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.|
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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 24th and 25th, 2016||Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made||
Despite the early visit -- I haven't been up there during May in several years -- the water was tolerable and we didn't have to use wetsuits! (I was worried about that.) Water flow was great, water was quite clear and there was cloudless sunlight both days.
I only got a few pics and one video; see below for links. Great to meet Cody and James, plus Marcus, Ross and Craig up there. (The latter three are rafting guides.)
|June 7th and 8th||Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made!||
This was a pretty awesome visit. The sky was very clear both days and I'm paying for it with a pretty righteous sunburn, but the water was clear, there was never a ton of people there at any one time, and I met a lot of cool folks and loaned out a lot of masks. Great to meet Garret and Holt, Michael and his group, Noah and Waylon, and Daniel and the guys from Moldova.
Pics from the first two visits are now posted publically on my Facebook profile here. (It should be visible to all.)
Vids are now posted here! My only complaints about my Fuji underwater camera are that the lens is too far to the left (easily blocked by an errant finger) and the microphone is too "hot" or loud underwater, so turn the volume down.
|June 14th and 15th||Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made!||Pics from this visit are now posted here!|
|June 21st and 22nd||Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made!||
This was a great trip in every way -- great weather, warm, clear water, and some really awesome people.
Pics from this visit and the one before are now posted here on my FB profile.
Vids are now posted here!
|July 5th-6th||Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip scrapped due to blown tire, and rainy weather up in TN||I'm glad I stayed back in Georgia on Wednesday, as a big storm knocked the power out at the house for several hours.|
|July 13th and 14th||Wednesday and Thursday roadtrip made!||
This was a pretty good trip, not quite as awesome as June 21st and 22nd but still good. The weather was
about perfect on Wednesday and great on Thursday until a strong storm came through at around 4:30.
Although there were a lot of church- and other groups present -- around 150 youngsters on Thursday -- the
tunnels area was never completely overrun. Great to hang out with David, Israel and Colin on Wednesday and a
lot of people on Thursday whose names I didn't get...and really cool to meet up with my friend Randall, one of the
awesome Clevelanders who first showed me Blue Hole in all its raw pre-Olympic glory back in 1994!
A nice, long vid showing some kids swimming in the tunnels is posted here.
|July 26th and 27th||Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made!||
This was a pretty awesome trip, too! While there were some desultory thunderstorms that passed over both days, they
weren't severe and we just weathered the storms by getting out of the river for a while. The water was almost
dangerously warm -- 88F by the end of the day on Tuesday! -- but pretty easy to spend the entire day in the water.
Lots of really cool people, including Anthony and Colby, rafting guides from Raft One who were there both days, Cody
and Sage, a cool kid with an even cooler name: Ripken (named after Cal Ripken), and Nate and John, who I'd met before.
Nate had brought his scuba gear and -- for the second time -- let me use it in the deeper part of Blue Hole. VERY cool
and a lot of fun. Pics from this visit are now posted publically on Facebook
Videos from this visit, Colby and Anthony trying out my snorkel-masks, Colby and Anthony using my snorkel-masks in the tunnels, and Me snorkeling down the shallow section to Nate and John, have been posted to the 2016 Youtube playlist.
|August 10th and 11th||Rescheduled Wed. and Thurs. roadtrip made!||
Aside from some clousy weather, this was an excellent trip. With school back in session in many districts there were no large church or school groups to contend with, and the are was never too crowded. There was a lot of cloud cover but no significant rain despite dire forecasts, and the water was a refreshing 80-83F, more comfortable than the 88F sauna two weeks ago. Talked to many cool people, including Bryan and Zak, "Ghost" and Seaver, Kagan, Brooklyn, Brittany and Tony, Geoff, Eden, David and Joshua, and Nate and John (Nate didn't bring his scuba rig this time, though). Very cool times and Joshua and I closed the place down at 8:15 pm on Thursday after some great times.
Pics from this visit are now posted here on Facebook.
Videos from this visit, from behind Ocoee #2 Dam on a rafting day, Ocoee #2 Dam and the rafting put-in, snorkeling thru tunnels and into the deep section of Blue Hole, and Geoff, Eden and David swimming thru the tunnels, have been posted to the Blue Hole Ocoee 2016 Youtube playlist.
|August 16th/td>||One-off Tuesday roadtrip made!||My friend Jason and I both had the day off, and since he can't come up to Blue Hole for a two-day visit, I figured we could make a one-day trip up so he could get there once this summer. Great weather with lots of sun and refreshing water at about 83F. Saw a few familiar faces including Anthony and Nate, and some new ones including Matthew and Zeeshan. Pics from this visit are posted here.|
|August 23rd and 24th||Tuesday and Wednesday roadtrip made!||
Last trip of the season unless it stays really warm into late September, and it was a great time. Relatively quiet both days with no large groups, as you'd expect this late in the season. Weather was a bit cooler and less humid on Tuesday and clousy and more humid on Wednesday, but it never rained and the sun came out just in time for my friend Nathan's arrival on Wednesday, and he brought his scuba rig. Cool to see 2016 friends again including rafting guides Anthony and Nate (different Nathan), Geoffery, Eden, David and Josh, and new friends Sean and Randi. special shout-out to Josh for coming out late in the day on Wednesday because he'd promised he would...without a suit and intending to wear long pants in the water. We closed the place down in style.
A video of Geoff, Eden and David in the tunnels is here and pics from this visit are posted here.
|August 30th||One-day Tuesday roadtrip possible...maybe||This will depend on my work scheduled that week, plus it's right before the start of DragonCon. We'll see.|
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