Where (and How) to Get on the Water in Chattanooga

Visitors will find a number of ways to enjoy the beautiful Tennessee River in Chattanooga.
Visitors will find a number of ways to enjoy the beautiful Tennessee River in Chattanooga. Jeff Gunn
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With abounding rivers, lakes, and swimming holes, water is at the heart of Chattanooga—and visitors will find plenty of ways to enjoy it all. Whether you prefer to experience water from a boat, a board, or through a pair of goggles, Chattanooga has the perfect place for you to get your feet wet. Here are just a few of the ways you can get out and enjoy summer on the water.

Paddling

The Tennessee River runs through downtown and is the most accessible spot to go for a paddle. Rock Creek on the Riverwalk and L2 Outside rent SUPs and kayaks starting at around $20 an hour. If you want to SUP with your little ones, check out L2 Outside’s Boardzilla, which can accommodate up to 2 adults and three children. They also offer daily SUP lessons for those new to boarding.

You can rent SUPs and kayaks on Chattanooga’s Riverwalk.
You can rent SUPs and kayaks on Chattanooga’s Riverwalk. Rock/Creek

If you prefer to do your flat water paddling at a less central location, contact Chattanooga Paddleboards ahead of time and they’ll bring the equipment to you. Open Thursday through Sunday, Chattanooga Paddleboards rents SUPs from changing locations around town; you can follow their Facebook to find out where they’ll be on a given day.

Boat Rides

There are plenty of ways to get the Chattanooga water experience without having to paddle your own vessel. The Chattanooga Ducks are a great way for the whole family to explore the city from both land and water. The Ducks, modeled after military vehicles that can both drive and float, take sightseers on a tour of downtown before cruising right into the river for a scenic boat ride. The two-hour tour costs $24 per adult and $12 per child, and reservations can be made online ahead of time.

The Chattanooga Ducks are a great way for the whole family to explore the city from both land and water.
The Chattanooga Ducks are a great way for the whole family to explore the city from both land and water. Michael Miller

For a unique group outing, book a cruise on Chattanooga Cycleboats for up to 16 people. Guests are invited to BYO anything, from drinks and snacks to music and books. The rentals start at $20 per person per hour and group rates are available.

Want to ride in style? The Southern Belle Riverboat offers a variety of cruise options ranging from lunch and dinner cruises to sightseeing and special events. Even school field trips and weddings can be held aboard the Southern Belle. Lunch and dinner cruises range from $30-$40 for adults with lower rates for kids, and sightseeing tours range from $13 (kids) to $23 (adults). The Southern Belle is the perfect way to see the city from the beautiful Tennessee River and enjoy a delicious meal along the way.

Another great family activity is a tour aboard the River Gorge Explorer. This educational boating adventure is an extension of the Tennessee Aquarium and is ideal for people of all ages. Each tour is led by an aquarium naturalist who teaches guests local history and helps to spot wildlife along the way. You will set sail aboard a luxurious boat with indoor and outdoor seating, air conditioning, and refreshments. The tours are $25 per child and $32 per adult, or you can combine with your aquarium ticket for a special rate.

Dive In

Chattanooga is dotted with lakes and swimming holes that are perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day. Nearest to the city center is the North Chick Blue Hole, just 20 minutes from downtown in the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge. You’ll find plenty of great swimming holes along the creek, and you can hike in as far as you please until you find the perfect spot for a plunge.

Find perfect places for a dip along Suck Creek.
Find perfect places for a dip along Suck Creek. Alan Cressler

To go for a dip off the beaten path, head up Signal Mountain and take a hike down past Mushroom Rock to Suck Creek. If you follow the creek downstream, you’ll encounter perfect places for a refreshing summer swim.

For a swim without the hike, you can visit Big Soddy Creek Gulf, which is accessible by a gravel road. This spot is ideal for families, as there are picnic areas and nearby parking. Located less than half an hour from downtown near Soddy Daisy, this creek is a great place for a snack, a swim and some summer sunbathing.

Staying on Land

For those who are less inclined to get wet, there are a panoply of local places to enjoy the Tennessee River without actually getting in it.

Chattanooga’s Riverwalk features both natural and urban sections to enjoy.
Chattanooga’s Riverwalk features both natural and urban sections to enjoy. Shannon McGee

The Riverwalk is a paved nine-mile path along the southern shore of the Tennessee River that connects Ross’s Landing with the Chickamauga Dam. With eight entry points, plenty of restrooms and picnic areas along the way, the trail is immensely accessible and wonderful for walker, runners, strollers, wheelchairs, and bikes.

The Passage, a pedestrian area near the Tennessee Aquarium, is a permanent historical exhibit that’s both educational and fun to explore. The Passage marks the origin of the Trail of Tears, when the Cherokee were forced to leave Ross’s Landing on the Tennessee Riverbank. The exhibit displays symbols from the 7 clans of the Cherokee nation, and is a serene place to stop for a rest and enjoy the artwork.

Coolidge Park features a sprinkler-like fountain for kids to enjoy.
Coolidge Park features a sprinkler-like fountain for kids to enjoy. ravas51

At Coolidge Park on Northshore, families can enjoy unique play areas, green grass and paved walkways, all with a picturesque view of the Tennessee River. The popular park features a sprinkler-like fountain for kids to play in, while giving parents the option to stay dry. This an ideal spot for a picnic, a game of Frisbee or some good ol’ rolling around in the grass. From the park, you can take a stroll across the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge to see the river from up high.

Originally written for Chattanooga CVB.

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