The Hiwassee River has its headwaters on the north slope of Rocky Mountain in Towns County in northern Georgia (as the Hiawassee River) and flows northward into North Carolina (there assuming its more common moniker Hiwassee) before turning westward into Tennessee, flowing into the Tennessee River a few miles west of State Route 58 in Meigs County, Tennessee.
The river is dammed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in three locations, all in western North Carolina. Chatuge Dam, Hiwassee Dam, and Apalachia Dam were all built in the 1940s. Water is diverted from the streambed at Apalachia Dam and sent through a pipeline which is tunneled through the mountains for eight miles (13 km), then gravity-fed through the Apalachia Powerhouse near Reliance to generate electricity. The stretch of the river that flows between Apalachia Dam and Apalachia Powerhouse features reduced flow and is shadowed by the John Muir Trail in Tennessee's Cherokee National Forest.
The 23-mile (37 km) stretch of river that flows from the North Carolina/Tennessee state line to U.S. Highway 411 near Delano is designated a Class III Partially Developed River and for recreational purposes is managed by the Tennessee State Park System as a scenic river, in cooperation with TVA. The river features Class I-Class III rapids, depending on water levels. Trout fishing is very popular along this stretch, and many outfitters are located near the river.
After exiting the mountains through a gorge, the Hiwassee flows under US-411 and broadens, meandering through rural Polk and Bradley counties. The river crosses under U.S. Highway 11 at Calhoun and Charleston, Tennessee, where local industries such as Bowater Newsprint Mill and Arch/Olin Chemical use river water in their operations. At this point the river interfaces with the impoundment of Chickamauga Dam (located in Chattanooga, Tennessee), and many marshes and wetlands surround the main channel, providing many areas for hunting and fishing. The Hiwassee passes under Interstate 75 on the border of McMinn and Bradley counties
The Hiwassee continues westward to pass under TN-58's historic and narrow bridge on its way to the confluence with the Tennessee River a few miles further on. This area of the river is enjoyed by boaters, fishermen, and water skiers.
Major tributaries include Valley River, Nottely River, Coker Creek, Big Lost Creek, Spring Creek, Conasauga Creek, and Ocoee River.
Weather you are a novice or an experienced angler, the Hiwassee river provides you with opportunities to catch fish and challenge your abilities. When the power generators at Smith Creek Powerhouse are off, hundreds of pools, runs, lanes and holes are revealed where trout take flies, spinners and spoons. Up to 12 miles of river can be accessed on foot.