Paddling and fishing bring many people to the Obed Wild & Scenic River. The Obed River and its two main tributaries, Clear Creek and Daddys Creek, cut into the Cumberland Plateau of east Tennessee, creating deep gorges and producing some of the best whitewater in the Southeast. Forty-five miles of streams within the park are available for fishing and paddling. There are also hiking trails and sheer cliffs and boulders for rock climbing — it's a mecca for adventure! The few bridges that cross the river provide limited access. The river gorge is seasonally home to more than 100 species of birds, as well as bobcats, beavers, raccoons, minks, otters and white-tailed deer. Stop by the visitor center in Wartburg for more info.
Fishing: Fishing opportunities are plentiful at the Obed Wild and Scenic River. Anglers along the river go after bass, bluegill, catfish or muskellunge, better known as the "musky" or "jackfish".
Paddling: For paddlers, the river includes three different difficulty classifications II-IV, making it one of the best whitewater paddling rivers in the eastern United States. There are no commercial outfitters operating on the Obed, so only experienced boaters should venture here. The cold, rainy season between December and April is when the rivers are high enough for white-water trips. At that time, streams have nearly continuous rapids and dangerous currents. Paddling this kind of water requires experience, skill and careful planning. The Obed River's maximum flow in cubic feet per second can reach a level of 100,000 CFS after periods of heavy rain. For paddlers, the optimum flow ranges from 2500-3000 CFS.
Trails at the Obed Wild and Scenic River National Park range from short and easy to moderate longer stretches. One of the most popular short and easy trails, ventures over to the Lilly Bluff Overlook where you'll often find rock climbers bouldering the large house size boulders. Another popular hike is the self-guided Emory River Nature Trail. Be sure and pick up an interpretive brochure at the trailhead. The longer Point Trail winds through the thick forest before traversing along the ridge where overlooks present themselves on both sides of the trail. Day hikers and backpackers will want to explore the linear 14.2 mile trail section of the Cumberland Trail. Starting at the Rock Creek Campground the trail winds over to the Devil's Breakfast Table, on its way passing through rugged terrain with numerous overlooks of the river canyon. Note that large portions of this section of trail are within the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area and therefore are subject to periodic closures — check the hunt schedule before your hike or call the numbers listed below.
obed WSR Trails
LILLY BLUFF OVERLOOK TRAIL: A 0.3 mile one-way hike ends at the dual overlook platforms which present commanding views of Clear Creek Canyon's sheer sandstone walls towering over the flowing river below.
EMORY RIVER NATURE TRAIL: This self-guided interpretive trail features a 0.7 mile loop beginning at the Rock Creek Campground that provides an introduction to the cultural and natural resources of the Obed Wild and Scenic River. An interpretive brochure is available at the trailhead.
THE POINT TRAIL: This longer, more moderate trail has a round trip length of 3.8 miles winding through a hemlock forest with profuse green walls of laurel and rhododendron. The trail culminates on the narrow, exposed ridge that separates the Obed River and Clear Creek River before their confluence. Sections along the ridge allow for fantastic views on both sides. Along this exposed ridge, if you look closely, you might catch a glimpse of rock climbers on the distant sheer cliffs. There are many rock ledges where you can enjoy a picnic lunch or just take a moment to take in the views. The most popular viewpoint is through the arch rock on the right side of the trail approaching the trail's terminus.
CUMBERLAND TRAIL SEGMENT
NEMO BRIDGE TRAIL: This 14.2 mile one-way section of trail follows rugged terrain beginning at the Nemo trailhead, utilizing a 2.6 mile section of the Obed's Trails. The first 2.5 miles of trail are rated moderate with the next 2.5 as strenuous. The trail then extends an additional 10.5 miles to the Devil's Breakfast Trailhead. Future plans are underway to add another 4.0 miles. The trail glimpses rising bluffs and sections of the Emory and Obed Rivers. Along the hike to the top of the gorge there are the tailings of an old strip mine. Catch a stunning view of the Obed Gorge from the overlook atop the Break Bluff.
DEVIL'S BREAKFAST TABLE TRAIL: This 8.0 mile one-way section currently terminates deep inside Catoosa WMA at the end of the abandoned dinky rail line. From the trailhead, the trail travels on the right side of the road for 0.2 mile miles, crosses the road and dips down below the bluff into the Daddy's Creek Gorge with its lush rhododendron. The next mile will take you under sheer bluffs crossing many rock steps, hence the significance of the trail's nickname, "a trail of a thousand steps." Rising out of the canyon at 1.2 miles, you'll hike through an Appalachian cove forest that overlooks a ninety-foot sheer bluff cut by the cascading stream you'll be crossing. A side trail, Blueberry Bluff, presents views of Daddy's gorge — along, of course, with some blueberries during season. The main trail continues north 0.75 miles. Here you can take a side trail to Morgan's Overlook for views of Daddy's to the north. Back on the main trail, it will be another 0.4 miles to the Rain House, so named for the shelter that it gave to the builders of this trail on many a rainy day. Then the trail works down into the gorge of Daddy's Creek as it winds its way steadily north to join the Obed River and connect with the Nemo Bridge Trail.
Hunting: Sections on the Cumberland Trail Section close in the Catoosa WMA during big game hunts and during February and March. The 2.6 mile portion of the Nemo Bridge Trail is open year-round. For more information and to check on current closures, call Catoosa WMA 800-262-6704 or Obed WSR 423-346-6294.
