5 Reasons Why Kayaking in Tennessee is the Best Time Ever

Kayaking in Tennessee Feature

Tennessee gets hot quick, and one of my favorite ways to cool off in the spring and summer (and sometimes even the fall) is getting on the river.  Whether you are kayaking in Tennessee or you prefer a canoe or a tube, there is room on the river for you. Spending a day floating the river with friends is one of my favorite things to do anywhere.  There is no rush to get to the next place, odds are no one is distracted by Facebook or Instagram (the river can be rough on phones), and the water usually feels amazing. This post contains affiliate links.

There is something for everyone

Kayaking the rivers in Middle Tennessee is a great activity for every skill level.  You can float lazily down the Duck River, take on some bigger water by putting your boat in the Cumberland, or get completely wild and do some white water kayaking at Rock Island.  If kayaks aren’t comfortable to you, you can also tube or canoe in some of the gentler waters. No matter what your level of experience, there is a river for you.

Kayaking in Tennessee Rock Island State Park

Kayaking in Tennessee is Reasonably Priced

You could go out and purchase your own kayak (or 2 if you want to go with a partner), but I would not recommend it until you are 100% sure you are going to get a lot of use out of them.  Instead I would recommend renting a kayak from one of the many companies that provide this service. Many of them start at around 30 dollars per person.  Not only is it much cheaper than buying a Kayak and paddles and flotation devices if you only go a couple of times a year;  they also provide transportation from the take out point back to your car. If you bring your own kayaks, you are stuck figuring out how to get your boat and yourself back up river to your car.

Kayaking is a Great Activity for Friends and Family

No one is going to be spending all of their time with their nose in their phone while they are floating down the river. This allows some great opportunities to connect with the people you are with. Being on the river allows you to live in the moment.  There are no offices, no urgent matters, nothing to do but enjoy each others company and float. Pulling up on a beach and sharing a meal beside the river is a great bonding experience.

Kayaking is the Best way to Beat the Heat

It gets hot during Tennessee Summers.  I know it gets hot everywhere else too, but Tennessee heat is special ok :).  There is no better feeling on one of those miserable August days than to spend some time in that chilly river water. It will cool you off real quick.  There are a lot of places on Tennessee’s rivers that are deep enough for swimming.  Just be careful, moving water can get dangerous in a hurry.

Kayaking in Tennessee

Kayaking is a Great Way to Learn About Nature

Did you know that the Duck River is the most biologically diverse River in North America?  Have you ever seen deer drinking from the river?  These are just a couple of things you might learn about while exploring middle Tennessee’s rivers.  Kayaking in Tennessee will give you some amazing opportunities to observe wildlife in ways you likely haven’t before.  If you can get on the river on a day when it is not crowded, or get there earlier than everyone else, you can sometimes see some incredible sites.

What do you need to go Kayaking in Tennessee?

Kayaking in Tennessee is one of those activities where you can bring along as much as you want. All you really need is what you are going to eat and drink on the river, a cooler to keep it in, some sunblock and a towel.  You can rent everything else. The cost usually isn’t too high either.

I also purchased a dry-bag.  Mine is big enough to hold a towel, my electronics, and a few other odds and ends.

Before heading out to the river, make sure you take the time to familiarize yourself with Tennessee’s Paddle Sports Laws. There are some essential things you must do if you want to avoid running afoul of the law.  These laws are in place to protect you and the river.

Rivers and Resources

There are a lot of Rivers in Middle Tennessee that you can kayak.  We have compiled a list of Rivers and Rental Companies that service that river.  This is purely informational and should not be construed as an endorsment of these companies unless otherwise noted.

Duck River

Normandy Kayak Rental

205 Blackman Blvd., W.

Wartrace, TN 37183



Higher Pursuits

3114 Cheeks Bend Rd

Columbia, TN 38401


Collins River

Smooth Rapids Outfitters

245 Durham St.

McMinnville, Tennessee 37110

(931) 4-KAYAK-1


Elk River

Elk River Canoe Rental

190 Smithland Rd.

Kelso, TN 37348

(931) 937-6886

Caney Fork River

Canoe the Caney

17055 Smithville Hwy

Silver Point, TN 38582



The Happy Yaker

120 Powerhouse Rd

Walling, TN 38587



Buffalo River

Buffalo River Resort

3520 TN-13

Lobelville, TN 37097



Harpeth River

Foggy Bottom Canoe

1270 Highway 70

Kingston Springs, TN 37082



Adventures on the Harpeth

568 Hwy 70

Pegram, TN 37143



Cumberland River

Cumberland Kayak Urban Adventure Co.

2 Victory Avenue

Nashville, TN 37213

(615) 800-7372

Get out there and do it

You can read about kayaking all day, but it is time to book your trip.  Get out there and spend some time kayaking in Tennessee.  You won’t regret it.  What is your favorite thing about being on the river?  Let us know in the comments.

