The Pigeon River originates in North Carolina and flows in a northwesterly direction before emptying into the French Broad River near river mile 73.8. The river has a drainage area of approximately 689 sq. miles at its confluence with the French Broad River and flows through a mountainous terrain with interspersed communities and small farms. In Tennessee, the Pigeon River flows approximately 22 miles through Cocke County before joining the French Broad River near Newport. Public access along the river is primarily limited to bridge crossings and small “pull-outs” along roads paralleling the river. There are a few primitive launching areas for canoes or small boats.
The Pigeon River provides anglers with the opportunity to catch all species of black bass as well as rock bass. It is best known for its “trophy” status smallmouth bass fishery. Special regulations apply to the Pigeon River from its confluence with the French Broad River upstream to the North Carolina state line. Only one smallmouth bass per day, with a minimum length of 20 inches can be harvested.
Over the last 20 years the Pigeon River water quality has been steadily improving, primarily as the result of improved wastewater treatment at the Champion Paper Mill in Canton, North Carolina. The improved water quality has undoubtedly had an affect on the amount of recreation that is currently taking place, particularly whitewater rafting. It has also resulted in the return of a few fish species previously not found in the river. More recently, a multi-agency (including TWRA, TDEC, TVA, UT, and others) approach has resulted in the initiation of an intensive recovery effort focused on reintroductions of native fish species. The continuation of improvements to the water quality of the Pigeon River will in all likelihood have dramatic impacts on the use of the river in the future.
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