Be sure to call the Whitewater Center before embarking on a long journey there to verify whether the water is low enough for swimming.
You can also check TVA's website for Ocoee #3 Dam. Any flow higher than about 1,400 cubic feet per second indicates at least some of the river flow is being sluiced down the rivercourse, making it hazardous to swim at Blue Hole.
For the regular schedule of recreational water releases from Ocoee #3 for rafting and kayaking, click here.
This page can now finally be reached using a simpler URL: www.BlueHoleOcoee.com (capital letters are optional)
For the SwimmingHoles.info entry on this site, click here. (They call me the "guru" of Blue Hole Ocoee, which is cool but doesn't seem to include any extra money or a company car. :) )
|Blue Hole, looking downriver. The Centennial Olympic footbridge is in the background; the best-known underwater tunnels are just to the left out of frame; the Ocoee Whitewater Center is out of frame to the right.|
|Things To Bring||Current Summer Roadtrip Schedule|
|Photos and Videos -- Some underwater!||Index to all of my annual diaries and recaps||Summer Water Release Schedule for Ocoee #3 Dam|
Ever since 1994 or so, I've been roadtripping a lot up to Cleveland Tennessee, where my longtime friends Dirk, Randall and Gabrial lived, to visit them and go swimming in the Ocoee River Gorge. There's a place called Blue Hole, part of the Upper Ocoee River, where there are underwater tunnels shallow and deep, wide and narrow; nice wide swimming holes 10-12 ft. deep; places where you can jump in or go free-diving and look at the rocky bottom, in clear mountain water. There are easy tunnels for the whole family to swim through, and some that only kids (and skinny adults) can attempt, and some that no-one I know of has succeeded in swimming through. It's a lot of fun! :) Great weather, great swimming, great company, underwater tunnels....what more could one ask for?
|Taken from the parking lot facing downriver||Facing upriver: OWC is the red building in the distance at left||OWC itself, taken from the short-term parking lot|
You'll see a set of rock stairs leading down from the Center to the path
along the river;
Blue Hole is about a hundred
yards upriver from the bridge. You can see it easily from the
Here's a rough sketch of the area around the Ocoee Whitewater Center (from Ducktown and McCaysville, you'd enter from the upper right-hand corner on US 64; from Cleveland and Route 411 you'd enter from the left side).
If you duck your head under you can exit from The Throne into the next hole, which is irregularly-shaped and wider. Here the bottom shelves down to about 7 feet deep. Angling off to the right is an underwater opening that leads you to a multiway underwater chamber. You can veer right and come out the "Main Entrance," you can go upward through an opening, or you can veer left and go thru a smaller tunnel into a circular basin about big enough for four people. From this hole you can continue out through one of two exits into open water (perhaps four ft. deep) on the opposite side of the riverbed from the path.
None of these tunnels is more than 3 or 4 feet long, making them safe
for most kids and nearly all adults, as long as you can swim. They can be
done with or without diving masks or goggles, although masks or goggles
make it a lot more fun and much safer, especially for large groups.
|This is the narrowest tunnel (recommended for skinny kids and adults only) as seen from c. 5 ft. past the Throne||From the same spot, this is the passageway to the left. A kid in the foreground (left leg visible) has just poked his head up through the narrow opening; in the background is someone snorkeling in the "wide circular hole" mentioned above||From the "wide circular hole" here are the two exits out to open water on the other side of the riverbed.||And facing back, here's the pebbly bottom of the wide circular hole from one of the exit tunnels.|
If you go back out to the path, further upriver about a 10-12-minute walk you come to an area we call "Little Blue Hole." This area tends to be a bit less crowded with casual tourists and whitewater-rafting parties and can be a more pleasant place to suntan, etc. We've gone "skinny-dipping" here before, when there was no-one else around (except a Forest Ranger who walked up and saw us, but that's a different story...)
Here's a view from midriver a bit downstream from the tunnels looking back
at the "main entrance," from which the kid has just emerged.
