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Elk River in Tennessee

Trip Overview

Group of two canoes entered the Elk just below the Tims Ford Dam around 11 AM. The dam had a very low flow...about 100 cubic feet per second. The river has been running like this for several weeks due to problems with the TVA generator.

We fished and paddled taking it pretty easy until we realized we still had 4.5 miles to go with 3 hours of daylight. At that point we quit fishing and paddled like mad. The overall trip took about 7 hours to go 9 miles taking our canoes at the Farris Bridge.

The water was pristine clear, but will get murkier after a rain.

Slow, deep water alternates with shallow shoals. We had 8-9 occasions to pull our canoe over shallows.

We saw a river otter, the first I had seen out of captivity. Fishing was slow, but two rainbow trout were taken on the trip. Fishing slowness was attributed to the lack of power generation for several weeks which apparently allows the river to warm above the temperature best for holding trout.

There are plenty of places to picnic on the river when he flow is this low. When the generation is high, the river is tricky due to stick ups which are plainly seen in low water, but maybe not so much when the water is 6 ft. higher.

It was really a peaceful, very enjoyable trip. The river continues on from our out point to Fayetteville, TN another 15-20 miles.


Motel rooms available in Winchester. Cabins available with reservation at Tims Ford State Park which is about 15 miles from the dam via the road.


Canoeing: no. Fishing: Tennessee fishing license plus trout license. Available at any Tennessee Wal-Mart or K-Mart store.


From I-24 take US64 west to Winchester. Then follow road signs on TN 50 until reaching the Tims Ford Dam.

This location is about 77 miles from downtown Chattanooga.


Maps were hard to find of the river and the small roads leading to the out point. Suggest contacting Tims Ford State Park, and ask for them to fax a river map. Most road maps don't detail the enough. DeLorme also makes a topographical map book of Tennessee. That might help as well.

  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip