Enjoy the Elk River at Tims Ford Dam
If you like the outdoors and water, I strongly suggest you wet a hook, your paddle or your tootsies in the Elk River. Last Sunday, wow! Clouds and cooler weather made a trout fishing trip below Tims Ford Dam a tremendous pleasure. Along with landing four rainbows and one brown for supper, it was blissful at this pretty spot.
It took a little more than two hours to drive from our home near Leipers Fork to the dam on the Elk River about 10 miles west of Winchester. We were surprised when we saw how few anglers were plying the waters for trout. In fact, there were more canoes and kayaks than anglers.
There is paved parking under Hwy. 50 bridge and a short concrete path wide enough for vehicles leads to the Elk’s rocky beach where you can launch your canoe, kayak or john boat, but there is no ramp. High rock banks near the dam give way to fishable banks and gravel bars near the bridge. Bank anglers have excellent access. During non-generation periods, many anglers wade in the river.
The dam issues enough cold water from the bottom of Tims Ford Lake to keep trout happy with their habitat and good fishing year-round.
Cathy and I launched her canoe, Wave Dancer, after talking with anglers about how the fish were biting (most were using nightcrawlers successfully).
Satisfied that our chances of catching supper were pretty good, we paddled upstream. There was a fairly strong current under the bridge where the river is constricted. When we got to an area where the water was calm, we baited our number 12 salmon egg hooks with Power Eggs (a scent impregnated, biodegradable, plastic-like egg) and waited.
The Elk River runs about 220 miles from its headwaters to its mouth with 180 miles of the stream in Tennessee. It enters Alabama due south of Pulaski. Tims Ford Dam is at river-mile 133, leaving close to 100 miles of river between the dam and Alabama. The Elk is shallow with a rock-gravel bottom about 50 feet wide with gravel bars and intermittent deep pools. There are 20 bridges with varying ease of access along this 100-mile section.
It’s about 40 miles downstream to Fayetteville from the dam and the Elk broadens to about 65 feet but is still a peaceful stream with easy Class I canoeing. By the time it passes Elkton, 40 river miles downstream, the Elk is a few feet wider but remains gentle. The entire route is scenic with beautiful changes from high steep, rocky bluffs to flat, tilled lowlands, and tree lined banks. It is about 20 miles from Elkton to Alabama.
Canoeing or kayaking allows paddlers a quiet passage through scenic woodland and many opportunities to view wildlife including water birds, song birds, muskrats, turtles, turkeys, deer and other critters. Fishing isn’t limited to rainbow and brown trout, which are mostly found in the 11 miles below the dam but have been caught as far downstream as Fayetteville. The Elk is also known for its sporting smallmouth bass. Bream, catfish and walleye live in these waters too but the river gets little fishing pressure.
Two canoe liveries are near the community of Kelso: Elk River Canoe Rental (www.elkrivercanoes.com/trips) offers 11 trips varying from 2.5 miles to 44 miles that take about an hour up to four days. They offer river-side camping. Kelso Canoe Rental (www.kelsocanoe.com) offers four drop-off sites and primitive camp sites at their headquarters. Click here to learn about the state park and its amenities.