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Tennessee Kayaking for Beginners

couple kayaking in Tennessee

If you’ve always wanted to give kayaking a try, Tennessee’s many rivers, creeks and lakes are a perfect place to start. And it’s not as difficult to try kayaking as you might think. You just need a few supplies and some basic knowledge.

Read on for our guide to kayaking for beginners.

Choosing a Kayak

Many beginners choose to rent a kayak for their first few outings, but others buy right away. Recreational kayaks are affordable, making it cost-effective to buy your own if you plan to get out on the water regularly. They aren’t the best for rapids, but they’re great for floating down rivers or paddling around lakes or ponds.

There are two types of recreational kayaks: sit-in or sit-on-top. As you might guess, with a sit-in kayak, you sit inside an enclosed cockpit, whereas sit-on-top kayaks have an open deck for you to sit on. Sit-on-top kayaks are great for warm weather, but you won’t want to use them in the early spring or fall when it’s colder. They’re also great if you enjoy swimming since they’re so easy to get on and off.

Since most kayaks are 10 to 12 feet long, they can be difficult to transport. If you have a small vehicle without a roof rack, there are other options, including inflatable, modular and folding kayaks that can fit in the trunk of a car.

Looking for a way to beat the summer heat? Discover more water recreation opportunities in Tennessee.

Learning the Basics

Before you get out on the water, you’ll want to learn the basics. There are some great kayaking resources online to get you started. Many outdoor recreation shops also offer kayaking for beginner’s classes.

Here are a few things you’ll need to do before your first trip out:

  • Choose the right life vest. Every kayaker needs a personal flotation device at all times.
  • Dress properly. This is especially important when the water is cooler. Hypothermia symptoms can set in quickly.
  • Learn safety precautions. This includes how to get in and out of the boat, especially when you’re away from the shore.
  • Learn how to paddle. Many beginners try to use only their arms. It’s important to rotate your body and use your core to stop your arms from becoming fatigued.Get a good paddle. The oars included with kayaks aren’t always the best quality. To avoid being left up a creek, you’ll need to spend at least $40 to $50 to get a sturdy paddle that won’t break.

Finding the Perfect Spot

Beginners should look for a spot with calm, quiet waters away from the wakes of larger boats and sheltered from the wind. Check out these popular beginner kayaking spots for you.

  • Chattanooga: Paddle the Tennessee River Blueway system, including the North, South and West Chickamauga Creeks and Lookout Creek.
  • Knoxville: There are great spots for flat-water paddling right in the heart of downtown. Check out Holston River Park or Riverside Landing Park. Mead’s Quarry and the Clinch River are also popular spots.
  • Nashville: The Harpeth River offers smooth waters for kayaking, tubing and other relaxing water sports. Other options around Music City include any of the lakes in the area; just be careful to avoid the wakes of nearby boats.
  • Memphis: Check out the kayaking options at Shelby Farms and Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park, or rent a kayak and paddle around the Wolf River Harbor.

Have you recently started kayaking? Do you have a favorite local spot? Let us know in the comments!

Most outdoor activities have some level of risk, and you may need to consult an expert before engaging in the activity. Always check the current weather conditions before embarking on any outdoor activity.

Leah Newman

Leah Newman is a freelance writer with particular interest in health and wellness, law, and personal finance. Her background is in journalism, and includes several years as a staff writer and editor at a daily newspaper. She has previously worked at the YMCA of Middle Tennessee, YMCA Camp Widjiwagan and Atlanta Motor Speedway. Leah lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Leah Newman is a freelance writer with particular interest in health and wellness, law, and personal finance. Her background is in journalism, and includes several years as a staff writer and editor at a daily newspaper. She has previously worked at the YMCA of Middle Tennessee, YMCA Camp Widjiwagan and Atlanta Motor Speedway. Leah lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

2 Comments

  1. I like how you mentioned that sit-in kayaks are better for cooler weather. My husband and I just moved into a new area, and there’s a few great lakes and rivers nearby, so we were thinking about trying out kayaking. It gets a bit chilly fairly early here, so maybe we could get sit-in kayaks so we can get more time out of it.

  2. I had no idea that kayaks were 10-12 feet long! It makes sense that taking the time to educate yourself can help you know how to choose the best ones and how to transport them correctly. The way I see it, taking the time to consult with several stores and asking all the questions you have can help you protect your investment and have as much fun as you can.

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