I don't know much about the area, but I would imagine that a lot of it is private property. I knew a guy who offered to clean up someone's steamside property for access to the river through their property, and they accepted. I have been thinking about using this approach a couple of places on the Watauga and SoHo. Something like that may be a way for you to secure more access if you are looking for it.
My problem is that it is not an easy drive over from Knoxville, and if I came I would probably make it a multi-day trip. Are there any convenient campgrounds or a hotel you would recommend? If I decide to head over that way I will shoot you an email, thanks for the suggestions.