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The Clinch River rises in Southwest Virginia near Tazewell, Virginia and flows southwest through the Great Appalachian Valley, gathering various tributaries including the Powell River before joining the Tennessee River in East Tennessee.
The Clinch River is dammed twice: by Norris Dam, the first dam built by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); and by Melton Hill Dam, the only TVA dam with a lock not located on the main channel of the Tennessee River. It empties into the Tennessee River at Kingston, Tennessee.
An important tributary of the Clinch River is the Powell River. The Clinch and Powell River drainage basins are separated by Powell Mountain. Tributaries entering the Clinch River below Norris Dam but above Melton Hill Dam include Coal Creek and Bull Run Creek. Poplar Creek enters below Melton Hill Dam.
The Clinch River above Clinton, Tennessee (tailwaters of Norris Dam) is stocked with rainbow trout and brown trout by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.