Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park was the site of the very first river that was managed by the State Scenic River Program. Off US Highway 411 just past Benton, Tennessee, this stretch of land and river offers white water rafting, canoeing, hiking, RV and tent camping, and swimming. The campground has 47 campsites and eight group campsites for public use. These also offer playgrounds, an amphitheater, and horseshoe pits.
This is also a popular place to fish with an abundance of both rainbow and brown trout, catfish, perch, and bass. The Hiwassee River was named from a Cherokee word, which means “a meadow at the foot of the hills.” It was also the site of the 1996 Olympic slalom races. Both the Hiwassee and Ocoee Rivers are popular for whitewater rafting and canoeing for classes one through five.
If you are in the mood to hike or just want to work off some of that big dinner you ate, there is a gorgeous stretch of the John Muir Trail that runs through the river gorge here as well as several other trails around the park. It feels good to get out in the woods after a big meal or take a morning hike and see the wide variety of birds and other wild critters that live in the Cherokee National Forest. No matter what you enjoy doing, you can find it at Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park.
In the southeastern corner of Tennessee in Delano, just an hour from Chattanooga, you can find Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park. If you are coming from the south, travel north on Interstate 75 towards Chattanooga. Take exit 20, which is the Cleveland exit. Coming from Knoxville, take Interstate 75 south to exit 36, which is the Calhoun exit.
Coming from either way, you will take Interstate 411 to Spring Creek Road, where you will find the entrance to the park. Spring Creek Road is a narrow and winding street that can be difficult to maneuver if you are pulling a trailer or driving a large campervan. Keep your eyes on the road and have your passengers take pictures of the plethora of wildlife you can see outside your RV along the way.
Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park is a gorgeous park, but the Gee Creek Campground is primitive. So you will have to be extra careful if you are driving one of the big RVs or campers or pulling a trailer. Most people who camp here tend to leave their rig at the campsite and walk to wherever they need to go. If you want to go whitewater rafting, the park employees can tell you where to go to get a ride upstream.
With the mesmerizing Cherokee National Forest and the Cherohala Skyway, this part of the country offers unique hiking and caving experiences. Just outside Sweetwater, with its famous antiquing district, visitors can choose to immerse in nature or enjoy the small-town comforts of home. Sweetwater/I-75/Exit 62 KOA is the perfect basecamp for all of the above. Due to the campground’s convenient location, guests have easy access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Dollywood. The campground offers quiet sites and 120’ pull-through sites for big rigs. At Sweetwater/I-75/Exit 62 KOA, guests can enjoy rental pedal carts, fishing in the catch-and-release pond, or relaxing on vacation. The jumping pad and seasonal pool provide plenty of entertainment for the kids. Don’t forget the pup. The campground provides an off-leash play area just for dogs.
Gee Creek Campground has 47 campsites that have pads ranging from 40 to 108 feet in length. All sites are within walking distance to the Hiwassee State Scenic River, but if you want to be really close, choose from sites A10 through A15. There is a lovely children’s playground right in the middle of the campground, and the showers and restrooms are right between the horseshoes pit and playground by campsite 23. You can play horseshoes anytime you like except during quiet time, which is from 10:00 PM until 6:00 AM.
Each campsite has its own picnic table, and fire pit and most of them have plenty of shade. There are no hookups available, but potable water pumps are scattered around the campground for your convenience, and the camp host is available on-site if you need anything else or have questions. Dogs and cats are welcome if they are on a leash or otherwise restrained at all times.
If you forgot to reserve a site, the camp host or another park employee can help you find a campsite that you can get on a daily basis. However, if someone reserves the site you are at while you are there, you may have to move.
Whether you have never been whitewater rafting or if you are a seasoned expert, Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park has all classes of currents from Class I to Class V. There is nothing more exciting than the adrenaline surges you can get from navigating the whitewater currents in the Hiwassee or Ocoee River. So be sure to pack that raft and paddles in the rig before heading to the park so you can get out there and enjoy some waves.
The Hiwassee River is a fantastic place to swim so put the floats and pool noodles in the camper before you leave for the park. Grab some tubes and do a float trip down the river where you can find dozens of gravel and sandbars to stop and have lunch on your own secluded island. Or you can spend the day at the shoreline with the kids wading and splashing in the water, which is clear as glass. The golden sandy beach is a fun place to play frisbee or volleyball as well.
Pack the fishing gear in your RV so you can do some fishing here in the crystal-clear water of the Hiwassee River. Many anglers choose fly fishing in the off season because of the plethora of trout here. You can catch both rainbow and brown trout here as well as catfish, perch, and bass. You can use live or cut bait, depending on what you are fishing for, but from October to February, only lures are allowed. Bring a net too because these fish get big.
The John Muir Trail is a great place to go horseback riding at any time of the year. This is over 16 miles one way so you can expect to be gone for the day. Take a lunch and some water so you can relax and enjoy the gorgeous view. You can also choose to hike the Chestnut Mountain Trail to Iron Gap, which is 10.3 miles of forest in the Gee Wilderness area where you can see parts of Star Mountain.
Get out of that RV and into the woods. This part of the John Muir Trail features over 16 miles of rugged hiking through the Cherokee National Forest. You will see a lot of small pools of water that have tons of fish trapped in them, ripe for the taking. A bit further down you can find the Oswald Dome Trail via the Lowery Cove Trail. This is a 7.6-mile uphill climb that is fun for anyone who is in good shape. And the Big Bend Overlook Trail is about two miles along the Hiwassee River into the Cherokee National Forest.
Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park is known for its plethora of different species of birds, including blue herons, which you can spot fishing along the rivers’ rocky shorelines. Over 100 types of feathered friends have been spotted here such as the scarlet tanager, cedar waxwing, and rose-breasted grosbeak along the Gee Creek Trail and chickadees, kingfishers, and herons along the Hiwassee River Road and the Big Bend Overlook. So make sure you don’t forget to pack the camera and binoculars in the camper before coming.