Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge - Flat Water Paddling

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This is one of the most beautiful paddles in the Knoxville area, and it's only 20 minutes from downtown.

Written by

Matt Guenther


0.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

14.4 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

1 hours

As much time as you would like.


All Seasons

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Fees Permits




Seven Islands State Birding Park is a 416 acre park features a wide range of recreational opportunities. Throughout the year visitors to the park can enjoy hiking, birding, fishing and photography amid the extensive native grasslands. Over 190 species of birds have been recorded at the park to date.  Some of those species are best seen by boat along the French Broad River.

What Makes It Great

The convenience of this outdoor getaway (no matter your preference of activity) makes the Seven Islands area a hidden gem of Knoxville. You do have to go out of your way to get there, but the distance is not too far, so during the middle of the week, you might have the property to yourself. The trails here often have bountiful wildlife, and are perfect for a run with friends or a hike with the family. Picnic tables near the main parking lot give users the perfect place to end or begin their Seven Islands adventure.

 However, one of the best aspects about Seven Islands is its access to a very calm, pristine section of the French Broad River. The French Broad needs no introduction really; it’s one of the oldest rivers in the world and it’s well known in the paddling community for having excellent whitewater sections. But perhaps lesser known is its class I-II waters close to downtown Knoxville, which make for prime flat water paddling.

 Put in at Seven Islands just before the parking area on Kelly Lane, and float downstream to the Cruze Landing. It’s 4 miles and usually takes 2 hours to make the float. The river divides between Seven Islands, and you can explore all the various little inlets and nooks. If you’ve brought a fishing pole, the fishing is also quite good. For more information on the myriad opportunities for paddlers along the French Broad, check out the French Broad Paddle Trail.

Who is Going to Love It

We recommend this park mostly to boaters, but anyone can enjoy this area! Set aside as a state birding park, during the warm months the park's trails and roads are surrounded by bird song. The trails here are great for running several loops before a dip in the river, and the informative material throughout the park is great for families looking to take the kids out for a nice day in the woods. No matter your reasons for coming here, you will enjoy yourself.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

On your way down Kelly Lane, there will be a sign directing boaters and fisherman to the waterside down a road on the left. This will take you to the boat put-in, and is also just a nice spot to relax by the water.

For everyone else, continue to the “end” of Kelly Lane and there will be a gravel lot next to a barn. Park here and continue your adventure down the pavement with your bike or find the trails nearby to head into the woods.

This park is open  sunrise to sunset.

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Seven Islands Wildlife Refuge

2809 Kelly Lane
Kodak, TN, 37764
35.948213, -83.690684

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