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Big South Fork River

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Big South Fork River is one of the hidden crown jewels of the Cumberland Plateau in East Tennessee. Encompassing 125,000 acres, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area protects the free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries.The main tributaries of this 76.0 mile-long river are the Clear Fork, North White Oak and New River, which present a variety of fishing and whitewater paddling opportunities. Famed as a world-class whitewater river, this class II-IV wilderness run careens through the stunning cliff-lined gorge. While on the river you may catch glimpses of the remnants of former agricultural, mining and logging practices, but thankfully today, you'll find the land has a quality of wildness thanks to its limited access and sparse development.

Fishing: Native channel and blue catfish can be found in the pools of the larger waters, as well as in the channels of the main river. Flathead catfish are widespread in the major streams, rivers, and lakes, while longear sunfish, rock, smallmouth, largemouth and striped bass are found throughout the system. Muskie are found mainly on the Clear Fork River. They prefer to hide in weeds and floating plants where they wait for prey and are generally solitary, but can form in small schools where prey is plentiful. Other catches include striped, white and spotted bass, and walleye. more information

Regulations: Tennessee and Kentucky have reciprocal licensing agreements on fishing from Leatherwood Ford (TN Hwy. 297) to Yamacraw Bridge (KY Hwy. 92). Creel limits and other regulations of the state where the license was issued apply.

Paddling: The Big South Fork of the Cumberland River is a free-flowing river, and provides world-class whitewater canoeing and kayaking. Some sections are calm enough for beginners, while others can be challenging. Runs vary from Class I-IV, and water flow varies with rainfall. Peak times for rafting are in the spring, and sometimes in late fall or winter. There are several take-outs and put-ins for the Big South Fork. At the confluence of New River and Clear Fork to Leatherwood Ford, the run is 6.2 miles in length and will take 2 to 4 hours (or longer) to complete. The main take-out is at Leatherwood Ford where heated changing/restrooms are available. This is the most accessible take-out on this run with paved roads all the way. There is one additional take-out at the O&W Railroad Bridge. This take-out eliminates the last 2 miles of the run, which consists entirely of flat water with two class II rapids. If you put-in at the Confluence and take-out at the O&W Railroad Bridge, the run is only 4.2 miles and takes about 1 1/2 hours to complete. This run consists of almost all the class III and IV rapids on the entire Big South Fork.

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