From the same spot, here's a view looking downstream. In the background is the suspension bridge. Past the kids just right of center is a tilted rock in the distance -- there's an excellent tunnel running underneath it. Just to the right of the large tilted rock (left foreground) and to the left of the rocky "peninsula" (middle distance, center) you can see all the way to the far side of Blue Hole itself. The wide swimming hole seen here is actually the smaller, more distant swimming hole seen in this image from the bridge, facing upstream.
If you'd like to make it an overnight trip, the closest motels
are in Ducktown, TN; you passed them if you approached from the east but they're a little pricey.
There are also various lodges, campgrounds and cabin-rental
places in the Cherokee National Forest. Thunder Rock Campground,
across the river near TVA's Ocoee #3 powerhouse is only about 2 miles
from Blue Hole and costs $12/night for a spot. Apparently no permit is required for
"primitive" camping up in the mountains within the National Forest,
but there are bears and stuff.
For more information about primitive camping, go here.
In the event I can't stay with my friends in Cleveland, TN, I generally get a room in town there. There are several inexpensive ($50-60) options there.
If you'd like to picnic at Blue Hole, a bridge by the lower "day" parking lot leads to a small picnic area across the river from the parking lot. These tables are first-come first-served.
|May 15th and 16th, 2018||Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip POSTPONED||I postponed this trip until the following week due to rain and cool temps, and then cancelled the postponed journey for the same reason.|
|May 29th and 30th||Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip cancelled||Bad weather and unsafe river flow were again the culprit.|
|June 3rd and 4th||Tentative post-RenFaire roadtrip scrapped||The river-flow information indicates current and anticipated volumes of 2,400 cubic feet/sec for the next few days due to runoff from 3 weeks of rainy weather and Tropical Storm Alberto, so this looks to be a no-go.|
|June 12th and 13th||Postponed due to unsafe higher flow on the 12th||The Ocoee basin appears to be "right on the edge" as far as drainage flow goes, and heavy rainfall in the area on Monday the 11th caused TVA to flow the river higher on Tuesday...so, no roadtrip. I will try to reschedule for next week.|
|June 19th and 20th||Tuesday and Wednesday "makeup" roadtrip made!||
Photos and videos -- using a GoPro Hero2 -- are posted publically on my FB profile
I've also started my 2018 YouTube video playlist here.
FINALLY my first trip up to TN and saw a lot of cool people -- some old acquaintances and some new. Aside from a downpour with no lightning on Tuesday, the weather was great and the flow wasn't as high as I'd been dreading.
|June 26th and 27th||Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made!||
The flow was a few inches higher than last week due to rainfall (no dam releases) and the water temp about the same at around 80F. A wide severe thunderstorm system threatened late in the day on Tuesday but despite warnings being issued, it wasn't too bad at Blue Hole, just a little gusty and no thunder observed; Wednesday brought one storm at around 3:30 pm (chased many folks out) and a second storm system came in at around 7pm, chasing ME out. :)
Still it was a pretty good two days. Great to see my friend David J. there after 10 months away in NJ, and great to see a lot of cool folks, including a Boy Scout troop that arrived at the tunnel area even before I did on Wednesday, but with no masks or goggles. They failed to Be Prepared. :)
Photos and videos are now posted here publically on my Facebook profile. I'll also be adding the vids to my YouTube playlist shortly, here.
|July 3 - July 4th||Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made!||
Pics and vids are now available in
this open gallery on Facebook and the vids are also added to my
2018 Blue Hole YouTube playlist.
VERY busy both days as expected during a holiday week, but no rain at Blue Hole for once. On Tuesday a huge group of 20 church vans and buses arrived just as I did at 2 pm (they backed up traffic onto US 64!) but left at 4 pm; in the interim I just hung out in the water in front of the Whitewater Center. Afterward I met some awesome people at Blue hole, including Caleb and Thomas, both of whom returned the following day with different friends.
