11 Best Kayaking Spots In Middle Tennessee

Middle Tennessee, located in the center of the United States, is full of beautiful nature and opportunities for outdoor fun. One of the best ways to explore this region is by going kayaking. You can paddle through calm lakes and winding rivers, and there are spots for kayakers of all skill levels.

You’ll see hidden places like secret coves and faraway islands when you go kayaking here. You might even see animals like herons by the water or watch the sunset over a peaceful lake, making the water look like a never-ending mirror.

This article will explore the “11 Best Kayaking Spots in Middle Tennessee.” It’s like going on an exciting journey to discover the top places for kayaking in this beautiful part of the United States.

The 11 Best Kayaking in Middle TN

11 Best Kayaking Spots in Middle Tennessee

Middle Tennessee is a haven for kayaking enthusiasts, offering a plethora of scenic waterways and hidden gems to explore. Here, amidst the rolling hills and verdant forests, kayakers discover a multitude of scenic treasures and hidden gems waiting to be explored.

Beyond the natural beauty, Middle Tennessee’s kayaking community is warm and welcoming. Locals and fellow adventurers share their passion for the water, offering camaraderie and a wealth of knowledge about the best routes, wildlife sightings, and must-visit spots along the way.

Let’s explore the 11 best kayaking in middle Tennessee.

#1. Caney Fork River

Caney Fork River kayaking

The Caney Fork River in Middle Tennessee is a fantastic place for kayaking. It’s known for its clear waters and beautiful surroundings. This river stretches for about 143 miles and has different parts that are great for kayaking.

Some parts of the river are calm and smooth, perfect for beginners. Other parts have exciting rapids for more experienced kayakers. The water in the river comes from the Center Hill Dam, which keeps it crystal clear. As you paddle, you’ll see stunning landscapes through lush forests.

But there’s something important to keep in mind when planning your trip. The water levels in the river can change quickly because of the dam, so it’s crucial to check the schedules for when they release water. This will help keep you safe on your adventure.

One of the most famous sections of the Caney Fork River is the 29-mile stretch below the Center Hill Dam. It’s known for both trout fishing and thrilling rapids. So, if you’re into fishing and kayaking, this is the place to be.

What makes the Caney Fork River so great is that it suits everyone. Whether you’re new to kayaking or a seasoned pro, you’ll find something you love here. The river’s clear waters, stunning scenery, and different kayaking options make it a favorite spot for kayakers in Middle Tennessee.

If you don’t have your own kayaking gear, don’t worry. You can rent equipment from various canoe rental services in the area.

#2. Duck River

Duck River Middle kayaking Tennessee

Duck River is a fantastic place for kayaking with its diverse environment and winding waters. When you paddle along this river, you’ll go through lush forests farmlands, and see unique wildlife. Duck River is special because it’s one of the most biodiverse rivers in North America. That means it’s home to lots of different kinds of plants and animals.

As you kayak, you’ll enjoy the calm flow of the river, passing by tall limestone cliffs, farmlands, and sometimes even spots with history.

The area near the Normandy Dam is a popular place to start your kayaking adventure on Duck River. You can paddle downstream through peaceful waters and see beautiful landscapes. The section from Normandy Dam to Shelbyville is especially nice, with its scenic views and easy paddling. As you go along, you’ll notice tall limestone cliffs rising up from the clear water. The river’s gentle current makes for a relaxing kayaking trip while you take in the natural beauty around you.

But Duck River isn’t just for kayaking; it’s also a great spot for fishing. There are lots of different kinds of fish here, like smallmouth bass and catfish. So, you can try your luck at catching some big trout or other game fish while you float downstream. And if you’re into birdwatching, this place is perfect, too. Keep an eye out for various bird species flying above or sitting on branches by the river.

Whether you’re a beginner looking for a leisurely trip or an experienced kayaker seeking some adventure, Duck River has something for everyone. The gentle currents make it easy for beginners to enjoy a peaceful paddle. And if you’re up for a challenge, there are parts with exciting rapids where experienced kayakers can test their skills. So, Duck River is a real gem for kayaking enthusiasts of all levels.

#3. Buffalo River

Buffalo River is a fantastic place for kayaking because of its clear water and tall limestone cliffs that create a stunning backdrop. The river flows gently, which means it’s great for kayakers of all skill levels.

Buffalo River Middle Tennessee

This river is known for its crystal-clear water and its beautiful limestone cliffs. When you paddle here, you’ll see these tall cliffs and get a chance to spot the river’s different aquatic animals.

You can have a true nature experience as you kayak along the Buffalo National Scenic River. It’s a pretty long river, about 37 miles from Flatwoods Road to Loretto, and it’s perfect for kayaking because of the limestone cliffs and the easy current of the water. The water is so clear that you can see freshwater mussels, lots of different fish, and colorful birds like kingfishers and red-winged blackbirds.

No matter if you’re new to kayaking or have some experience, the Buffalo River has something for you. You can pick different parts of the river depending on how skilled you are.

As you paddle on the calm waters of the Buffalo River, take in the amazing views of the tall limestone cliffs all around you. These big rocks add a sense of wonder to your kayaking adventure. Because the water is so clear, you might even see elk coming to the riverbanks from time to time.

Buffalo River Kayaking Middle Tennessee

If you’re planning a kayak trip on the Buffalo River, you’ve got options for where to stay. You can pick a nearby hotel or go camping right by the river. Camping lets you fully enjoy the peace and quiet of nature while being close to the water.

#4. Percy Priest Lake

Percy Priest Lake in Middle Tennessee is an excellent place for kayaking. It offers a perfect mix of fun activities and water sports. When you paddle on this lake, you’ll be surrounded by stunning landscapes that make your kayaking adventure even more special.

One of the cool things about kayaking at Percy Priest Lake is that you can enjoy other water activities, too. Whether you’re a pro kayaker or just starting, there’s something for everyone. You can spend the day fishing, swimming, or having a picnic, all while having a great time kayaking.

While you glide on the lake’s calm waters, take a moment to enjoy the natural beauty around you. The green trees and plants along the shore make the perfect backdrop for your kayaking journey. The lake is so peaceful that it’s like escaping from your everyday life and immersing yourself in the beauty of nature.

Percy Priest Lake is a great choice if you want a calm and peaceful kayaking experience. It’s a big lake, so you have lots of space to explore and find hidden spots along the way. Paddling on this vast lake gives you a sense of freedom and calmness that’s hard to find anywhere else.

For an extra special adventure, paddle to some of the most beautiful spots on the lake. From your kayak, you can see incredible sunsets painting the sky with vibrant colors as they reflect on the calm water. These moments will stay with you as you enjoy nature’s breathtaking show.

While you’re kayaking on Percy Priest Lake, keep an eye out for wildlife. Seeing freshwater mussels among the rocks or catching glimpses of different kinds of fish swimming under your kayak can be a really exciting experience.

#5. Harpeth River

The Harpeth River in Middle Tennessee is a great place for kayaking. It flows through the region’s rolling hills, offering different kayaking experiences. You can enjoy peaceful stretches of water or try some Class II rapids, and along the way, you’ll find interesting historical sites like Native American mounds and places from the Civil War.

Harpeth River Kayaking In Middle Tennessee

This river is about 125 miles long and winds its way through Middle Tennessee. It’s a really pretty river that attracts both locals and tourists. It’s perfect for kayakers who want both adventure and natural beauty.

What makes the Harpeth River special is that it has both calm sections and mild rapids, so it’s suitable for kayakers of all skill levels. You can have a peaceful time paddling in the calm parts, taking it easy and enjoying the beautiful countryside. And if you’re looking for a bit more excitement, some Class II rapids offer a fun challenge without being too hard.

But what really sets the Harpeth River apart is its history. As you paddle along, you’ll see things like Native American mounds and places from the Civil War. This adds an extra layer of interest to your kayaking journey. Imagine gliding past remains of ancient civilizations or paddling near places where important moments in American history happened.

The Harpeth River is popular because it has something for everyone. History buffs will love exploring the cultural heritage along the riverbanks, while nature lovers will enjoy the beautiful landscapes all around them.

One part of the river that’s worth mentioning is the Harpeth River State Park area. This area has several miles of the river and includes both Class II rapids and peaceful stretches where you can enjoy nature. And there are historic landmarks waiting for you to discover along the way.

#6. Old Hickory Lake

Old Hickory Lake, conveniently located near Nashville, is a fantastic place for kayaking. This lovely lake offers kayakers the chance to explore calm inlets and secluded coves, making it a popular choice for people who enjoy kayaking.

It’s a bit of a hidden treasure for kayaking in Middle Tennessee, and it’s not far from Nashville, so you can easily escape the busy city life. As you paddle on the peaceful waters of this lake, you’ll find a quiet paradise surrounded by beautiful scenery.

One of the best things about Old Hickory Lake is all the little inlets and coves you can discover. These hidden spots are perfect for finding peace and getting close to nature. Whether you’re a pro at kayaking or just starting out, there’s something here for everyone.

As you navigate through the twists and turns of the lake, you’ll see amazing sights everywhere you look. The wooded shores create a beautiful backdrop and a calm atmosphere perfect for unwinding and thinking. You might even spot osprey flying high above, graceful herons wading in the water, or turtles relaxing on logs as you explore the lake’s little corners.

But Old Hickory Lake isn’t just for kayaking. There are tons of other things to do here, too! If you like fishing, you can try to catch bass, catfish, and crappie in the lake’s waters. Boaters can have fun on the big shoreline, whether it’s water skiing or just cruising around at their own pace. And if you want to swim, there are special areas where you can take a refreshing dip on hot summer days.

For those who prefer activities on solid ground, Old Hickory Lake also has you covered. There are picnic areas along the shoreline where families can come together for a nice meal and enjoy the amazing water views.

#7. Cumberland River

Cumberland River Kayaking and Fishing in Middle Tennessee

The Cumberland River flows through Nashville, offering a unique kayaking adventure in the city. You can paddle under famous bridges like the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge while enjoying the views of the city from the river.

Kayaking on parts of the Cumberland River gives you a special way to see the Nashville skyline. The river goes through city areas and natural landscapes, so you get amazing city views while paddling on this big river. It’s a great chance to take beautiful pictures from your kayak.

While kayaking under Nashville’s famous bridges, you might see herons, egrets, and even river otters. These animals that live along the Cumberland River make this kayaking spot even more interesting. Keep an eye out for these cool creatures as they go about their day in their natural home.

The Cumberland River flows right through downtown Nashville, so when you kayak here, you get a mix of city life and natural beauty. You can paddle under the famous bridges and enjoy the city’s skyline while being in the river. This mix of nature and city life makes your kayaking adventure really special.

Cumberland River Kayak Fishing in Middle Tennessee

You can start your kayaking trip at Riverfront Park, which is in the Middle of the city. It’s easy to get to the river from this park, so it’s convenient for both locals and visitors. Once you’re in the water, you can explore different parts of the Cumberland River at your own pace.

But the Cumberland River isn’t just for kayaking. It’s also a great place for fishing, with fish like catfish, bass, and sauger. If you like fishing, bring your fishing gear and try to catch some big fish while you’re on the water. There are also parks along the riverbanks where you can have a picnic, take a walk, and enjoy the beautiful views when you take a break from paddling.

#8. Radnor Lake

Radnor Lake, found in Middle Tennessee, is a peaceful spot for kayakers who love nature. What makes it special is that it’s one of the few lakes around here where motorized boats aren’t allowed, so you can enjoy a calm and serene kayaking experience.

Radnor Lake’s water is calm, and beautiful forests and wildlife surround it. As you paddle on the smooth water, you’ll feel a sense of calmness wash over you, and the natural beauty of this lovely lake surrounds you.

But kayaking at Radnor Lake is not just about enjoying the peaceful water. It’s also a great chance to see all kinds of birds and animals that live here. Keep your eyes open for herons standing in the water or eagles flying above as you go with the gentle currents.

If you like hiking and watching birds, Radnor Lake has more than just kayaking. Trails all around the lake let you explore and enjoy the natural beauty of this place on foot. Put on your hiking shoes and go on an adventure through the winding paths that take you to hidden gems in this nature preserve.

While you’re kayaking along the shores of Radnor Lake, make sure to bring your camera. There are so many opportunities to take stunning pictures. Whether it’s a colorful cardinal sitting on a branch or a family of deer peacefully eating nearby, every moment is a chance to capture the beauty of nature.

And if you’re looking for inspiration during your kayaking trip, think about how the famous photographer Ansel Adams would have loved this place. Just like Adams looked for unique angles to capture amazing landscapes, you can find that perfect view from your kayak at Radnor Lake. So why wait?

#9. Stones River

The Stones River in Murfreesboro offers a peaceful kayaking experience that’s also historically significant. You can paddle by old sites and quiet green areas while enjoying the calmness of this river right in the city.

You can start at the Manson Pike Trailhead to get to the water. From there, you can explore the tranquil waters and visit places of historical importance. As you start your kayaking adventure, you’ll be surrounded by impressive rock formations, tall cliffs, and lush trees that make the scenery really pretty.

People like the Stones River because it has both history and a peaceful atmosphere. While kayaking, you can explore places with historical meaning and still enjoy the tranquility of the city’s river. As you paddle on the Stones River, remember that it was the site of important Civil War battles.

While on this river, take in the amazing views around you. The river goes through lovely landscapes with big cliffs that rise high above the water. These impressive rocks make your kayaking experience really special and hard to forget.

As you paddle on the Stones River, look out for hidden surprises among the trees along the banks. The thick foliage creates a peaceful feeling and gives you shade on hot days. You’ll feel like you’re wrapped in nature as you glide through this calm place, leaving the city’s noise behind.

