Looking for a perfect local destination for a family outing this summer – the Elk River has something to please each member of the family.
Activities on the Elk range from canoeing, kayaking, swimming, wildlife watching, picnicking and of course, trout fishing.
The Elk River is a 195-mile tributary of the Tennessee River that runs across the states of Tennessee and Alabama. It enters Alabama due south of Pulaski. Tim’s Ford Dam is located around river-mile 133, leaving almost 100 miles of river between Tim’s Ford Dam and Alabama. The Elk averages 50 feet wide with a shallow rock-gravel bottom and intermittent deep pools. There are 20 bridges with varying ease of access along this 100-mile section.
The Elk is broadest to about 65 feet but is still a peaceful stream with easy canoeing at an international rating system ranking of Class I for clear passages and smooth water.
The entire route is scenic with picturesque changes from high, steep, rocky bluffs to flat, lowlands and tree-lined banks.
The stream is known for its scenic beauty and the cold tailwaters begin to meander near the small community of Kelso, site of a cave used as a saltpeter mine by Confederates during the Civil War, near U.S. Highway 64.
The Tim’s Ford reservoir was built under the auspices of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, to provide a substantial source of cooling water for the U.S. Air Force’s Arnold Engineering Development Center, which has large wind tunnels and other military and scientific research equipment. This area is also used as a wildlife refuge.
Wildlife – Don’t forget your cameras and bring your binoculars to get a closer look at the menagerie of wildlife you’re bound to encounter along the banks of the Elk. Besides several species of fish, you’ll see blue herons, wild turkey, kingfishers, bald eagles, hawks, turtles, beaver and deer, just to name a few. There is a short hiking trail located off the Elk that leads to views of waterfalls and plenty of swimming holes along the way.
Canoeing & Kayaking – Floating the cool, clear waters of the Elk is a great way to leave the rat race behind. Elk River Canoe Rental offers relaxing canoeing and kayaking floats trips on this easy, Class 1 river. The rental shop is open from April 1 to Oct. 31, 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Bring everyone in the family from children to grandparents. The variety of trips offered can be suited to whatever you’re looking for. The float trip can last anywhere from two to four hours or could include camping for several days of paddling. All rentals include paddles, life jackets, and transportation to and from the river. Contact Elk River Canoe Rental, 190 Smithland Road in Kelso toll free at 877-ELKCANOE or 931-937-6886. Visit them online at www.elkrivercanoes.com.
Trout Fishing – The Elk River tailwaters hold lots of trout. According to fly fishing outfitter Rhonda Page, “the Elk River below Tim’s Ford Dam is stocked with rainbow, brooks and brown trout annually. Stocking occurs during March thru December, and there are holdover fish there.”
Rhonda and Tim Page, owners of Tim’s Flies and Lies Outfitters, specialize in fly fishing on the Elk and Duck rivers. Rhonda works with several area guides to place her clients in the best of the trout waters she knows so well.
The easiest public access is below the bridge at Tim’s Ford Dam on Highway 50 between Lynchburg and Winchester.
Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery stocks most of the fish, though there is also an occasional stocking from the Flintville State Hatchery. Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) manages the flow from the reservoir into the river. The water immediately in front of the dam is quiet when there is no generation from the dam and an excellent place to fly fish for trout or cast for catfish.
When the water is flowing from the Tennessee Valley Authority generators, trout move upstream to take advantage of forage coming through the dam. The side arms become full of water with stripe, catfish, bass, gar, carp and others moving into forage.
For floating or wading, Page advises visiting the TVA website at www.tva.gov/Environment/Recreation/Recreation-Release-Schedules or the Tennessee Valley Authority app to make sure conditions are safe.
The Pages can be contacted anytime for up-to-date information on water safety levels. Find them at Tim’s Flies & Lies Outfitters, 384 Flowertown Road, in Normandy. Call 931-759-5058 or 931-607-3645. or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picnicking – Find yourself a nice spot on the bank of the river to enjoy a shore lunch. An old-time favorite ritual is to fish in the morning and eat your catch in the afternoon. Bring charcoal, a fire grate and a cooler packed with all the fixings you’ll need to complete the meal. On this page, you will also find a simple recipe for a fantastic summertime lunch over an open fire.