Clinchport is located along Hwy 23/58, with the main route through town, Route 65, running parallel to the world-renowned Clinch River. The Clinch is considered “one of the most bio-diverse ecosystems” in the world; the only other world river with more bio-diversity is the Amazon.
The Clinch is perfect for kayaking, canoeing, fishing or swimming. Several swinging bridges, many of which are still state maintained, span the Clinch.
The Clinch River
The Clinch River Highway (Route 65) is a popular biking route. With numerous twists and turns and inclines, bicyclists find this route much more challenging than some of the county’s other bike routes. Clinchport is also a stop on the Daniel Boone Birding Trail, where you can see red-eyed vireos, eastern towhees, cedar waxwings, American kestrels and wild turkey.
Natural Tunnel State Park, one of Virginia’s most popular state parks, is just five miles from Clinchport.
Originally incorporated in 1894, Clinchport started as a port for loggers who transported the logs down river to Chattanooga by actually riding and guiding the logs downstream. Throughout this long journey, the loggers dodged river rocks and kept the logs from jamming along the shoals. Once they reached Chattanooga, the loggers would then hitch a ride back to Southwest Virginia.
Given its proximity to the confluence of the Clinch with Stock Creek, Clinchport also became a thriving railroad and agriculture center. A wooden boardwalk connected general stores, barber shops and banks to the commercial area along the river. Then in 1977, all of that changed when the Clinch surged heavily over its banks, sweeping homes and commercial enterprises down river. The town was never re-built.
The town was obviously named for the river. Several theories exist, however, on how the river and mountain became known as “The Clinch.”
One story says “Clinch” comes from a large, athletic hunter named Clinch (Clinche), who was thrown from his horse into the river while retreating from Indians circa 1749; Clinch managed to drown one of his Indian attackers, even after his fall. Yet another story says the name is for an Irishman who fell off a raft and cried “Clinch Me, Clinch me!”