The Clinch River is the crown of the mountain empire flowing southwestward from its origin near the town of Tazewell, the Clinch travels some 135 miles, reaching portions of Tazewell, Russell, Wise, and Scott counties on its way to the Tennessee state line. In a cast of Virginia rivers that portray history and natural wealth, the Clinch has a story and a character all its own.
The Clinch River, which was named after on otherwise forgotten explorer, played a major role in the exploration and settlement of Southwest Virginia. Many early settlers made their homes along its eastern shore, while other crossed the formidable flow and explored the wilderness beyond its banks. Probably the most famous explorer to pace the banks of the Clinch and challenge its currents was Daniel Boone. Boone resided for some time near Castlewood, and negotiated the river during his many trips through Southwest Virginia. Today, towns and settlements along its course bear names which are evidence of their historical roles. Places like Blackford, Nash's Ford, Fort Blackmore, and Speer's Ferry are a few examples.
Although the landscapes have changed along the Clinch, the rugged and unique river still remains. The river does show signs of human alteration, however. To prevent flooding in the town of Saint Paul, the river was re-routed around the town. Observant floaters will note that the present river channel around the south side of Saint Paul was blasted out of solid rock. Two major fish kills have occurred in the last 30 years. These fish kills were the result of toxic spills that originated near Carbo. The river has recovered admirably from the fish kills of the past, and an incredible diversity of life is now present in and around the river.
The Clinch supports a unique assemblage of aquatic life. The river is home to about 50 species of mussels, which is more than any other river in the world and over 100 species are non-game fish - minnows and darters that sport brilliant colors and play a vital role in the survival of other fish and mussel species. But, the variety of sport fish is what makes the Clinch a great destination for anglers.
The Clinch River has a lot to offer those who want to escape the familiar and explore the life of a river. Whether you come to experience the fishing, or just to view the spectacular scenery, please keep safety in mind. Be sure that you are aware of your boat's and your own limitations. Before floating an unfamiliar stretch of river, boaters are advised to use a topographic map to look for ledges and falls. Remember, discretion is the better part of valor. Wear your life jacket, and if you think you might have trouble negotiating a piece of water, portage your boat and equipment around the obstruction. Some of the access points noted on the map are informal sites that have traditionally been used by anglers and floaters. To ensure that these sites are available for future use, respect all property. Please refrain from littering, and do not block roads or gates.