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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 banks of a river?  These are just a couple of things you might see or 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 see some incredible things that will stick with you forever.

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 endorsement 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

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