The Tellico River rises in the Unicoi Range of mountains near the Tennessee - North Carolina state line. As the river flows west, it is joined by its major tributaries the Bald River and the North River. The river meanders through a mountain gorge before reaching the broad fertile plains of Tellico Plains in Monroe County. It is a tributary of the Little Tennessee River. The Tellico Dam impounds the lower reaches of the Tellico River and Little Tennessee River into the Tellico Reservoir, locally known as Tellico Lake.
The present-day Tellico River Road (FS210), a turn off the south side of the Cherohala Skyway just east of Osterneck overlook, was built on the old logging railroad bed, and winds closely along the shore of the Tellico River. The historic Tellico District Ranger Station, built as a Civilian Conservation Corps project, is on this road. At Pheasant Field fish rearing pools you can view the trout being raised for stocking the river.
Tellico Plains is the nearest community to the headwaters of the Tellico River. Nearly 30,000 acres of remote backcountry surround the river corridors.The upper Tellico River is especially popular with kayakers for class III-IV whitewater when the water levels rise in the spring. For others, the river provides opportunities for sightseeing, picnicking, swimming, fishing, hiking, backpacking, wildlife viewing and hunting. Below the bridge at Ballplay Road (Hwy 360), the Tellico River is ideal for canoes and tubing.
The Tellico River is nationally recognized as a premiere trout stream, renowned for brook, brown, and rainbow trout. Trout habitat requirements include water temperatures below 68 degrees, heavy oxygenation and clean, clear water, and these conditions prevail in the Tellico River corridor. Bald River and North River, tributaries of the Tellico, are managed as wild trout streams with brown, rainbow and brook trout. These wild trout streams usually lack large individuals, but some brown trout as large as 10 pounds have been caught in the North River. The TWRA stocks trout in Tellico River, Citico Creek, and Green Cove Pond from March through August. Fishermen here enjoy unspoiled wilderness settings and, more often than not, no company from other fishermen. Green Cove Pond is specially reserved for handicapped individuals, children, and seniors. Bass, drum, crappie, carp, bluegill, walleye, muskellunge, and catfish are also found in local waters.
The beautiful Tellico River is pictured above from an original painting by local Tellico Plains artist Judy Lavoie. To the right is Bald River Falls, also from an original Judy Lavoie painting. Both paintings are available as giclees prints on canvas or paper, and also as note cards from:
Tellico Kats Deli (on the Skyway)
Coker Creek Heritage Welcome Center
The painting of Bald River Falls was created during the severe drought of Fall of 2007. The Tellico River painting shows the falls near the entrance of the National Forest (begining of the Skyway).
The Bald River is a major tributary of Tellico River. Just before it empties into the Tellico RIver, Bald River runs over a large waterfall, Bald River Falls (pictured above and to the right), reported to be from 80-100 feet tall. The falls are easily visible from a bridge across the river, on the scenic Tellico River Road (FS210), at about 6 miles from its start off the Cherohala Skyway. The falls are considered to be the most impressive and scenic waterfall in East Tennessee. The Bald River is short and powerful, flowing through a steep densely wooded valley and replenished by the area's rains. At the falls, the waters plummet over huge grey rocks, into a round pool at the base, popular for swimming. The Bald River Falls Trail can be reached above the Falls, and follows the Bald River through deciduous forest and over numerous embankments and cascades along the river. It is 5.6 miles to its end on FS126, and is rated as a moderate hike. The Bald River and 3721 acres of its watershed are part of the Bald River Gorge Wilderness, designated as a wilderness area by the US Forest Service.