From the north slope of Clingmans Dome, Little River flows northwesterly through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for 59 miles before joining the Tennessee River. Approximately one mile below its source, Little River absorbs several smaller streams at an area known as Three Forks. Here the river gains considerable strength as it parallels the Little River Hiking Trail, which winds into Elkmont, once a logging camp for the Little River Lumber Company. This section of the river is not navigable, but it does offer excellent fishing for native brook trout. At the "Sinks" the river flows over a ten-foot waterfall into a large pool, and then seems to disappear for a small distance. Below the Sinks, Little River is navigable in high water with a kayak. Flowing out of the Park, the river's flow becomes more moderate as it heads downstream through the Tuckaleechee Valley to Walland. After leaving Walland, the river no longer displays the extreme clarity and attractive rocky bottom of its upper reaches, rather it resembles the more typical large river habitat with lower gradient and large deep pools interspersed with shallow shoal areas. Near the small community of Rockford, the Little River flows into an embayment of Fort Loudon Lake.
Fishing: The Little River has an excellent population of smallmouth bass and rock bass. The Park stocks rainbow trout in spring and fall as water temperatures allow. Another spot along the river for excellent fishing is the Middle Prong of the Little River near Tremont. Leaving Walland and downstream of Perrys Milldam, the fishery, while still primarily smallmouth bass and rock bass, declines in quality relative to the upstream reach, probably related to limited availability of preferred smallmouth bass habitat. more information
Paddling: Whitewater paddlers will find Little River to be the cornerstone of paddling in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Flatwater paddlers will want to explore the quieter section of Little River that lies on the northern edge of the park. The river is fully navigable under normal conditions for approximately 10 miles as the river leaves the park from Walland downstream to Rockford. The best access to this now flatter, class I river is just beyond the Melrose Dam at the Old Walland Highway bridge. IMPORTANT NOTE: Paddlers should beware of a dam across Little River behind Rockford Manufacturing in Rockford. The dam has claimed the lives of several boaters and paddlers over the years. Do not approach the dam and do not under any circumstances attempt to shoot it. There is no portage around the dam. If paddling downstream from Walland, you can take out at Rockford Community Park which is upstream from the dam. Roddy Branch on Old Knoxville Highway (Maryville Pike if coming from Knoxville) is the closest access downstream from the dam for exploring the lower part of Little River to its confluence with Fort Loudoun Lake.
Tubing: If you just want to cool off and spend a lazy day tubing down the river, you can begin your float at the swimming hole at the Townsend Y, where the Little River exits the Park. Tubers can negotiate the intermittent rapids as they travel from the Y to the vicinity of the first mill dam, above the Highway 321 bridge.