Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Natural Resources

Major Professor

Larry Wilson

Committee Members

Ray Albright, David Etnier, Jason Henning, Joanne Logan


The Pigeon River, which is located in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, is one of three major drainages of the French Broad River Basin. The river begins at the confluence of the East Fork Pigeon and the West Fork Pigeon Rivers in Haywood County, North Carolina, and flows north to northwest for approximately 70 river miles to the French Broad River in Cocke County, Tennessee. The river has had historical anthropogenic impacts to the system since the area was settled. These included forestry practices and agriculture, a paper mill in Canton, North Carolina, the Walters Dam for hydroelectric power, and more recently a change in land use patterns to development. As a result, the river's biological communities were impacted and many species were extirpated. Since the early 1990s, water quality improvements and the efforts of numerous organizations have led to the re-introduction of some of the original species native to the Pigeon River. The current study used underwater video to record current conditions of the mainstem river bottom from the confluence of the East Fork and West Fork Pigeon Rivers to Panther Creek at PRM 47.0. Also located were tributaries that flowed into the river. The sediment deltas at the mouth of each of these were video-taped and sediment depth measurements were recorded. Turbidity levels (NTUs) were record above, in, and below each of the tributaries entering the Pigeon River. The study also: 1) developed a continuous geo-referenced video of Pigeon River's substrate in Haywood County, North Carolina, and Cocke County, Tennessee, 2) identified tributaries impacting the Pigeon River by transporting sediment loads, 3) identified locations suitable for future recovery efforts, and 4) created a Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (QHEI). Deliverables from the study included a video record of approximately 22 river miles of the Pigeon River substrate North Carolina and 11 river miles in Tennessee, documentation of 17 flowing Pigeon River tributaries in North Carolina, the identification of fish collection sites above Canton, and the calculation of a Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index.

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