Tires being removed from the Clinch River in southwest Virginia.
Communities Tackle Trash Along Virginia’s Clinch River
The Clinch River’s list of superlatives runs nearly as long as its 130-mile journey through southwest Virginia. The waterway is the Tennessee River’s northernmost headwater tributary. It’s also home to a stunningly biodiverse collection of freshwater fish and mussels, and it has recently become the epicenter of a burgeoning rural economy based around the outdoors.
But then there are the tires.
Automobile tires, tires for farm equipment, behemoth tires built for industrial machinery—the Clinch has them all. In fact, upwards of 10,000 tires may currently be sitting along the bottom of a 60-mile reach of the river in southwest Virginia, according to Maddie Gordon, the owner of St. Paul, Va.’s Clinch Life Outfitters. “When you’re floating at a certain level of water,” she says of one rapid, “you’re playing bumper cars with tires.”