Hiwassee/Ocoee Scenic River State Park was the first river managed in the State Scenic River program. A 23-river mile section, from the North Carolina to U.S. Hwy. 411 north of Benton, has been declared a Class III partially developed river. This stretch of river offers canoeing, rafting, fishing, hiking and nature photography. A scenic portion of the John Muir trail winds through the river gorge. Numerous public access sites provide boat launch ramps.
The river is dammed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in four locations, all in western North Carolina. Chatuge Dam, Mission Dam, Hiwassee Dam, and Apalachia Dam. Water is diverted from the stream bed at Apalachia Dam and sent through a pipeline which is tunneled through the mountains for eight miles (13 km), then gravity-fed through the Apalachia Powerhouse to generate electricity. The stretch of the river that flows between Apalachia Dam and Apalachia Powerhouse features reduced flow and is shadowed by the John Muir Trail in Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest.
The 23-mile (37 km) stretch of river that flows from the North Carolina/Tennessee state line to U.S. Highway 411 near Delano is designated a State Scenic River (Class III Partially Developed River) and for recreational purposes is managed by the state Resource Management Division, in cooperation with TVA.
The river features Class I through Class III rapids, depending on water levels.
After exiting the mountains through a gorge, the Hiwassee flows under US-411 and broadens, meandering through rural Polk and Bradley counties. The river crosses under U.S. Highway 11 at Calhoun and Charleston, Tennessee, where local industries such as Bowater Newsprint Mill and Arch/Olin Chemical use river water in their operations. At this point the river interfaces with the impoundment of Chickamauga Dam (located inChattanooga, Tennessee), and many marshes and wetlands surround the main channel, providing areas for hunting and fishing. The Hiwassee passes under Interstate 75 on the border of McMinn and Bradley counties. The Hiwassee continues westward to pass under TN-58’s historic, and narrow, bridge (this bridge has been replaced with a wide and modern bridge) on its way to the confluence with the Tennessee River. This area of the river is enjoyed by boaters, fishermen, and water skiers.
Major tributaries include Valley River, Nottely River, Coker Creek, Big Lost Creek, Spring Creek, Conasauga Creek, and Toccoa/Ocoee River.