10 Middle Tennessee Rivers You Want to Kayak, With Launch Site Information and Maps

Updated on November 15, 2016
Kim Bryan profile image

I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.

"Don't litter the river, ya hear? "

Please help keep access to Tennessee rivers available by not littering, committing vandalism, stealing, loitering, etc. Many land owners have closed access on their properties due to incidents of crime and mischievousness. Be part of the solution, not the problem. Thank you!

NOTE: Follow state, county, and city ordinances regarding waterway use.

Barren Fork River
Barren Fork River | Source

Barren Fork River

The Barren Fork River is a 23.4-mile-long (37.7 km) feeds the Collins River which flows into the Cumberland River, making it a part of the Mississippi Watershed.

The Barren Fork begins in western Warren County, Tennessee. It is formed from its north and south prongs, which join near the tiny community of Trousdale. Unlike most Tennessee rivers, the Barren Fork flows east to west until it reaches McMinnville, from where it turns in a northeasterly direction until it reaches the Collins.

From Trousdale to McMinnville, properties along the bank are privately owned as is all access points. However, below the dam at Riverfront Park in McMinnville, the river becomes a popular recreational body of water with numerous access points, both public and private.

Although there is plenty of primitive spots to camp both above and below the damn, there are no public campgrounds essentially making this a river a day trip only float for the general visitor.

Barren Fork River Launch Sites

A
Crisp Springs Market:
35 Crisp Springs Rd, McMinnville, TN 37110, USA

get directions

B
Pepper Branch Park:
Pepper Branch Park, Old Morrison Rd, McMinnville, TN 37110, USA

get directions

C
Smooth Rapids (Kayak Rentals/River Transportation):
245 Durham St, McMinnville, TN 37110, USA

get directions

www.smoothrapids.com

D
Rocket Park:
Rocket Park, Cope St, McMinnville, TN 37110, USA

get directions

Buffalo River
Buffalo River | Source

Buffalo River

The Buffalo River is the longest un-impounded river in Middle Tennessee in the United States, flowing 125 miles through the southern and western portions of the area. It feeds into the Duck River. The river derives its name from the Buffalo fish which was abundant when the first European settlers arrived.

Unfortunately, land along the Buffalo River is privately owned and accessible only through campgrounds and rental shops.

Buffalo River Launch Sites

A
Bone's Canoe & Campground:
Bakerville Rd, Hurricane Mills, TN 37078, USA

get directions

www.bonescanoeandcampground.com

B
Buffalo River Camping & Canoeing:
650 Cuba Landing Rd, Waverly, TN 37185, USA

get directions

C
Buffalo River Resort:
TN-13, Lobelville, TN 37097, USA

get directions

http://buffaloriverresorttn.com/

D
Buffalo Canoeing:
702 Gaither Hinson Rd, Waynesboro, TN 38485, USA

get directions

http://www.buffalocanoeing.com

Caney Fork River
Caney Fork River | Source

Caney Fork River

The 143 mile Caney Fork River flows through eleven counties with much of its activity in Grundy, Warren, Dekalb, White, Putnam, and Smith.

The river's name comes from the dense cane breaks that grew along the river's banks when European explorers first arrived in the area.

Every year the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency stocks the river with Rainbow, Brown, and Brook Trout making it one of the hottest fishing spots in the state.

Caney Fork River Launch Sites

A
Rock Island State Park:
Rock Island State Park, 82 Beach Rd, Rock Island, TN 38581, USA

get directions

B
Cotten's Marina:
1967 Rock Island Rd, Rock Island, TN 38581, USA

get directions

C
Center Hill Dam:
Center Hill Dam, Liberty, TN 37095, USA

get directions

D
Long Branch Recreation Area:
Long Branch Recreation Area, Silver Point, TN 38582, USA

get directions

E
Happy Hollow:
5238 Medley Amonette Rd, Buffalo Valley, TN 38548, USA

get directions

F
Betty's Island:
Stonewall Club Springs Rd, Buffalo Valley, TN 38548, USA

get directions

G
South Carthage Boat Ramp:
Ag Center Ln, South Carthage, TN 37030, USA

get directions

Collins River
Collins River | Source

Collins River

The Collins River is a 67-mile-long (108 km) stream in the east-central portion of Middle Tennessee. It is a tributary of the Caney Fork which feeds into the Cumberland River in northern middle Tennessee.

Tennessee has designated it one of it's most scenic rivers and indeed it is. Along it's banks is miles of beautiful nature dotted occasionally with spectacular riverside homes and farms.