If you want both peace and excitement on your kayaking adventure, the Stones River has both. You’ll find quiet stretches where you can paddle slowly and enjoy the scenery, but there are also parts with exciting rapids that will get your heart racing. It’s a great mix of calm relaxation and thrilling exploration.

Going kayaking on the Stones River isn’t just about enjoying nature; it’s also a chance to connect with history in a personal way.

#10. Tim’s Ford Lake

Tim’s Ford Lake, nestled in the Middle of lush forests, is a peaceful place for kayaking. It’s perfect for enjoying the natural beauty of the area. When you paddle along the lake’s edge, where the forest meets the water, you’ll see a beautiful setting that will take your breath away.

One of the best things about kayaking at Tim’s Ford Lake is that you can see lots of different wildlife. Keep your eyes open for herons gracefully flying above the water, osprey soaring around looking for food, and bass swimming below the clear water. Seeing all this wildlife makes your time on the lake even more special.

If you’re looking for a good place to start your kayaking adventure, go to the Foster Mill Bridge area. There’s plenty of parking and a special spot just for kayakers. This makes it easy for you to get your kayak and start exploring without any problems.

Tim’s Ford Lake has hidden spots that you can discover as you paddle across its big waters. These quiet places are really peaceful and let you get close to nature. Whether exploring little corners or looking at the amazing scenery around every bend, you’ll find something new to enjoy every time you paddle.

Kayaking at Tim’s Ford Lake is a great way to relax in nature and have some exciting adventures on the water. You can take a break from your everyday routine and get lost in the calm and beautiful surroundings. The lake is peaceful, and its natural beauty makes it perfect for both beginners and experienced kayakers.

Besides kayaking, Tim’s Ford Lake has lots of other water activities for people who want more excitement. You can spend some time fishing or take a refreshing swim in the water during the warmer months.

#11. Chickamauga Lake

Chickamauga Lake, located just outside of Middle Tennessee in Chattanooga, is worth mentioning because of its size and the fun things you can do there. Even though it’s not technically in Middle Tennessee, it’s a great place for kayaking on big waters, enjoying beautiful views of the shoreline, and experiencing the thrill of kayaking on a large lake.

When you paddle on Chickamauga Lake, you’ll see huge open waters and the rolling hills that go all around it. The lake is so big that it’s pretty amazing to look at as you paddle across it. Whether you’re really good at kayaking or just starting out and want an adventure, this lake has something for everyone.

Cumberland River Kayak Fishing in Middle Tennessee

Besides kayaking, Chickamauga Lake is also fantastic for fishing. If you like fishing, you can try to catch bass and crappie while enjoying the peacefulness of the water. But if fishing isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other fun things to do on this big lake. People like to go boating, water skiing, and paddleboarding for even more excitement.

One of the coolest things about Chickamauga Lake is how big and different it is. It’s one of the biggest lakes in Tennessee, so there’s lots of room for exploring and finding new things. When you go kayaking here, you can really feel like you’re part of nature and enjoy the thrill of being surrounded by such huge and beautiful scenery.

If you decide to go kayaking on Chickamauga Lake, think about camping nearby to make the most of the outdoor experience. There are several campgrounds where you can set up your tent or park your RV close to the water. Just imagine waking up to amazing sunrises over the lake and spending your evenings by a campfire under the starry skies.

Exploring Chickamauga Lake by kayak is something you won’t forget. It gives you both a peaceful feeling and a sense of adventure.

Final Words

In conclusion, kayaking in Middle Tennessee offers a diverse range of experiences for nature enthusiasts, adventure seekers, and those simply looking to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. From the serene waters of Radnor Lake to the historic sites along the Stones River and the vast expanses of Chickamauga Lake, this region provides a wealth of opportunities to connect with Tennessee’s natural beauty and rich history.

Whether you’re gliding through calm inlets, navigating exciting rapids, or simply taking in the stunning views of lush forests and diverse wildlife, kayaking in Middle Tennessee promises moments of tranquility and adventure. It’s a chance to unwind, to be inspired by the wonders of nature, and to create lasting memories on the water.

So what are you waiting for? Grab your kayak and paddle, and prepare for more unforgettable water experiences. 

About Addison

Hark! Fellow seekers of adventure! 

I'm Addison, a passionate adventurer from Oregon's captivating Pacific Northwest. Alongside my brother Ronin, we founded PaddleWiggle, a kayaking website. On my page, you'll find thrilling stories of my kayaking expeditions.

So, join me as I explore wild rivers and hidden coves, sharing the raw beauty of nature through PaddleWiggle's expedition section.

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