Clinch River: River Road to fish hatchery


Swallows, often too many to count danced above the water. They seemed like a crowd of skaters at an ice rink, except they weren’t bound to staying on the water’s surface.

We were here: Mom, Yvonne and I out celebrating mother’s day on the Clinch River, May 10 2020, following our Mother’s Day tradition of a canoe trip. But even without flying like the swallows, we had a river to explore. In the cool for May 10 weather we only saw one boat the whole time.

The route starts on River Road, not far from Norris Dam, an unmarked spot but one with clear parking and a good ramp. Unlike in other places on the Clinch closer to dams, the current pushes boats along here even without any paddling. There are few rapids here though and most are avoidable. It took us about three hours, but that included a lunch break where we just floated. I imagine some people could do this route faster.

This is a river stretch that, in spite of being fairly close to Norris and mostly private land around it, feels like being in the wilderness, with forests on either side for most of the journey, already showing off a bright summer green. The route passes a few vacation cabins. But for the most part it was just us, mallards, Canada geese with their goslings, cormorants both roosting and diving, great blue herons and us. We did pass under the interstate at one point, watching the big rigs pass over us.

Unlike with certain other canoe routes, there aren’t many good picnic stop points so be prepared to eat in your boat.

The route ended at another unmarked ramp just past a fish hatchery. This is the one spot of the route that’s the hardest. Paddling against the current here snapped my paddle in half. Thankfully, I had a spare.

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