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While you may feel tempted to book your summer full of road trips and events, be sure to set aside plenty of time to relax and float down the river. With so many rivers and lakes in and around Nashville, Music City has some of the best kayaking our great state has to offer. Whether you want to pack your lunch and have a leisurely paddle with friends, or want to traverse far upstream and get in a tough workout, here are the best kayaking spots you need to hit up.
The Cumberland River is ideal for the novice and the expert. If you’re in it for the burn, paddle out as far as you’d like and come back against the current for an amazing workout. Or, start against the current and float back into the harbor for a more relaxing ride. Head to Paddle Up in West Nashville to rent a kayak for one or two people, and enjoy the quieter parts of the river.
Percy Priest Lake is just east of the city and has so many accessible drop-in spots. One of the closest and most scenic is Hamilton Creek. Here, you can rent a kayak from Nashville Paddle Company, or you can bring your own. This quieter part of the lake has less boat traffic, and you can hang in the bay or paddle out as far as the eye can see.
Perhaps one of the most Insta-worthy places to kayak is right on the waterfront in Downtown Nashville. This picturesque ride will take you all along the outskirts of the city and is packed with amazing views (and possibly even live music). Drop in the water yourself at Cumberland Park or rent from Cumberland Kayak Adventure and join their guides on a long skyline paddle, which takes you to Shelby Park and back to Downtown Nashville. This route explores bluffs, Mill Creek, and Demonbreun’s Cave.
Just northeast of Nashville sits Old Hickory Lake. And the Burton Rd. lake access is one of the better spots to hop in your kayak. Paddle underneath the Burton Road Bridge into an enclosed cove. Across the cove is Spencer Creek, which lazily winds through marsh, wooded, and pasture land. This roughly three-hour trip is an adventurous paddle through nature.
Caney Fork River is about an hour drive east from Nashville, but worth if you’re looking to truly escape the city and kayak out in nature. You can rent from Canoe The Caney, which offers a six- and nine-mile guided trip. The nine-mile trip is the most popular and takes about three to five hours. On this guided excursion you’ll experience the best of Caney Fork River — a cave and an old bridge built in the 1800s. Plus, you’ll definitely get a glimpse of some bald eagles and blue herons.
If you’re going to kayak the beautiful Harpeth River, one of the best places to rent from is Foggy Bottom. This Class 1 river made up of slow-moving waters (and a few mild rapids) winds through beautiful historic areas. Feel free to bring your fishing pole or hop in for a swim. Around almost every corner is a sandbar so you can have a picnic or lay in the sun.
Head south of Nashville near Murfreesboro to Duck River for a wildlife paddle. Duck River is one of Tennessee’s most scenic rivers and contains one of the most diverse populations of freshwater animals. With 151 species of fish, 60 freshwater mussel species, and 22 species of aquatic snails, along with river otters, beavers, mink, hawks, and herons, kayaking Duck River with a guide from Duck Canoe will be the best way to ensure you don’t miss out on all this adventure has to offer.
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