Abstract: Meadow Branch is a tributary stream to North River in the Cherokee National Forest (Big Junction Quad Map). It has stretches that are difficult to access but also an area that is easily accessed. The difficult stretches do not have a trail associated with them. Brook trout dominate the entire stream but rainbow trout are present in the lowest stretch. Meadow Branch is a beautiful stream that requires some climbing in a remote setting but also an area that is right beside the road.
Meadow Branch is a tributary stream to North River/Tellico River/Little Tennessee River in the Cherokee National Forest (Big Junction Quad Map). It combines with Sugar Cove Branch (Stream of the Month – June, 2006) to form the North River. Its headwaters, on Roaring Branch (Stream of the Month – July, 2006), are over 5000 feet in elevation with the highest area being Little Haw Knob (5130 feet). This stream is both remote and easily accessed. In fact, parts of it are the most accessible brook trout water on the south end of the Forest.
The stream combines with Sugar Cove to form the North River at about 2300 feet. From its confluence with Sugar Cove upstream for about one quarter mile, Meadow Branch has a boulder and gravel stream bottom. Above this stretch, the stream becomes a series of waterfalls and bedrock slides. Deep pools occur at the base of each waterfall. These waterfalls continue for about 1.25 miles to where Roaring Branch comes in and the road gets close to Meadow Branch. The third reach, above the Roaring Branch confluence, is a series of plunge pools with boulders and gravels. It runs right beside the road for about 1.4 mile before becoming too small for trout (3700 feet at the road culvert). The entire 2.9 miles is fishable but each section is different. The lowest reach contains both rainbow and brook trout and is fairly easy to negotiate; the second reach, with its many waterfalls is very difficult; and the third reach is very easy – you can almost fish from your car! The average gradient is 9% but this is deceptive because the first and third reaches average about 8% each while the middle reach is about 11%. In the first and second reaches, Meadow Branch is 15 to 20 feet wide; some pools are up to 6 feet deep. The third section is smaller (usually less than 15 feet wide) with shallow pools.
Meadow Branch is close to the North River Road (Forest Service Road 217) only along the third reach. To access the first and second reaches, look for a pull-off on North River Road where it leaves the river, climbs a hill, and turns up Sugar Cove. It is a steep drop from the road down to North River (about 100 feet). There is no trail up Meadow Branch; access and egress are difficult once you commit to fishing these reaches.
Brook trout occur throughout Meadow Branch but numbers are low in the second reach with all of the waterfalls. Because of the bedrock, it is difficult for fish to maintain themselves without getting washed downstream. Once they go over a falls, they don’t get back up.
Current regulations allow year-round fishing with flies and lures only. A three fish per day limit with size limits is imposed.
Submitter: Jim Herrig
Date Submitted: 8/14/2006
Name: Meadow Branch
Location and Access: In Tellico Plains (at the junction of Hwy 68 and 165), drive east on Hwy 165 (Tellico-Robbinsville road or Cherohalla Hwy). At the east edge of town stay on Hwy 165; do not turn onto Hwy 360. Continue on Hwy 165 for about 5 miles. It parallels the Tellico River and crosses it once. Just passed the Oosterneck pulloff, take Forest Service Road (FSR) 210 toward Bald River Falls and the Ranger Station. Continue on FSR 210 for about 11 miles to North River Road (FSR 217). It parallels North River and crosses it twice. Continue on FSR 217 for about 8 miles to a pulloff where North River leaves the road and turns up Sugar Cove. It is a steep drop to the stream and about 1.5 miles of fishing to where Meadow Branch comes back to the road. Alternatively, drive an additional 3 miles to where the road comes back to Meadow Branch and fish from there up.
Fish Species: brook trout throughout, Rainbow trout in the lowest reach
Regulations: Single hook, artificial only.