Ocoee by the Numbers

Those who know me know I whitewater kayak, and … occasionally … run the Ocoee. Despite being seven hours from my house, I’ve run the Middle Ocoee more than every other river I’ve run…combined (although, not by much!)

Middle Ocoee – Double Trouble

The name “Ocoee” originates from the Cherokee word “u-wa-go-hi”, the wild apricot or passion flower.The Middle Ocoee is a 5-mile stretch of the Ocoee River beginning at Dam #2.

From 1910-1913 the Tennessee Valley Authority (originally East Tennessee Power) constructed hydroelectric Dams #1 and #2 on the Ocoee River, along with a 14′ high and 10′ wide cedar flume line. For the next ~64 years the waters of the Ocoee were diverted into the flume, completely dewatering the river bed.

Middle Ocoee – Tablesaw

A rock slide in 1976, and the general state of disrepair on the flume line, prompted the TVA to divert the water back into the river bed for repairs. By 1977, a new industry was born. With some effort (including an act of Congress), Ocoee outfitters negotiated recreational releases which have lasted until today (after some frenetic renegotiation in 2018).

The construction of Dam#3 had left the Upper Ocoee dewatered, perfect for building a half-mile artificial whitewater course. The Upper Ocoee hosted the 1996 Olympic Summer Games, and for commercial and public use in 1997.

Upper Ocoee – Alien Boof

When I started kayaking I recorded each trip to compare water levels and difficulty for future runs. Much of my kayaking on the Ocoee has been with my friend John, heavily involved with sports and sport statistics.  I have reasonably complete numbers on the Ocoee, so here’s some numbers from when I reached run 500.

Runs by Year

2008 3
2009 14
2010 73
2011 75 [Why I call it Hound Dog]
2012 52
2013 33
2014 71
2015 5  [16 weeks cycling across Europe impacted my kayaking]
2016 28
2017 43
2018 42 [and I’m not a serial killer]
2019 15
2020 26
2021 19+

Total runs: 500
Fastest Run: 39:02
Most Runs in a day: 9
ELF runs: 5 (+5 half-ELF because I outran the water)
Number of different Jackson Funs paddled on the Ocoee: ~7
Number of Ocoee runs before a new Fun cracks: 163
Fewest rocks hit on a single run: 7 (there’s a theoretical 1 in here if I could get all the pieces I can run perfect at the same time)

Number of runs without flipping: 411 of 500
Most runs w/o a roll: 33
Number of rolls: 106
Odds of flipping over on a run:  18% [but biased towards early runs]
Number of swims: 3 (Flipper; Flipper/Watauga; Powerhouse (on first day of four runs—tired!))
Roll failure rate: 2.75%

Roll volumes are a bit crazy in spots due to overall trip density (2010-2011, 2014 in particular). Tinkering around Witch’s Hole is perilous. All the rolls in Accelerator are backwards. Powerhouse rolls tend to be on the last run for the day when >=4; I’m just tired. Rolls prior to Double Trouble effectively ended in 2014.

Entrance: 4
Gonzo Shoals: 1
Broken Nose: 2
Second Helping: 1
Slice N’ Dice: 5
Double Suck: 6
Double Trouble: 25
Flipper: 5
Watauga Move: 7
Surprise: 4
Tablesaw: 6
Diamond Splitter/Witch’s Hole: 10
Hound Dog: 2
Accelerator: 4
Cat’s PJs: 5
Hell Hole: 9
Powerhouse: 4
Other: 4

What’s also interesting (to me at least) is the change in where I rolled over time. Many rolls are trying successively difficult moves over time, and are grouped with many early on, then few, then a lot as I started trying things, then few again.

Now for the next 500.