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Paddling the Clinch River

Paddling the Clinch River may seem intimidating if you’re not familiar with it, so we have put together a few suggestions to make your paddling trip an unforgettable one!

First, let’s talk about the river – The Clinch River flows about 300 miles from Virginia to Tennessee. The river is dammed by Norris Dam in Anderson County, Tennessee and once released, the Clinch’s tailwater offers 13 majestic miles of world class trout fishing and fantastic paddling. The river runs through the town of Clinton and into the backwaters of Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge. The Clinch River is surrounded by a peaceful setting of pastures, wooded ridges, and an abundance of wildlife…in other words East Tennessee beauty. Class I and II waterways of the Clinch make it perfect for beginner paddlers and those looking for a relaxing day. Here are a few things to keep in mind when paddling the Clinch River.

What to Pack – Depending on where you put in and take out (we will cover these later) will determine the length of your trip and what you need to pack. We suggest packing some refreshments and snacks, or maybe even a light lunch depending on how long of a paddle you choose, sunscreen, and don’t forget a camera! We promise you will have many “Kodak moments” that you’ll want to remember! Keep in mind, the Clinch River is very cold and with any paddling adventure there is a chance of getting wet, so a towel or change of clothes might be a good idea too. Depending on how much room you have in your kayak or canoe will also dictate what you can take.  Ok, we’re done playing mom, let’s get down to what you really want to know.

Where to put in and take out – The Clinch River has many public access points to choose from. The most familiar are Songbird Canoe Access, Weir Dam Access, Miller’s Island, Peach Orchard, Second Baptist Church Access and Highway 61 Bridge. We have labeled all of these on our handy dandy map. We recommend putting in at Miller’s Island because it offers ample parking, a large “put in” area and it gives you a great access point on the river.  If you want a day trip, roughly about 6 hours, take out at the Highway 61 Bridge. If you would like a shorter trip, about 3.5 miles, you can take out at Peach Orchard Boat Ramp.

Before you paddle – We highly recommend mapping out your route, so you know exactly where you are going. You can find a detailed map here. You will obviously need to have a vehicle parked at your entrance and exit points. The most important thing to remember when paddling the Clinch River is to check the TVA water release schedule online or download their app.  Water levels in the river are dictated by activity at Norris Dam. Norris has the ability to push close to 10,000 Cubic Feet per Second (CFS) when both turbines are in operation. Once the water is released, it takes about an hour to reach Miller’s Island, so plan your trip accordingly. Let us play mom again and remind you to always wear a life jacket and never paddle alone!

What to Expect on the River – The trip from Miller’s Island to Highway 61 Bridge will offer a fun day trip for beginners as well as seasoned paddlers. Expect to see wildlife, you may even be lucky enough to spot a river otter. The beauty surrounding East Tennessee is second to none, but there is something special about the serene sounds of the river with that Tennessee back drop that gets us every time! You’ll definitely want to snap a few pics. Along the way, there will be some places to veer off (by water) and explore. We recommend doing this! You will get to see some cool rock formations when you do. You will most likely encounter some fishermen along the way as well. The Clinch River is known by trout fishermen around the country.

When you get off the River – When your paddling adventure comes to an end, that doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. We recommend a visit to Clinch River Brewing. Located in an old TVA aquatics building, this local brewery creates some unique and delicious craft beer that will leave you wanting more. In addition to great beer, Chef Andras will whip you up some incredible food!

For other things to do in the area, visit adventureanderson.com.

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