Collins River Launch Sites

A
Myers Cover Road TWRA Access:
Myers Cove Rd, McMinnville, TN 37110, USA

get directions

B
Shellsford Road Bridge TWRA Access:
Shellsford Rd, McMinnville, TN 37110, USA

get directions

C
VFW Boat Ramp:
3340 Sparta Hwy, McMinnville, TN 37110, USA

get directions

D
Gribble's Landing:
R Gribble Rd, Rock Island, TN 38581, USA

get directions

E
Gribble's Landing:
868 Seamons Rd, Rock Island, TN 38581, USA

get directions

F
King's Landing:
Kings Landing, Rock Island, TN 38581, USA

get directions

Source

Cumberland River

The 688-mile Cumberland River flows generally west from a source in the Appalachian Mountains to its meeting with the Ohio River near Paducah, Kentucky, and the mouth of the Tennessee River. Although the basin is predominantly rural, there are some large cities on the banks of the river, including Nashville and Clarksville,

As a major southern US waterway, it's not surprise it's also popular among water enthusiasts. Along it's winding Tennessee route there are numerous parks and boat ramps as well as parks with picnic facilities, parks, campgrounds, and general stores making it perfect for the day tripper or overnight floats.

Cumberland River Launch Sites

A
Donaldson Park Recreation Area:
Donaldson Park Recreation Area, Celina, TN 38551, USA

get directions

B
Roaring River Park:
Roaring River Park, Gainesboro, TN 38562, USA

get directions

C
Defeated Creek Day Use Recreation Area:
Marina Ln, Carthage, TN 37030, USA

get directions

D
North Cairo Boat Ramp:
799 Zieglers Fort Rd, Gallatin, TN 37066, USA

get directions

E
Lock 4 Park:
1598 Lock 4 Rd, Gallatin, TN 37066, USA

get directions

F
Cedar Hill Park:
860 W Old Hickory Blvd, Madison, TN 37115, USA

get directions

G
Two Rivers Park:
Two Rivers Park, 3150 McGavock Pike, Nashville, TN 37214, USA

get directions

Cumberland River Launch Sites (Continued)

A
Old Hickory Lock and Dam:
Old Hickory Lock and Dam, Nashville, TN 37075, USA

get directions

B
Riverfront Park:
170 1st Ave N, Nashville, TN 37201, USA

get directions

C
Shelby Bottoms Greenway and Nature Center:
1900 Davidson St, Nashville, TN 37206, USA

get directions

D
Heartland Park:
3101 Heartland Dr, Nashville, TN 37214, USA

get directions

E
Billy Dunlop Park:
Billy Dunlop Park, 1930 E Boy Scout Rd, Clarksville, TN 37040, USA

get directions

F
Clarksville Greenway:
Clarksville Greenway, Clarksville, TN 37042, USA

get directions

G
Trice Landing:
99 Oak St, Clarksville, TN 37042, USA

get directions

H
Riverbluff Park:
Riverbluff Park, 175 Old Cumberland St, Ashland City, TN 37015, USA

get directions

I
Bluff Creek Recreating Area:
Big Bluff Creek Rd, Ashland City, TN 37015, USA

get directions

J
Bellwood Landing:
Bellwood Landing Rd, Indian Mound, TN 37079, USA

get directions

Source

Duck River

The Duck River is middle Tennessee's most popular river for canoeing and kayaking, likely because it is the longest river in the state, located entirely in the state, at 284 miles (457 km) long.

The river services much of the southern portion of middle Tennessee and from Spring to Fall, it's busting with activity, full of fishermen, recreational boaters, kayakers, canoe'ers, tubers, and swimmers.

The Duck River with it's many miles of smooth waters, the banks dotted along the way with little communities, campgrounds, and parks, it's the perfect destination for day trippers and extended floats alike.

Duck River Launch Sites

A
Wards Chapel at Fire Lake:
River Forge Rd, Manchester, TN 37355, USA

get directions

B
Barton Spring's Recreation Area:
158 Barton Springs Rd, Normandy, TN 37360, USA

get directions

C
Cedar Point Recreation Area:
1659 Cedar Point Rd, Manchester, TN 37355, USA

get directions

D
Boyd's Branch:
3855 Roberts Ridge Rd, Manchester, TN 37355, USA

get directions

E
Normandy Dam:
Normandy Dam, Normandy, TN 37360, USA

get directions

F
Dement Bridge:
Dement Bridge, Normandy, TN 37360, USA

get directions

G
Three Forks Bridge:
Three Forks Bridge, Wartrace, TN 37183, USA

get directions

H
VFW Boat Ramp:
1320 Wartrace Pike, Shelbyville, TN 37160, USA

get directions

I
Shelbyville City Park:
Shelbyville City Park, Shelbyville, TN 37160, USA

get directions

J
Fisherman's Park:
220 Tuliptree Rd, Shelbyville, TN 37160, USA

get directions

Duck River Launch Sites (Continued)

A
Henry Horton State Park:
Henry Horton State Park, 4209 Nashville Hwy, Chapel Hill, TN 37034, USA

get directions

Canoe and kayak rentals available

B
Duck Canoe & Kayak Rental:
1395 TN-99, Lewisburg, TN 37091, USA

get directions

Canoe and kayak rental

C
River Rat's Canoe Rentals:
4361 US-431, Columbia, TN 38401, USA

get directions

Canoe/Kayak rentals

D
Higher Pursuits:
3114 Cheeks Bend Rd, Columbia, TN 38401, USA

get directions

Canoe and kayak rental

E
Columbia Dam / Iron Bridge:
Iron Bridge Rd, Columbia, TN 38401, USA

get directions

Beginning at this point and for the next 37 miles of the Duck River is designated as the state scenic route of this river.

