The Locust Fork River is ready to give its “all” to the citizens of Blount County. It is a jewel and very significant in your quality of life. It needs to be treated with respect for us to continue to get the most benefit and pleasure. We cannot take it for granted or we will lose it (a healthy river).
The Locust Fork River, with its plant and animal habitat, diverse ecosystem, sport fishing, and recreational opportunities, is in the top 2 percent of the nation’s free flowing rivers with “outstanding remarkable values” according to the National Park Service’s Nationwide Rivers Inventory. It is free-flowing for its entire 160 mile length. No dams! The river was chosen to be dammed not that long ago, but Blount County citizens did not want to see the county’s jewel turned into a limited access drinking water reservoir, especially when the impounded water was not even needed by the state.
During the dog days of summer when the river is low and slow, it is perfect for an easy tube float or just a lazy day on the river. Swann Covered Bridge is an ideal place for a Sunday afternoon picnic. Since the Locust Fork is hailed as a great sport fishing river, grabbing a cane pole and a coffee can full of red worms may be the best R&R idea of the summer. You may even witness a Sunday afternoon baptism in the river while you are watching that bobber bob away your blues.
The Locust Fork has plenty of flat water for recreation, but it also has some fast moving water filled with challenging rapids for those that have kayaking and canoeing experience. Paddlers that excel in that sport come from all over the southeast to paddle the premiere “white water” section below the highway 79/231 bridge in Cleveland.
There will soon be another attraction to our river. Your county commission has begun construction of a scenic overlook at the old highway 79/231 bridge. It will be a destination attraction in Blount County (like Palisades Park) and preserve public access to the river. Please thank our commissioners for having the foresight to utilize the old bridge rather than tear it down.
The beautiful Locust Fork River has a lot to give us and out-of-county visitors that make a day trip to enjoy its offerings. With that being said, your river has problems. Some are naturally occurring and a huge challenge to solve, but we can have an affect NOW on other problems in the Locust Fork River watershed. In future columns of Out and About, we’ll talk about how protecting the “watershed” protects YOUR RIVER.