5 Most Dangerous White-water Rapids


Mickey's -- Ocoee River

A kayaker takes on an eddy called "Hell Hole" on the Ocoee.
A kayaker takes on an eddy called "Hell Hole" on the Ocoee.
Gerard Fritz/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

In 2011, the stretch of Tennessee's Ocoee River known as "Mickey's" saw two deaths within two weeks [source: TimesFreePress.com]. That said, the river isn't necessarily the churning monstrosity you'd expect. In fact, the stretch from Mickey's to Roach Motel, the site of the 1996 Olympics challenge course, is categorized as class III, sometimes pushing into class IV depending on water levels.

Sure, there's a fork that forces paddlers to choose between a 5-foot (1.5-meter) ledge drop into a deep hole or a rocky descent down a 4-foot (1.2-meter) ledge; and there's a trail of features with names like Best Ledge, Smiley Face, Slam Dunk, Conveyor Belt, Calahan Ledge and Humongous [source: AmericanWhitewater.org]. But more than the bone-crushing rapids or death-defying drops, it's sheer numbers that makes the Ocoee seem dangerous.

Located in the Chatahoochee National Forest, just 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Atlanta, the river attracts 250,000 paddlers a year [source: TimesFreePress.com]. Even in class III, when a quarter million people run the rapids, deaths are more than possible. Tragically, in 2011, a 16-year-old drowned when the entire raft flipped in Mickey's and the teen got his foot trapped in underwater rocks. There've been seven rafting deaths on the Ocoee in the last 20 years [source: TimesFreePress.com].