6 Beautiful Paddleboard Destinations in Chattanooga

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Since the eighteenth century, paddleboarding has allowed original Hawaiian surfers to paddle farther into the open ocean, cross and surf unbroken swells between islands, and journey further from one beach to another coastal area. Today, it is the country's fastest growing sport and has the most first-time participants than any other outdoor activity. Everyday, paddlers explore lakes, cruise down rivers, ride breaking waves and drop down raging rapids, and this is all happening minutes from downtown Chattanooga. Here are 6 of the most amazing flat water paddles in the Scenic City:

1. First-Time Paddle: Chickamauga Dam

Exploring Osprey Nests. Photo by Jake Wheeler
Exploring Osprey Nests. Photo by Jake Wheeler Jake Wheeler

A great way to be introduced to the sport, the dam is a paddler's classic. Unless there are several boats or high winds, the water is generally flat. Besides the great views, there's also plenty of room to explore, but be careful about getting too close to the dam, and make sure to heed any warning signs. It is also really good for training, because the current is pretty even in any direction you paddle. 

2. Nature Paddle: Lookout Creek to Tennessee River

Paddling under bridges at Lookout Creek. Photo by Jake Wheeler
Paddling under bridges at Lookout Creek. Photo by Jake Wheeler

There are many backcountry creeks to paddle in Chattanooga, but this one is my all time favorite. You would never believe that a mid-sized city was right around the bend as you paddle under a fantastic canopy of hardwoods and meander your way towards the Chattanooga Nature Center, the Paddler's Perch, and beyond. I really enjoy putting in at the Nature Center and paddling to the mouth of the Tennessee River and back. 

3. Endurance Paddle:  Tennessee Blueway

Racing the Southern Belle down river.
Racing the Southern Belle down river.

Sometimes it is good to harness your inner Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer and just head down river. Surrounded simultaneously by both modern and ancient culture, as well as countless species of flora and fauna and varying geological features, paddlers cannot help but be enamored by the Blueway. Aptly named the Grand Canyon of the Tennessee, this 26-mile segment of river flows through the Tennessee River Gorge and is surrounded by upwards of 27,000 acres of protected forest. I will generally put-in at the Dam and paddle to Suck Creek, or Raccoon Mountain. 

4. Date Paddle:  Maclellan Island

Andrew Bryne paddling around the island at sunset. Photo by Jake Wheeler
Andrew Bryne paddling around the island at sunset. Photo by Jake Wheeler

Chattanooga is a beautiful city, but it's a whole new world when viewed from the majestic Tennessee River. Take a date out for a sunset paddle, and enjoy looking at the underbellies of the bridges, inspecting the limestone bluffs, and witnessing people busily going about their days on the banks, as you casually float on the water. Bring some picnic supplies & refreshments, and make one of the sandy beaches on Maclellan Island your home base, alternating between beach lounging and board floating.

5. Puppy Paddle: North Chick Creek

Sunset along North Chick. Photo by Jake Wheeler
Sunset along North Chick. Photo by Jake Wheeler

A mere 15 minutes from downtown Chattanooga, Greenway Farms offers an idyllic setting for a day out with the suppy puppy. Take your dog for a walk at the Greenway Farms pastures and trails until he or she is thoroughly exhausted, and then cool off in the water. I like to paddle downstream to the mouth of the creek at the downriver side of the Chickamauga Dam, and on into the Tennessee River and back.

6. Extreme Paddle : Ocoee River

Ben Friberg scouting rapids. Photo by Jake Wheeler
Ben Friberg scouting rapids. Photo by Jake Wheeler

This gorgeous river is home to some truly world-class white water paddling, and it's only an hour away from downtown Chattanooga. Grab some elbow pads, a Redbull, and trade in your flat water board for a whitewater one to enjoy an all natural roller coaster. 

 

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