The Tellico River near Tellico Plains, Tennessee
|Origin||Cherokee County, North Carolina|
|Mouth||Tellico Reservoir of the Little Tennessee River; Monroe County, Tennessee|
|Length||52.8 miles (85 km)|
|Mouth elevation||814 ft (248 m) |
|Basin area||285 square miles (738 km²)|
The Tellico River rises in the westernmost mountains of North Carolina, but it flows mainly through Monroe County, Tennessee. It is a major tributary of the Little Tennessee River and the namesake of Tellico Reservoir, a reservoir created by Tellico Dam, which impounds the lower reaches of the Tellico River and the Little Tennessee River and was famous during the 1970s for the snail darter controversy.
The Tellico River and its main tributaries are renowned for their brook, brown, and rainbow trout fishing. Upstream from Tellico Lake, above Tellico Plains, Tennessee, the Tellico is a premier trout stream. It meanders through a mountain gorge before reaching the broad plains downstream of Tellico Plains.
The Tellico River rises in the Unicoi Range near the Tennessee-North Carolina state line, in the Nantahala National Forest. The North Carolina side includes the Upper Tellico Off-highway vehicle area.
The Tellico River basin was logged by the Babcock Lumber Company in the early 20th century. The present-day road up the Tellico River from Tellico Plains was built on the old Babcock logging railroad bed. After the Tellico River basin forests were cut, Babock sold the land to the United States Forest Service.
The Tellico River's rocky descent provides class III-IV whitewater recreation. The runs are especially popular during the spring because of higher water levels. The narrow extreme rapids on the Tellico River are well suited for kayaks, canoes - C1's and duckies, but not for larger rafts. There is continuous access to the river from the road, but these runs are popular:
- Trout Hatchery to Bridge above the Bald River confluence, class II-III
- The Ledges - from the Bridge above the Bald River confluence to bridge below Jared's Knee, class III-IV
- Bridge below Jared's Knee to Ranger Station, class II-III
- Ranger Station to Tellico Plains, class I-III
According to the USGS, variant names of the Tellico River include Delaquay River, Talequo River, Terrique River, and Tellequo River.
The word "Tellico" was the name of several Cherokee towns, the largest of which was Great Tellico, located on the Tellico River near present-day Tellico Plains, Tennessee. In Cherokee the word is more properly written "Talikwa". According to James Mooney, the Cherokee meaning of the word was lost.
The origin of the word is actually Muskogee (Creek.) A Muskogean town named Taliko was thriving on the Tellico River when Spanish explorers visited in area in the mid-16th century. Taliko means "bean" in Muskogee.
If the Mesoamerican origin of Mississippian culture is correct then the origin of the word could also be Nahuatl. The Nahuatl word "tleco" means both "in a fire" and "to ascend." Both of these meanings could refer to Mississippian temple mounds located in Tennessee since at the top of these mounds was kept a perpetual fire within a temple. Thus "to ascend" and "in a fire" could refer to the temple mound, the most important feature of Mississippian towns, since one would have to ascend the mound to reach the fire. Since "temple mound" was nearly synonymous with "town" then this explains why it would become the generic term for "town" among the Cherokee. The Cherokees believe the mounds were actually built by a foreign group known as the Ani-kutani who once lived on the mounds and ruled over them. If true then these foreigners could have come from Mesoamerica which would explain why the word has no meaning in the Cherokee Indian language.
 See also
 Notes and references
- Mooney, James Myths of the Cherokee (1900, repr. 1995)
Guide to Tellico Plains: Tellico River Information