Good news. The Little Pigeon River is officially no longer grossly polluted. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has lifted a water contact advisory for the river imposed more than 20 years ago. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will start stocking trout in the river immediately.
That advisory was originally put in place due to elevated fecal coliform bacteria levels. The advisory affected the lower Middle Prong, West Prong and multiple tributaries of the Little Pigeon River in Sevier County.
The recovery is thanks to a cooperative environmental effort amongst TDEC, the National Park Service, and the cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, whose local waters are once again safe for fishing.
“Bacteria concentrations have improved to the point that the public advisory is no longer considered necessary,” TDEC Division of Water Resources Director Tisha Calabrese-Benton said. Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge spent millions of dollars improving sewage treatment; and Sevier County spent more than $800,000 on a sand filtration system on one tributary of the river.
While the ban was in place, TWRA discontinued stocking the waterways with trout to discourage anglers from coming in contact with contaminated water. Now, stocking will resume beginning the week of Feb. 26 with seven more stockings before June. The target areas are a six-mile stretch of the West Prong Branch from Patriot Park to the Apple Barn Restaurant, the Middle Prong from Pittman Center, and part of the Little River toward Townsend. After a short summer break, the agency will resume stocking in October.