Ocoee Whitewater Center
The Ocoee Whitewater Center (OWC) site was constructed for the purpose of holding the 1996 Olympic Canoe and Kayak Slalom competitions. This was the first time these events were held on a natural river and it was appropriate the Ocoee should be chosen as the site as it was already one of the most popular whitewater rivers in the world. Constructed using 60,000 tons of native rock, individually placed and cemented into position along the banks of the river, the riverbed itself was narrowed to create the spectacular rapids necessary for the competition. Those same rapids are the draw for the thousands of people who come each year to raft or to test their kayaking skills on the Olympic course.
Since the Olympic events, the Ocoee Whitewater Center evolved into a highly visible and much used venue. Touted by athletes as having the best whitewater course in the world, the OWC hosts both national and international whitewater competitions on the 500-meter course. As part of the National Forest system, the Ocoee Whitewater Center is managed by the Forest Service as a multiple use recreational and educational complex.
Consisting of a four-acre recreation area, the OWC offers water play, picnicking, hiking, biking, and environmental education programs. The 7,200 sq. ft. visitors center was home to special events, a nature-oriented gift shop, cafe, and provided the playground for whitewater rafting and kayaking. Hosting approximately 300,000 visitors each year, the OWC is a favorite spot for those who wish to take advantage of these activities or just sit back and relax and watch these activities occur around them.
With a 30-mile trail system the OWC has earned the reputation as having one of the premier mountain biking trail systems in the southeastern United States. The Tanasi Trail System consists of trails ranging from easy to difficult in traversability. Whether you like a leisurely ride on a level double-track trail or a blistering high-speed race down a single-track trail aptly named Thunder Rock Express, the Tanasi Trail System at the OWC offers something for everyone.
Recreation isn’t the only activity occurring at the Ocoee Whitewater Center. The OWC hosted weddings and receptions as well as numerous business retreats and conferences. Situated on the banks of the Ocoee River and nestled between two wilderness areas, the OWC boasts the natural beauty of the Cherokee National Forest as a showy backdrop for outside weddings and events. If an indoor location was more to your liking, the unique architecture of the OWC building with its native stone, glass, and wood construction provided a breathtaking setting for smaller gatherings.
In its mission of “caring for the land and serving the people”, the Forest Service has crafted an area, which balances meeting the needs of our guests with the responsibility of managing our natural resources wisely for the future. From the accessible mile loop around the site to the preserved authentic on-site fire tower to the conservation education programs offered to thousands of children and adults each year, the OWC strived to create a memorable experience for all who visit here.