This map details the route of the new blueway trail along the Hiwassee River. (Image: Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association)

The Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association will celebrate National Trails Day on Saturday, June 1 by kicking off the national blueway designation process for nearly 70 miles of the Hiwassee River. 

If you go 

What: Hiwassee River Blueway Trail kickoff festivities

When: Saturday, June 1, announcement at 10 a.m. and organized paddles at 10:45 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.

Where: Public access parking lot near Hiwassee Outfitters on Ellis Creek Road (take SR 30 off of U.S. Highway 411) in Reliance, Tenn.

RSVP: parchamb@sedev.org or 423-424-4266

For more information: Click here

“The Hiwassee River Blueway Trail designation will help preserve and protect a navigable water trail for canoe, kayak and paddleboat enthusiasts on the Hiwassee River,” said Paul Archambault, director of the Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association, which is leading the blueway designation effort.

According to Archambault, national blueways are officially designated by the secretary of the interior and managed locally by a local, state, federal or nonprofit group. The designation formalizes the water trail and provides a management plan, which includes information like access points; campsites/trailside facilities; and points of interest for canoeists, kayakers, watercraft users, fishermen and others. Blueways are intended to help encourage family recreation, education, conservation and preservation of natural resources.

“The beauty of a blueway is that nothing really has to be done to create it—the river is already there naturally, so no paving or development has to take place,” Archambault said.

Tennessee is already home to a number of blueways: the Tennessee River Blueway in Chattanooga from Chickamauga Dam to Nickajack Dam, the French Broad Blueway in the Knoxville/Jefferson County area, the Duck River Blueway, the Harpeth River Blueway near Nashville and the Pellissippi Blueway near Oak Ridge.

The proposed Hiwassee River Blueway Trail begins upriver from the historic district of Reliance in the Cherokee National Forest, an area recognized for some of the best trout fishing in the eastern U.S. (Photo: Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association)

The Hiwassee River is known for its exceptional setting for whitewater canoeing and rafting. Based on the International Scale of River Difficulty, the Hiwassee River is primarily Class I (moving water with small waves and few obstructions) and Class II (easy rapids with wide, clear channels and some maneuvering required). Certain sections may be considered Class III (rapids with high waves capable of swamping an open canoe, which require complex maneuvering).

The proposed Hiwassee River Blueway Trail begins upriver from the historic district of Reliance in the Cherokee National Forest, an area recognized for some of the best trout fishing in the eastern U.S. From there, the trail winds its way toward the Tennessee River, ending at the Hiwassee River Wildlife Refuge Area at Blythe Ferry.

From the Cherokee National Forest, the trail winds its way toward the Tennessee River, ending at the Hiwassee River Wildlife Refuge Area at Blythe Ferry. (Photo: Southeast Tennessee Tourism Association)

Paddlers can choose from either a two- or three-hour paddling excursion or an eight- to nine-hour paddling excursion along undeveloped shoreline and pastoral farmland that features numerous historical sites, such as the Reliance Church, Webb’s Farm and the Cherokee Removal Memorial Park at Blythe Ferry.

The Hiwassee River Blueway Trail kickoff event will take place June 1 at the public access parking lot near Hiwassee Outfitters on Ellis Creek Road (take SR 30 off of U.S. Highway 411) in Reliance, Tenn. Tourism officials will make a brief announcement at 10 a.m. EDT about efforts to designate the Hiwassee River as an official blueway. Visitors can enjoy informational booths about recreation, conservation and preservation. Two five-mile organized paddles on Class I and Class II rapids on the Hiwassee River will launch out at 10:45 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. EDT. Rafts, tubes and funyaks will also be available for rent.

For more information, click here.

Jenni Frankenberg Veal is a freelance writer and naturalist living on Walden’s Ridge. She enjoys writing about the natural world and exploration opportunities found within the southeastern United States, one of the most biologically and recreationally rich regions on Earth. Visit her blog at www.YourOutdoorFamily.com.