According to geologists, the sandstone at the Obed Wild and Scenic River was carved and formed by the tumbling water of the Obed River and its tributary river systems nearly 200 million years ago. All of that pressure, erosion and friction has resulted in miles of sandstone cliff-line up 300 feet tall; the cliffs are covered in beautiful orange, blue, and gray streaks and seem to have been custom-made for climbers. The rock is bullet hard, with every imaginable feature from solution pockets and crack systems to gigantic ledges and tiered roofs. It is largely these roof systems that make this place so special to climbers. They provide shade and keep many of the routes dry, allowing for climbing in every season. Many of the roofs overhang as much as or more than they ascend, and it is here that many climbers test their abilities, push their limits and have a whole lot of fun with friends. But the Obed is not limited to wildly gymnastic, overhanging endurance climbs. There is an excellent mix of intermediate and advanced routes that are great for learning new techniques, practicing skill sets and finding a perfect challenge. Introductory routes can be found for newer climbers who are versed in the basic techniques of roped lead climbing, and beginning climbers can hire a professional guide to give them a tour and help ensure a safe and enjoyable outing.
Lilly Bridge Buttress: Lilly is very popular during the warmer months of the year. The majority of the cliff remains in the shade all day, and the short (less than 5 minute) approach makes it easy to access and a popular meeting place. The Lilly buttress hosts climbs that are typically shorter than other areas in the Obed, but contains a long list of classic face climbs, overhangs, and even some 20+ foot jug infested horizontal roof routes. The swimming hole below the bridge offers climbers a great place to hang after a hard day climbing.
Lilly Boulder Field: Accessed via a small well-marked trail from the overlook, the boulder field provides the highest concentration of bouldering in the Obed. With mostly flat landings and a great trail system, it is easy to find your way around. The problems range from entry-level V0’s to micro-crimping V12 madness. There are even some unfinished problems waiting for a first ascent. While a pad is not absolutely necessary on all of the problems, they are recommended for some of the highballs and corridor climbs.
Little Clear Creek: This small, hidden cliff lies on the north side of Little Clear, which is a small side creek that flows into Clear Creek. There is a small collection of short, high quality 11's and 12's.
North Clear Creek: North Clear is far less trafficked than its southern counterpart. This is largely due to the lack of moderate routes. The majority of the bolted climbs at North Clear are of the harder variety and quite a few of them are amazing! This area also holds the largest collection of classic traditional climbs in the Obed. So, if you’re looking to escape the crowds or plug some gear, but don’t want a long approach, North Clear is probably your best bet. A seventy-meter rope is required to reach the ground on some of the routes, and is highly recommended.
South Clear Creek: Probably the most popular climbing area at the Obed, South Clear Creek is lined from end to end with classic climbs that will have you begging for more. This area includes many great walls, including the Stephen King Library with its 40-foot horizontal roof, the Solstice Cave, the Image Wall and the Outer Circle. While some of the routes may have lines on a busy weekend, after you see them, you’ll understand why. Please be sure to donate $1 per person at the parking lot; our hike in would be much longer with out the generosity of the land-owner.
The Obed and the Tieranny Wall: Tierrany wall is directly South-facing and receives sun all day. Because of this, you can often climb in a T-shirt in the middle of winter. On the flip side of that, this crag often become a blazing hot-box in the summer and should not be explored with out plenty of water (bring twice what you’re thinking). The Tierrany wall is largely what put the Obed on the map and is home to many of the Obed’s first bolted hard routes. The routes here stay dry even during massive storms, and range from 5.10a to 13+. While there is not a concentration of great moderates in this sector, fun can be had for solid 5.10+ leaders. The majority of the routes ascend long just-off-vertical faces to the base of the roof system. From here, they bust out the amazing 45-degree tiered roof system on horizontals and edges to the lip of this massive cave. The savvy climber will be on constant look out for hand-jams, heel and toe hooks and knee bars to fend off the pump on the way to the chains. Stick clips and a minimum 60 meter rope are recommended. Travelling to climbers left (upstream) from Tierrany, climbers will find another mile of incredible sunny climbing. The Jones Buttress, Psycho Wall, Underground, many Ledges, Fort Sandstone and West Obed afford an opportunity to escape the crowds and climb in a beautiful peaceful atmosphere. In these areas, you will definitely see and experience the “wild and scenic” nature of the Obed. With pristine views across the river into Catoosa, amazing rock quality and many super classic, yet rarely travelled routes, you will find a new definition of Shangri-La.
Y-12: Named for one of Oak Ridge's nuclear reactors, the routes at Y-12 will have your forearms going into meltdown. This crag goes into the shade after 12:00 noon in the summer, giving you just enough time for a traditional southern “alpine start.” Don’t miss out on the routes just right of the down-climb, or the 5.11 warm-ups past the tapeworm ledge. The main wall holds an excellent selection of 5.12’s and one of the best and longest 5.13’s at the Obed, “Born on the 4th of July."
Park Size: 500+ acres
Natural Trails: 27 miles
River Miles: 45 miles
Entrance: Visitors Center
208 Maiden St, Wartburg
Directions: Take I-40 to Pellissippi Parkway exit #376 towards Oak Ridge. After 6.4 miles continue on TN-62/Oak Ridge Hwy. Go another 11.8 miles and turn right to remain on TN-62. Travel 15.6 miles and turn right on US-27 N into Wartburg. After 0.6 mile, make a left onto Kingston Street, then follow the brown Obed road signs to the Visitor Center on N Maiden Street.