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Visitors who took whitewater rafting excursions on the Ocoee River last year pumped $43.8 million into the economies of the thirty counties that surround the river, according to a newly released study from UT.

The Ocoee also was the most visited whitewater river in the United States, according to the report.

Steve Morse, an economist and associate professor in UT’s Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management, shared the results today during a presentation at the Chattanooga Convention Center. The study was conducted in partnership with the Ocoee River Outfitters Association and America Outdoors Association.

“This study shows that tourism and visitor spending at the Ocoee River is fueling small businesses, creating jobs, worker paychecks, and taxes in rural Tennessee,” Morse said.

For the study, Morse and graduate student Eric Beckman examined the impact of visitors to the sixty-mile region surrounding the river. It includes thirty counties—fourteen in Tennessee, thirteen in Georgia, and three in North Carolina. They surveyed the spending patterns of 3,118 visitors rafting the Ocoee River between June and September 2012.

Morse and Beckman then analyzed the spending of 229,542 visitors who took rafting trips during the year. The number of users was taken from the Tennessee Department of the Environment and Conservation’s report on Ocoee River usage.

Morse’s study shows that visitors to the Ocoee:

  • Supported 622 jobs
  • Helped generate $14.12 million in worker paychecks
  • Contributed $3.57 million in tax revenues for the river’s tri-state area

The Ocoee River, which was the site for the whitewater canoe and kayak events for the1996 Summer Olympics, is now officially the most visited whitewater river in the United States, according to study.

After the Ocoee River, the other four most visited whitewater rivers are the Arkansas River in Colorado, Pigeon River in Tennessee, Nantahala River in North Carolina, and Lehigh River in Pennsylvania.

“Tennessee’s scenic beauty and outdoor adventure are among the state’s best tourism assets,” said Tennessee Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker. “Having the Ocoee now officially the nation’s most popular whitewater river reinforces that Tennessee is a top-tier outdoor destination.”

The Tennessee counties surrounding the Ocoee River are Bledsoe, Blount, Bradley, Cumberland, Hamilton, Loudon, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Polk, Rhea, Roane, and Van Buren. The Georgia counties are Catoosa, Dade, Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Gordon, Lumpkin, Murray, Pickens, Towns, Union, Walker, and Whitfield. The North Carolina counties are Cherokee, Clay, and Graham.

For a copy of the study, email

C O N T A C T S:

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,

Steve Morse (865-850-9319,