Tennesseans know you don’t need a coastline to enjoy the water. Here are 9 Tennessee rivers and lakes where you can boat, fish, paddle, picnic or just enjoy the scenery.
Created by Chickamauga Dam in 1940, this Chattanooga-area lake is perfect for recreation of all kinds from swimming to boating to paddleboarding. It also offers some of the best fishing in the area year-round.
Whitewater rafters across the country love the challenging ride on the Ocoee River, home of the mile-long course used in the 1996 Olympics whitewater competition. Experienced rafters can test their skills, and adventurous beginners can get a guided tour.
According to The Nature Conservancy, Tennessee’s 269-mile Duck River has more species of fish than all rivers in Europe combined. It also has more varieties than any other river in North America, and the best to catch there is the smallmouth bass. Plus 37 miles of the river in Maury and Marshall Counties have been designated as state scenic river areas.
Less than 20 miles west of Nashville, the Harpeth River is a small body of water that’s perfect for a swim or float trip. It’s also full of panfish, which is just what it sounds like: an edible fish that usually doesn’t outgrow the size of a frying pan.
As part of Natchez Trace Park, this lake is surrounded by options for outdoor activities from hiking to biking to walking trails. Rent a kayak and take a trip out in early fall to see the leaves change from a new vantagepoint.
A favorite with Nashville residents, Radnor Lake was created in 1914 to produce steam power for locomotives. The wildlife sanctuary is a hit with birdwatchers and also with hikers, runners and weekend warriors.
The Tennessee River flows into Pickwick Lake, and the Pickwick Landing State Park has a marina that rents all sorts of paddlecraft and boats. Try a peaceful glide across the water on one trip or productive day of fishing for striped bass on the next.
Nestled into the northwest corner of the state, this 15,000-acre natural lake is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Autumn is the time to see hundreds of pelicans stop by for a snack as they make their way south to warmer climates. Pontoon cruises are also popular for all ages, especially to see the fall foliage.
The spring-fed Wolf River flows from Mississippi through Shelby County to join the Mississippi River in Memphis. Spanning 90 miles of forests, fields, and communities, the river is not only a great place for recreation, but it also protects the pure drinking water in Memphis. Paddle it yourself to experience it.
Keeping rivers and lakes beautiful
Most people respect the natural beauty of Tennessee, but litter is still a problem. You can help by volunteering for clean-up events at lakes and rivers all across the state. Check here for information about activities at a lake or river near you.
For a deeper dive into 12 of the best Tennessee lakes, click here.