F
Chickasaw Trace Park:
Chickasaw Trace Park, Columbia, TN 38401, USA

get directions

G
Williamsport Lakes:
3880 Williamsport Pike, Williamsport, TN 38487, USA

get directions

H
Centerville River Park:
100 Brown Jct, Centerville, TN 37033, USA

get directions

I
Hurricane Mill:
Cedar Grove Rd, Hurricane Mills, TN 37078, USA

get directions

J
Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge:
Duck River Unit Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, 550 Refuge Ln, New Johnsonville, TN 37134, USA

get directions

Elk River
Elk River | Source

Elk River

The 195 mile long Elk River forms in the mountains of Grundy County and flows southwesterly toward Alabama until it feeds into the Tennessee River.

There is the very popular Elk River Canoe and Kayak trail in Elkmont, Alabama that begins where the Elk River crosses from Tennessee into Alabama and ends at Sportsman's Park on Elk River Mills Road in Athens, Alabama.

Elk River Launch Sites

A
Tims Ford Dam:
11945 Lynchburg Rd, Winchester, TN 37398, USA

get directions

B
Farris Creek Bridge:
2299 Farris Creek Bridge Rd, Belvidere, TN 37306, USA

get directions

C
Old Dam Ford:
457 Old Dam Rd, Mulberry, TN 37359, USA

get directions

D
Elk River Canoe Rental:
190 Smithland Rd, Kelso, TN 37348, USA

get directions

E
Kelso Canoe:
18 Kelso-Smithland Rd, Kelso, TN 37348, USA

get directions

F
Dickey Bridge:
141 Champ Rd, Kelso, TN 37348, USA

get directions

G
Stump Shoals Access:
167 Quarter Rd, Kelso, TN 37348, USA

get directions

H
Old Stone Bridge:
2053 Wilson Pkwy, Fayetteville, TN 37334, USA

get directions

Harpeth River
Harpeth River | Source

Harpeth River

Eventually emptying into the Cumberland River, the Harpeth River, flowing through Williamson and Cheatham counties, is 115 miles long and offers shallow and very slow moving waters making it perfect for the beginning or casual kayaker or canoe'er but more experienced floaters may find it scenic but lacking in adventure.

Harpeth River Launch Sites

A
Harpeth River State Park:
Harpeth River State Park, Highway 70, Kingston Springs, TN 37887, USA

get directions

B
Newsom's Mill State Park:
Newsom's Mill State Park, Nashville, TN 37221, USA

get directions

C
Adventures on the Harpeth:
568 US-70, Pegram, TN 37143, USA

get directions

http://adventuresontheharpeth.com

D
Highway 249 Access:
442 E Kingston Springs Rd, Pegram, TN 37143, USA

get directions

E
Kingston Springs City Park:
LL Burns Park, Park St, Kingston Springs, TN 37082, USA

get directions

F
Canoe Music City:
1203 US-70, Kingston Springs, TN 37082, USA

get directions

http://www.canoemusiccity.com/

G
Tip-A-Canoe:
1279 US-70, Kingston Springs, TN 37082, USA

get directions

H
Highway 70 Bridge Access:
1308 TN-1, Kingston Springs, TN 37082, USA

get directions

I
Pick Up Point:
Harris St, Kingston Springs, TN 37082, USA

get directions

Source

Stones River

Named for the Uriah Stone, the first man to travel upstream what is today named the Stones River.

There is a great deal of history surrounding this river and its seen more than its share of battles; beginning with white settlers being slaughtered by native indians during the early settlement days of what is now Cannon and Rutherford counties to one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.

Unfortunately certain stretches of the river are closed to the public, making extended trips almost impossible without the right contacts. However, the upper portions of the river, which feeds into Percy Priest Lake, is clear and frequently traveled by water enthusiasts.

A
Cannon County Arts Center:
1424 John Bragg Hwy, Woodbury, TN 37190, USA

get directions

B
Walter Hill Park:
Park Hill Rd, Murfreesboro, TN 37129, USA

get directions

C
Mona Boat Ramp:
2781 W Jefferson Pike, Murfreesboro, TN 37129, USA

get directions

D
Fate Sanders Marina:
3157 Weakley Ln, Mt Juliet, TN 37122, USA

get directions

E
Long Hunter State Park:
Long Hunter State Park, 2910 Hobson Pike, Hermitage, TN 37076, USA

get directions

F
Percy Priest Dam:
Percy Priest Lake, Nashville, TN 37076, USA

get directions

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Kim Bryan

    Comments

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      • profile image

        Karen Harper 

        2 months ago

        This information is very helpful. Thank you for all the detailed launch sites and descriptions. I look forward to paddling to these rivers!

      • profile image

        Buck 

        10 months ago

        About half of the bridges that pass over the Buffalo River provide public access. Western TN fishing map Guide has the bridges and roads.

      • profile image

        justin 

        2 years ago

        cool. thanks

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