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Hiawassee Wildlife Reserve/Tennessee River in Tennessee

Trip Overview

There are things to find out before you go on this trip during the Fall. Paddling too close to shore past certain dates during migration of the Sand Hill Crane is prohibited and seasonal wild fowl hunting is permitted.

I checked the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency website for the date of the restrictions and found that the channel restrictions were slated to begin on Nov 15. These restrictions require boaters to stay in the river channel so as not to disturb the birds. More on that later. Dates for hunts were scheduled towards the end of November.

This is a beautiful area to paddle in and is at the intersection of the Hiawassee River and Tennessee River in Meigs County Tn, but very close to Hamilton Co, Tn. I put in at the boat ramp on Blythe Ferry Rd. This area was once the site of the collection and exportation of 9000 Native Americans beginning on the Trail of Tears. There is a small parking lot with no facilities there. Just before this ramp there is a new visitors center with history regarding the area and the Trail of Tears.

I had planned to catch the sunrise so I arrived early to find thick fog also. The river was smooth and the wildlife was active. I paddled upon startled beavers, Sand Hill Cranes, Blue Herrons, and also came across a Bald Eagle later in the morning. Occasionally fish would leap out of the water. The colors were great, and several of the bald cypress in the area had started to turn orange and red.

Since there was thick fog and poor visibility early on I opted to stay closer to shore in case I came upon larger and faster boats. I did not, however, encounter any other boat except one flat bottom boat going as slow as I was. That boat was the only one I saw all day, which was great! I used a GPS in the fog to negotiate since visibility was about 25 yards at first.

The fog burned off in a couple of hours, which revealed good colors and scenery. Part of the trip I paddled upstream along the Tennessee River and then returned to my counter-clockwise trip around the island back to the ramp.

With the fog gone I saw a sign at the ramp, not visible in the dark and morning fog, that stated that the channel restrictions had started on Nov 1. Conflicting dates would have been my only defense if I had been ticketed for paddling too close to the islands. Thankfully I had no trouble.

This was about a 10 mile round trip. Just a trip around the island would have been closer to 5 miles.


Rough boat ramp, no facilities.


None, but the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park needs donations. This area of the county is off the beaten path so it is of little benefit for Meigs County to maintain it. I picked up 3 bags of trash to take out.


Hwy 60 to Shadden Road, then to Blythe Ferry Rd. An internet search for the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park will get you to the same area.


I used the Tennessee Corp of Engineers website to use map #72 and #73 and a GPS

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

Locations on this Trip