For over 100 years, myths and legends have flourished along the banks of the Tennessee River of monstrous creatures that live in their muddy depths. Even as a child, my father and grandfather would tell me stories of giant monsters that lived in or near the waters we fished. Many times we would camp on the banks of the river and I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking I saw some strange creature lurking outside my tent. Where their stories and others like them originated nobody knows for sure. Maybe the tales grew a life by the campfire with the stars overhead and under the influence of Tennessee moonshine or maybe they are real-life experiences that really occurred one mysterious night. Regardless, they live on from generation to generation. In the 1800s, tales of river monsters abounded throughout the river system, including a legend in which anyone spotting the creature was cursed. In the mid-1900s, the most popular legendary river creature became “catzilla,” a species of catfish. There are some reported photos of monster catfish over 500 pounds during the 1900’s that seem to back up these claims.
As a professional fishing guide and tour guide, I am often asked what actually lives underneath the surface or prowls the banks of the river. Are there monsters in our midst? I don’t really know, but if I did who am I to debunk these stories or to extinguish old wise tales? The most common story told is that a dam repair man goes down to check for cracks in the dam. He sees a gigantic catfish that could swallow a Volkswagen Bug whole. He comes up from the murky depths of the lake and never is a dam repair man again. Now the stories go beyond just gigantic fish. According to sightings and unexplained bipedal prints; Bigfoots and hairy hominids now lurk around the waterways in Tennessee. Whether a myth or just a wild goose tale who knows but in May of 2014, The Animal Planet TV Show filmed Season 7 Episode 1 of Finding Bigfoot. That particular episode is still one of the highest rated watched shows in the world. “BoBo” from the Finding Bigfoot crew says that east Tennessee is full of Sasquatches. I personally haven’t seen one but as a child I did see things to this day I can’t really explain. When drifting down the banks of the river I will often tell clients that the noises they just heard where those of a lurking bigfoot. The adults and kids alike love it and talk about big creatures and the noises for hours.
Regardless of whether you believe in volkswagon size fish or upright bipedal monsters, Tennessee has a lot to offer to anyone’s imagination. The Tennessee River, covering more than 650 miles in the south ranks at the top of most catfish & striper anglers “Bucket List”. The largest catfish ever recorded in Tennessee was well over 110 pounds and the largest Striper came in over 64 pounds. There are monster fish here and just waiting for you to lower a rope with a tantalizing piece of bait. Check out my guide service “Tennessee River Monsters” if your interested in you angling or just want to go out for a unforgettable boat ride. Lined with sycamores and silver maple trees, the Tennessee and Clinch rivers have such a diversity of wildlife to include bears, bald eagles and deer. Exploring these waters whether by canoe or boat provide some of the most breathtaking views in the world. Some of my greatest memories are days of floating down the Clinch river and watching bald eagles soaring overhead and deer as they wade the river while I teased a rainbow trout with my homemade fly. Many of the marinas such as Caney Creek Marine and Norris Lake Marina provide boat rentals for those who want to do “Do it yourself Trips”.
Each year thousands of people come here to fish or to take a vacation from all over the world. There is so many different things to do while in Tennessee from historical landmarks to theme parks. The Great Smokey Mountain National Park straddles the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. The breath-taking landscape encompasses millions of acres of forests and an abundance of wildflowers that bloom year-round. I have spent countless hours hiking the trails and taking photos of bear and deer in Cades Cove. Pack your picnic basket and enjoy numerous hiking trails and waterfalls throughout the park. The Museum of Appalachia, located in Norris, Tennessee, is a living history museum that interprets the pioneer and early 20th-century period of the Southern Appalachian region of the United States. My first job out of high school was with the museum as a sheep shearer. To this day; sheep shearing continues to be a mainstay of the annual October festival.
One of my favorite attractions is Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I go a couple times a year and it is literally teeming with life to include over 10,000 exotic sea creatures. There are more fish in this aquarium than there are people living in the entire town of Gatlinburg. This unique experience takes you into Touch-A-Ray Bay where you will get in the water with stingrays. Sleeping Sharks? Find out for yourself when you spend the night at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. After a fun-filled night including a dive show, scavenger hunt and late night activity, drift off to sleep while sharks keep a watchful eye on you!
Other area attractions include the Oak Ridge Atomic Museum of Science & Energy, Dollywood Theme Park and Splash Country. World-famous Big Ed’s Pizza in Oak Ridge is a must-eat location as well as Calhoun’s BBQ on the river. I recommend Oak Ridge, Lenoir City, Kingston and Harriman as motel destinations with plenty of places to eat and not far from numerous boat ramps; such as Caney Creek Marina, Ladd Landing, Concord Marina and Tom Wheeler Park.
East Tennessee and the Tennessee River system is a Can’t-Miss destination for anyone. Feel free to call Captain Scott Manning (865) 680-7672 for information ranging from boat rides to guided fishing opportunities. Bring the kids; this is one of the most beautiful places in the world. You never know what may be lurking beneath the murky waters in Tennessee. Between the beautiful scenery, fascinating history, and world-class fishing, Tennessee is a experience you will not want to miss.
Tennessee River Monsters
Captain Scott Manning (865) 680-7672
Norris Dam Marina-Boat rentals
Corey Roberts Manager
Phone: (865) 250-2876
Caney Creek Marina