with rangers, gathering information, we decided to continue down the main road, not really knowing that below the Olympic Course there was the dam that white water rafters put in. What an amazing site! Bus load after bus load would arrive to drop off rafters and rafts. They sat in the rafts as the guides give the safety rules and hints on paddling also about all the guides instructions. Then each person would help carry the raft and head down the ramp to launch.  It looked like it was mostly kids from summer camps, most between the ages of 12-16.

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It all looked like fun, the water looked so refreshing, it was a very hot sunny day, I would liked to have been in that water. We were hungry so we were off to find a cute little place. We followed the Ocoee hoping something would show up, we ended  at Lake Ocoee with dam #1 at the far end. Lake Ocoee feeds in Parksville Lake which then the Ocoee feeds into Hiawassee River which then feeds into The Tennessee River.

Ocoee River dam #1

The Tennessee river starts in the mountains of Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia. There are 9 main river dams that form a channel 650 miles long from Knoxville to the Ohio River which connects 20 states. The river provides the power needs to cities and rural electric cooperatives. The dams hold back flood waters which help protect the lower Ohio and Mississippi Valleys.




We finally found a cute place to have something to eat, Ocoee Dam Deli and Diner. I loved the shirts that they wore, I took a picture but it is blurry hope you can read it.


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It turned out to be a great little place to have a sandwich and some chips. It was a little unnerving eating with all the stuffed animals on the wall. But the one thing I did love that was on the wall I couldn’t help taking a picture of. The waitress saw me taking the picture and stated how she was very proud to work with this family and have the Ten Commandments hanging for everyone to see.


I was hoping to put another day of exploring with this post but this is so long I will stop now.

Thanks for reading about us “Nomads” stay tuned to see what else we are up to here in the Blue Ridge mountains of Georgia. Y’all have a Blessed Day until next time….


5 thoughts on “1996 Olympics on the Ocoee River

  1. Hi Sue! Just caught up on your blog today! Seems we’ve both been enjoying family time! I love reading about your adventures and new traditions! We have to start some new ones too!
    Miss you guys!

  2. LOVED the white water rafting pics. As usual your descriptions are great I really felt like I was there with you!! Great great job on the blog honey !!!

  3. I was selected to represent BellSouth as a volunteer at the Olympics in 1996. The venue I was assigned to was Lake Lanier where the rowing events took place…it must have been the hottest August ever at Lake Lanier. Seems like it lasted three weeks and I was so excited when it was over…seems like they cut down all the trees and the entrance/exit was uphill with stairs going downhill to the lake…and it was a killer hike from the stadium seats back up to the entrance where we caught buses to leave each day

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