Stretching from North Carolina to East Tennessee, the Pigeon River runs 70 miles from its mouth at the French Broad River, to its discharge location in Newport, Tennessee. The river is impounded by the Walters Hydroelectric Dam in Haywood, NC, and flows through the Great Smoky National Park and into Tennessee. The Pigeon River also flows through Pisgah National Forest and Cherokee National Forest. The many feeders, prongs, and streams that flow down from the mountains converge to form one of the most fun and action-filled rivers in the Smokies.
Due to the many national forests and parks through which the river flows (Pisgah National Forest, Cherokee National Forest, and Great Smoky Mountain National Park), much of the river remains untouched, and therefore it is largely unpolluted. The Upper and Lower Pigeon, located in Hartford Tennessee, are the premier spots for recreational activities such as whitewater rafting and tubing. The upper section of the river contains the more extreme class III-IV rapids, while the lower section contains the more mild class I-II rapids. Because the river is dam controlled, the river maintains good water levels throughout the entire rafting season.
Rafting isn’t the only activity that can be enjoyed on the Pigeon. Fishing is a prime outdoor pastime, and the premier times to fish the Pigeon River are between May 1st and October 1st. Anglers who fish the Pigeon will have the opportunity to experience some of the finest fishing in Tennessee. The Pigeon offers a wide variety of fish that includes rainbow trout, brook trout, smallmouth bass, and panfish. Fishing is permitted in most places throughout the cities of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, including vast areas up and downstream of the towns. If you choose to fish in Pigeon Forge, the Greenway will give you access to multiple prime fishing spots along the river.
Note: You must have a valid and current Tennessee fishing license to fish anywhere along the Pigeon River. A license is easily obtained from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, and seasonal limits on certain species must be adhered to.
The Pigeon River provides fun for outdoor enthusiasts from all over the world. The world-class rapids and well-stocked fishing grounds make it one of the most desirable stops in the Smoky Mountains. Whether you are planning a vacation, or simply wanting to spend some quality time outdoors, the Pigeon River should be on your to-do list this summer!