An easily accessible 50-mile water trail stretching from the Chickamauga Dam to the Nickajack Dam, the Tennessee River Blueway was designated as a River Trail in 2002.
What Makes It Great
Surrounded by both modern and ancient culture, countless species of flora and fauna, and diverse geological features, the Blueway is a paddler's delight. Of special note is the 26-mile segment flowing through the aptly named Grand Canyon of the Tennessee, where over 27,000 acres of forest are protected by the Tennessee River Gorge Trust. Each season offers distinct gifts to paddlers. During spring and summer, bald eagle and osprey sightings are common. Fall brings the bedazzling colors of the hardwood forests and the surreal experience of paddling through low clouds in early morning. With less boat traffic, the winter months offer a quiet serenity.
Camping (and some cabin rentals) are available at several spots along the Blueway, including Audubon Island, the Paddler's Perch at the Chattanooga Nature Center, Pot Point Cabin, and Hales Bar Marina. See outdoorchattanooga.com/learn/camping-and-glamping.
Note: this is a river traveled by barges and other large craft; weekends in fair weather produce even more traffic. Stay against the shorelines. When crossing the channel, time your crossing and make it quick: those big boats move a lot quicker than any of us can paddle! Keep a watch for the River Gorge Explorer, a high speed catamaran operated by the Tennessee Aquarium that reaches speeds up to 50 MPH and can produce a large wake.
Who is Going to Love It
Whether you are out for the afternoon or a five day expedition to see it all, the Tennessee Blueway is an experience you will not soon forget.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Access to the Blueway is via public access boat launches.
Overnight parking is allowed at designated locations only. Check with local authorities and/or store owners prior to parking overnight.
Google Maps has an overview of launching and camping options here.