On Wednesday the 4th, two big groups of summer campers alternated their time at Blue hole -- complete with lifeguards -- but after some discussion they took my advice and limited the number of kids in the tunnel area to around 5-7 at a time. I loaned out extra masks and goggles to improve their visit. Each group only stayed about an hour so it wasn't too bad.
|July 17th - 18th||Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made!||
Pics and vids are now posted in
this album on my Facebook profile and also in my
2018 YouTube playlist.
Great to see Thomas, Austin, Phillip, Keaton and a few others from prior visits, and to meet new folks and make new friends like Jarrod, Matthew, Corey, Ryan the freediver and others. It was especially cool to see Kathleen for the first time since she appeared in photos of our group at Blue Hole back in 1998. (!)
|July 24th - 25th||Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made||
Pics and vids are now posted
here on Facebook (public gallery). Videos are now also available in my
2018 Blue Hole YouTube playlist.
This was a decent visit, nowhere near as good as last time because the river was much higher, cloudier and colder than before. This was due to a "surprise" release from Ocoee #3 dam on the morning of the 24th between 2:30 and 7 am. Conditions were improved on the 25th but the water was still chilly, at 79F, and running much higher than normal as you can see in the pics. It was good to see Jarrod, Corey and Phillip again, and talk to some new, cool folks.
|August 7th - 8th||Roadtrip scrapped||TVA began releasing 2,000+ cubic ft./sec of water at 1 pm on the 7th and has continued into the overnight with "predicted outflow" for August 8th and 9th over 2,000, so this roadtrip will have to be scrapped. The Ocoee Dam #3 page indicates very high predicted outflow over the next few days. Wet summers suck.|
|August 14th - 15th||Tuesday and Wednesday "make-up" roadtrip made!||Lots of rain runoff caused the river to be higher and the water cooler than I'd prefer, but overall this was a good trip and I met some really cool people, like Blayne and Oceana, and also Calvin, Abner, Ian, Sidney and Emily as an extended family unit. It was also cool to meet "Starkey,"a river guide who brought his scuba gear on Tuesday, and to see Jarrod P. there, albeit briefly, on Tuesday. Photos and one video are now posted here on my Facebook profile. I've also added the video, just a relaxed swim through the tunnels, to my 2018 Blue Hole Ocoee playlist on YouTube.|
|August 21st - 22nd||Last Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made!||This was a chilly visit, but actually better than I expected and I made a few more awesome friends! Pics and vids are now posted in this public gallery on Facebook and also in my 2018 Blue Hole Ocoee playlist on YouTube.|
|August 28th||Pre-DragonCon, rare Tuesday-only roadtrip made!||
Really nice weather and much warmer water temps helped make this one of the best days this summer. Great to see Cage and Dillon from last week again, and also a surprise (to me) visit by Thomas and two friends. I just wish they all could have stayed longer.
Pics and vids are now posted in this public gallery on Facebook and also in my 2018 Blue Hole Ocoee playlist on YouTube.
|September 23rd||"Surprise" post-rafting-season weekend trip made!||
With warm weather continuing up through the weekend of September 22nd and 23rd I noticed that the weekend marked the end of the summer rafting/kayaking season for the Upper Ocoee, and the water would not be running high for the weekend...so I snuck up to Tennessee for a quick, extremely rare weekend visit on Sunday the 23rd. Last year the weather turned cold before the rafting season ended so this really couldn't be done.
The weather stayed sunny for most of the day and the water, at 78-80F, wasn't too bad. Not many people there on Sunday either, which was surprising since this weekend will probably be the LAST and only chance the locals had to visit the river on a weekend...and the weather is turning colder right after this weekend. Goodbye, Summer!
Three friends I'd made over the summer, Cage, Blayne and Creed, were able to come out and we had a good time. Pics and vids from this trip are now posted in this public gallery on Facebook and I've added the vids to my 2018 Blue Hole Ocoee playlist on YouTube.
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