5 Reasons Kayaking in Tennessee is the best time ever. There is something for everyone from the smooth float of the Duck River to the Wild White Water at Rock Island

36 Comment

  1. How cold does the water get? I live in Hawaii so kayaking is typically a bit different out here, lol. Great post!

    1. Easily in the 70s in the peak of summer. It varies due to river conditions, but it is always much cooler than the air temps 🙂

  2. Just stumbled on your site via Facebook. I like it! I often go to Tennessee to hike, but just got a new kayak so this has come at the perfect time!

  3. Looks like great fun, but I live a bit too far (Belgium) to get to Tennessee for kayaking 🙂

  4. Whoa this looks like kind of an intense activity in Tennessee. Those waterfalls are wild. I wouldn’t mind one of the nice peaceful floats though.

    1. The peaceful floats are much more my speed 🙂

  5. That looks pretty wild! I am new to kayaking. I’ll need to start slow but I really want to get better at it.

    1. There are some great places for nice and slow kayaking in TN too! 🙂 My favorite is Duck River.

  6. Thanks for these recommendations. I do kayaking in NC, and have been thinking about taking my kayak up to TN to explore some different areas. I’m saving your recommendations for myself for later!

  7. This was very informative, thank you! I might have to start kayaking in little bit easier places than what are in the pictures 🙂 But it sure looks like a lot of fun! I am looking forward to trying it someday.

    1. The folks in the pictures put on quite a show. I love to watch them tackle the falls like that, but when I’m on the river I like to take it much slower 🙂

  8. I have been thinking of trying kayaking, but going down such scary waterfalls is not my cup of tea!

  9. I’ve only been kayaking twice in my l8fe and both times there wasn’t a single wave in the water! This looks so cool and very adventurous!

  10. i went for River Rafting in Rishikesh and saw people doing kyaking. I was thinking i t was a bit difficult and dangerous in that river, but here it seems so easy and enjoyable..

  11. We’ve been sea kayaking before but river kayak looks like an awesome challenge. If there is places for all skill levels then I’m sure we wouldn’t have a problem. Tennessee looks amazing.

  12. Great tip on renting as opposed to buying. For someone who has time to kayak a couple times a season, renting makes perfect sense. Not having to worry about transportation is another win/win. Tennessee is a beautiful state and kayaking in the summer, although hot, would be beautiful and lush.

  13. This looks awesome. I have done white water rafting, but not kayaking. The first pic is simply gorgeous and I bet the experience really great.

  14. Reminds me of the time time I did kayaking in Manly, Australia and rocky water in Thailand. First was pretty smooth but latter nearly killed me! Still love it though. Will def try it out when in your Sid did the world 🙂

  15. Kayaking in Tennessee looks awesome. It is definitely a great way to cool off in the summer.

  16. I’ve only done kayaking once in the tropical island in the Philippines for sure there is a bit of difference there, mine was only a minor experience. I love how you share all the details here plus you are giving more of your compiled list. Kudos to you! Keep it up

  17. I’ve always wanted to try kayaking, and this trip looks like a really great place to try it out. I never know Tennessee had this to offer, so thanks for posting!

  18. I love kayaking and have been wanting to go to Tennessee soon! Thanks for sharing!

  19. That is too much fun to be legal. But, honestly, I did not know Tennesse had that. Thank you for sharing it.

  20. Amazing, I live in Memphis, never really get out of West TN. Kayaking sounds breathtaking though! Taking in natural vitamin D and all the scenery is good for body and soul. Tfs!

  21. My husband keeps talking about going to Tennessee. This would be a perfect for us to try. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Love this! Not too long ago, I took one of those fun quizzes about which state you should live in…and I got Tennessee! I was so shocked because I never really considered visiting Tennessee! Not that it was a bad thing, but just never crossed my mind. Now, however, I’m actually looking into a visit! I love water sports and this post just aligns with my hobbies so well, I’m bookmarking it! Thanks!

  23. Wow! When you say kayaking it’s not a leisurely paddle along the river. It looks pretty fun. I’been through Tennessee a few times, but never seen it like this.

    1. There are definitely some leisurely floats too! I love just taking it easy and floating down the river 🙂

  24. I go kayaking here in the UK, it’s great fun. These look like splendid places to get wet and enjoy the outdoors! The new craze on the water here is zorbing. I might try that this summer too!

    Enjoy the journey!

    1. Zorbing is a new one to me. I’m off to Google to see what I can learn 🙂

  25. I also want to do kayaking some day. But living in Florida, where gators tend to get into the houses, I am scared to go into the waters 🙁
    Though it sound real fun to me

    1. My wife and I honeymooned in Florida and spent some time checking out the Everglades. I was astonished at how many gators there were!

  26. Love Kayaking! I’ve never had the pleasure of being to Tennessee, but we used to kayak the Puget Sound in WA. near Harstine Island. Great post!

    1. That sounds amazing! I want to have some PNW adventures soon 🙂

  27. Love being in a Kayak! We went whitewater kayaking on the Nile in Uganda, was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget!

    1. That sounds amazing!

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