Middle Tennessee offers an amazing abundance of rivers and lakes to kayak and canoe, making it a great destination for paddlers who want to explore these scenic rivers. Although we always want our customers to join us on the Duck River at Higher Pursuits, we also recognize that paddlers want to explore new rivers and lakes throughout the summer, so we have compiled a list of other places to paddle in the Middle Tennessee Area.

Below is a list of Rivers and rental companies in Middle Tennessee.

Duck River

Rock Cliffs along the Duck River are a beautiful backdrop to kayaking in Tennessee
Rock Cliffs along the Duck River

The Duck River is just over 270 miles in length and meanders it way through Middle Tennessee. It is one of the longest rivers contained entirely within the Tennessee borders and showcases scenic pastoral lands, steep rock cliffs, and forested banks. The Duck River is a Class I river for its entire length.  The river begins at Normandy Dam near Manchester, TN and flows from East to West in Middle Tennessee. The Duck River flows into the Tennessee River north of Interstate 40. In 2001, the state designated the section that flows through Maury County as a state scenic river.

Harpeth River

Narrows of the Harpeth River
Narrows of the Harpeth

The Harpeth River is 125 miles in length and originates in Eagleville, TN. It is a major tributary to the Cumberland River. North of Interstate 40 is the Harpeth River State Park. The Harpeth River State Park is a linear park that manages nine river access sites along 40 river miles. Sites include several natural, archaeological and historic areas. The park is popular for kayaking, canoeing, fishing and hiking. The Harpeth River is a class I river for its entire length. In 1968, Tennessee designated it as a a state scenic river.

Buffalo River

The Buffalo River in the spring
Paddling the Buffalo River in the Spring

The Buffalo River is the longest un-impounded river in Middle Tennessee, flowing 125 miles through the southwestern portion of Middle Tennessee. It is the largest tributary of the Duck River. The river is named for the Buffalo fish which was abundant when the first European settlers arrived.  The Buffalo River begins in Lewis County and flow east to west. The Buffalo River is a class I river, but has numerous faster sections with twist and turns in the river. Because it is more narrow than the Duck River it typically has more strainers (trees overturned on the edge of the river).

Caney Fork River

The Beautiful Caney Fork River

A major tributary of the Cumberland River, Caney Fork is 144 miles long and rises in Cumberland County about six miles northwest of Crossville and flows northwest to the Cumberland River. Most outfitters on the Caney Fork run the sections of river below the Center Hill Lake reservoir. This section is known for its beauty and peacefulness, with canoes and kayaks gliding down quiet water. It is a peaceful Class I river, with cool, clear water. This section is also known for Rainbow and Brown Trout fishing. Check with the outfitter for the latest generation schedule from the dam.

Elk River

The Elk River is 195 miles long and begins below Tims Ford Lake. Most of the outfitters on the Elk are near Kelso, TN. The Elk is  clear, cold river just below the dam, making it a favorite spot for fisherman. The Elk flows southwesterly into Alabama and ultimately flows into the Tennessee River.. Call ahead to check on the Dam release schedule at Tims Ford.

Piney River

The Piney River is a beautiful 24 mile river that flows into the Duck River. It is a class I river, but can have river hazards such as strainers and sweepers.  It features gorgeous rock bluffs, clear water, and pretty gravel bars.  The only outfitter on the Piney is Pinewood Canoe and Camp (located in Hickman County).

Standup Paddleboard (SUP)

There are several companies that offer Standup Paddle board lessons and rentals near Nashville.

Red River

The Red River is 100 miles long and is a major tributary to the Cumberland River. It begins south of Portland, TN. Red River Canoe provides trips near Adams, TN. This section floats by the famous Bell Witch Cave and is considered a Class I and II river with a few fast spots. It is a moderately shallow river with sandy beaches and a rock bottom.

    Public Lakes

    Montgomery Bell State Park has two lakes that paddlers can use. Both are small lakes and do not allow powerboat traffic.

    • Lake Woodhaven
    • Acorn Lake

    Long Hunter State Park has a small lake, Couchville Lake that is near Percy Priest Lake. The tranquil, 110-acre lake is open year-round and is ideal for paddling. All boaters are required to wear life jackets while on Couchville Lake.

    Davy Crockett State Park has a small 35 acre lake that you can paddle on, either with your own boat or you can rent one of theirs.

    Rivers in East Tennessee