The Clinch River is the most bio-diverse in the northern hemisphere – second in the world only to the Amazon river for the greatest concentration of rare and imperiled freshwater animals. Rare freshwater mussels and endangered fish can be found in the clear Appalachian waterway, which is also considered one of America's premiere trout streams.
Should you want to explore by paddle board, you'll find 50 miles of smooth, slow-moving Class I water. Expect to see miles of uninterrupted old-growth forest, rising distant mountains, wooded ridges and pastures along the shoreline. It's headwaters begin in Virginia, running parallel to the Powell River before merging at Norris Lake, which offers over 800 miles of shoreline and all the camping, fishing, boating and watersports you can imagine. From Norris Dam down to Clinton, TN is where you'll find the best opportunity for fish, including brown and rainbow trout, walleye, large striped bass and perch. The shallow waters are ideal for paddle board fly fishing, as some of the best fishing spots must be reached by boat.
River accesses are scattered along the Clinch, ranging from large parking lots to primitive canoe launches. The most familiar access points are Songbird Canoe Access, Weir Dam Access, Miller's Island, Peach Orchard, Second Baptist Church Access and Highway 61 Bridge. (See Map)
SUP THE STATE OVERVIEW
Whorton navigates the Clinch on day's 3 & 4 of his journey. It includes having to walk his paddle board about half a mile around Norris Dam as well as a weir dam about 3 miles below that. The Clinch is cold and clear with a swift current. It's also known for having a foggy water surface most of the year as the warmer air hits the cold water.
"The section below Norris Dam is super cold. I think it's the only TVA dam where the water comes from the bottom so it is in the 40s year round. Falling in is shocking. Also, you have to wait until later in the day to start because it's too shallow if they aren't releasing water."
"The crystal clear water with huge fish. It looks like the water is three feet deep but it's probably over 10. There's abundant wildlife, including otters, beavers, foxes, deer, coyote, many fish and a variety of birds, including bald eagles."
What are your thoughts on the Clinch and navigating it with a paddle board? Think about how you can engage in this amazing adventure and stay tuned for the next part in our journey.