View tropical colored fish in the crystal clear waters of the Conasauga River. A snorkel, mask, flotation device, and water shoes are all that are needed to come face to face with colorful Coosa darters, schools of freshwater drum, and thousands of other fish. The great variety, colors, and numbers of fish in the Conasauga River amaze even those who have snorkeled on marine coral reefs. At lease 39 species of fish have been identified at the viewing site. That number of species is higher than in the entire Columbia River System, according to the USDA Forest Service. Some of the species snorkelers might see are the blue shiner, amber darter, Conasauga logperch, as well as the trispot and coldwater darters, all of which are threatened or endangered species.
Any site on the Conasauga River on National Forest lands will allow visitors to see a variety of fish, but the best place to view the brilliantly colored fish is located off the Conasauga River Trail. This trail offers an easy walk to river access points downstream from a parking area. The fish are present in large numbers year round, but the best time to see them at peak color is during late April through June, when no rain has fallen for several days. They are most colorful this time of year because they are attracting mates and spawning. Check the downstream sides of boulders, rock crevices and clumps of river weeds to view the fish.
Year round. The water temperature in the spring is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The water temperature in July begins to reach 70 degrees and over 80 degrees in August. It is recommended to wear a wetsuit year round for warmth, flotation and protection from the rocks.
To get to the Conasauga River travel east from Cleveland, TN. on US Hwy 64 to US Hwy 411. Turn south onto 411 and drive about 7 miles. Turn left onto TN Road 313 (Ball Play/Willis Springs Rd.) at the brown wildlife viewing sigh. Travel 4 miles, then bear right onto gravel FS Road 221 (Peavine/Sheeds Rd.). After 4.7 miles turn right into the parking area for the Conasauga River trail. A short hike leads to the fish viewing site.