your paddlesports destination

Ocoee River/Hiwassee River/Tennessee River in Tennessee

Trip Overview

On June 12 through June 14 I undertook a paddling trip that I had been planning for a while. The trip started at the base of Ocoee Dam #1 below Parksville Lake and ended up at the Chickamauga Dam via the Ocoee River, Hiwassee River, and then to the Tennessee River. As best I could work out the mileage and the stops my first night would be spend on the riverbank, but the second and third nights would be at Agency Creek and Skull Island campgrounds, both TVA campgrounds. The first day I travelled about 18 miles, the second day 21, the third day about 20, with the 4th day ending after about 17 miles.

I put in at the public park, the one that at one time had the scale model Olympic White Water venue a few years back. The water from the dam was low but it rose just before I left, by about 3 feet. If I understood the information from TVA it was supposed to have started earlier. Anyway, I am glad I did because the water was still low in places and I to drag/float my sea kayak through some places. The Ocoee with a little fast in the beginning, about 8 miles per hour but it slowed the further I was from the dam. Fishing would have been good but I didn�t take any gear this time because of the distances involved.

The first night I spent on the riverbank on an island that I had picked out from the topo maps and aerial photos on Google Earth. It had been cleared and mown as a hayfield. I slept out underneath the stars since the weather was so hot while knowing that the stars would be very visible and I was not disappointed. I made a makeshift shelter with a ground tarp that I carry and my kayak. I took a picture of this with my phone. Speaking of phones, I had Verizon service all of the way. I checked in with my wife in the mornings and evenings since I was travelling alone.

The second day I paddled along the Hiwassee River on a Sunday. Generally the river here is much wider, especially towards Charleston. There was A LOT of boat traffic that made the paddling challenging, jet skis, water skiers, and cabin cruisers, but after all it was a Sunday. I drug into Agency Creek campground, and paid $12.09 for a tent site without water or electricity. I carried 5 gallons of water and a cooking kit so I didn�t need either. I met some nice �campers� in RV�s with satellite dishes and my neighbor went out of his way to be friendly with me, and eventually he shared a beer with me and we sat and talked. Meeting people along the way was as enjoyable as some of the scenery.

The next day I wanted to be up at sunrise to get onto the river through the Hiwassee Refuge early enough to have calm water. There were still nesting ospreys, several kinds of herons, a lot of fish jumping, and songbirds all over the place. I pulled onto the Tennessee River and paddled past Blythe Ferry and spent the night at Skull Island. The section of the trip along the Tennessee River was mentally challenging because at times I would paddle from point to point, a distance of sometimes 2 to 3 miles, skirting the main channel. I resorted to mind games such as counting backwards by 7�s, etc. Other times I would paddle closer to shore because of the thunderstorm fronts that I could see. There was only one storm that I had to contend with and I ducked into a covered boat dock and waited it out.

The last night I spent at Skull Island, $20.00 with no water or electricity. I don�t understand their pricing structure but the park was very clean and the manager offered to take me into town to get supplies if I needed anything.

The next day I paddled to the Dock Side Caf� at Harrison Bay State Park and ate lunch and made it to the Chickamauga boat ramp by 3 o�clock and waited for my wife to pick me up.

I carried all of my food and water, cooked all of my meals except that last day�s lunch, and had a tent and a ground tarp, and a minimum of clothes. Whenever I paddle alone I leave a float plan with my wife and stick to it. This one included campground phone numbers and other important info that she might need if I was late coming back. Included in my safety gear was a small air horn, marine radio with NOAA weather radio, extra food, whistle, mirror, first aid kit, and flashing strobe for my PFD.

The weather forecast gave 20% showers every day with possibilities of thunderstorms with damaging wind also possible. Temps ranged in the lower to mid 90�s with humidity in the 90 per cent range. To keep from being burned to a crisp I wore long sleeved cotton t shirts, a wide brimmed OR hat, bandanna round my neck and a full paddling skirt to protect my legs. Along the trip I would scoop water over my hat, shirt and skirt just to stay cool, and I managed to escape sunburn completely.

It was a memorable trip, scenery, wildlife, and people included, but I was glad to get home to my bed.


17 foot sea kayak




Ocoee River, Parksville Lake, Ocoee Dam #1, US 64, put in is west of the Forest Service office, there is a public ramp and public parking


Google Earth, topo maps, Corps of Engineers maps

  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip