Hiwassee/Ocoee State Park – Whitewater

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Known for its Class I—V rapids, Hiwassee/Ocoee State Park attracts visitors from all over the world eager to boat or paddle down the scenic rivers surrounded by the wilds of Tennessee.

Written by

Amy Lynch


23.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

46.4 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

1 days


All Seasons

The park is open to visitors year-round, and warm/temperate months are best for rafting.

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits




The Hiwassee is a gorgeous, class I-II river that offers great, laid-back paddling. The beauty is incredible. It is a dam controlled river and thus has guaranteed releases, which gives it a long season. The Ocoee may be a bit tougher, but the Hiwassee offers beginners, and those seeking a more peaceful river, an excellent paddle with unsurpassed beauty. Perfect for those 100-degree summer days. 

What Makes It Great

The character of the river is swift, but mellow. Shoals and ledges make up the majority of the run. The general rule of thumb is stay to the left or center left, avoiding the occasional trees on the banks and islands. A 4-5 foot drop, toward the middle of the float, will look very steep from above and challenge your nerve. There are many lines, but the best line is left of center. There are several islands with good eddies that provide an opportunity to rest and take in the scenery. Watching other paddlers can be good entertainment. Towards the bottom, a class II+ rapid called Devil's Shoals, stacks up a few larger waves and will present the final challenge of the day. Stay center or left of center, paddle hard, and keep it straight! Just a reminder: Never stand up in swift moving water! Remember to always keep your feet up in the whitewater swim position! Water is released from the Appalachia Dam year round, allowing the Hiwassee to be enjoyed in all seasons. Summer weekend visitors will find themselves cooling off with plenty of company and commercial traffic. In the colder months, however, a trip down the Hiwassee can be quite serene. Two units is always the preferred release for the best level. Find the water release schedule here: TVA.gov

Who is Going to Love It

The Hiwassee River is large and wide along a popular section for novice whitewater paddlers who make the voyage in kayaks, canoes, duckies, and tubes. The combination of splendid scenery and easy class II whitewater makes it a favorite river for family float trips, beginner paddling instruction, and most recently, stand up paddleboarding! 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The Hiwassee River is approximately 60 miles from Chattanooga. Along the way, Tennessee farms dot the stunning landscape below the base of Chilhowee Mountain, before the route begins winding through the Cherokee National Forest towards Reliance. It takes about 1.25 hours, one way, to make the trip. Take TN 30 to Reliance. From the Texaco station on TN 30, turn right out of the station and take an immediate right onto the bridge over the river. Take the first right, immediately after the bridge (Childress Creek Road).Drive a few miles until you see a road off to your right. Take a right here. Keep on driving past a few USFS parking areas, including the Towee Boating Site. You could put in here for a shorter trip. When you reach the Powerhouse Boating Site, this is where you launch. Before you go up, leave one car at the bottom take out. There is a parking lot at the railroad bridge beside Hiwassee Outfitters, not far from the Texaco station. There are parking fees at many of the official USFS parking areas, but some free parking is available along the road.

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Hiwassee River

Cherokee National Forest, 580-908 Powerhouse Road
Reliance, TN, 37369
35.182877, -84.439826

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