Lying in the westernmost part of North Carolina, the Hiwassee River Basin is known as the land of the Cherokee. The Hiwassee’s name comes from the Cherokee word “Ayuhwasi,” referring to a savanna or meadow. The 147-mile-long Hiwassee River originates in the mountains of Northern Georgia and Western North Carolina, flowing west into Tennessee to join the Tennessee River north of Chattanooga. In North Carolina, the basin includes the Hiwassee River and its tributaries, the Nottely and Valley Rivers in Clay and Cherokee counties. Scenic lakes – Appalachia, Hiwassee, and Chatuge – with their dams, capture the river’s flow, managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority for hydroelectric power, navigation, and flood control.
Almost a third of the basin is within forested public lands, mainly in the Nantahala National Forest. The basin hosts endangered, threatened, or rare plant and animal species. Christy’s Elima, a unique freshwater snail, is endemic to the basin. The Sicklefin Redhorse, a rare sucker fish, inhabits only the Little Tennessee and Hiwassee river basins. The hellbender, a large aquatic salamander, faces endangerment, relying on the Hiwassee’s cool, sediment-free waters.
Recreational fishing is popular with outfitters near the river, offering great trout fishing with whitewater, deep runs, fast riffles, and big shoals. Brown, rainbow, and brook trout abound.
The Hiwassee River also offers activities like whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, and tubing. For these, contact the TVA before entering the river to check the water release schedule, as it becomes fast-flowing and rough during releases.
TVA phone numbers:
Local 828-837-7395 * Toll-free 800-882-5263
Or Google: TVA – Cherokee