Duck River in Tennessee - Weekend Trip Report

by  oldmanrvr

A self-supported trip created by oldmanrvr

Trip Overview

Trip Length: 15.9 miles, 2 days 5 1/2 hours at a leisurely pace.

Participants: Captain Dave, Captain Gregg, First Mate Christopher

Duck River from Halls Mill to Henry Horton State Park

Hazards: Water was up from recent rains, washing out all rapids and speeding the pace considerably.

Nature of the River: We postponed this trip from May first and second due to the terrible storms that dumper 14 inches of rain on Middle Tennessee that week end. There were no dead falls or unusual hazards on this stretch of river. We paddled and fished, stopping several times and reached our Island campsite 9 miles down river in mid afternoon.

Date(s) of Trip: May 15 & 16, 2010
Weather Conditions: Partly cloudy to raining. Temperature was in the high 70s
Fishing: Fish were again, smarter than any of us

River Mile 1-3: The first few miles are very pastoral, with cattle farms on the right bank of the river. We saw a number of very large cows wading in the shallows, but they showed no interest in our expert kayakmanship. The current was surprisingly swift, even though we were going through long stretches of seemingly slack water. Near the end of this section, we saw the largest Bull I have ever seen lolling on the back, surrounded by a harem of heifers.

River Mile 3-6: The river veers away from apparent civilization and limestone bluffs begin to appear. We noticed that all of the class I & II riffles at the bends were washed out by the higher water. We never came close to hitting bottom during the entire trip, and we were making amazingly good time, with very little effort. We stopped on a pleasant gravel bar at about mile 5 to eat lunch and do a little fishing. The river was a little murky, but water visibility was good in the shallows. I know this because Christopher dumped his kayak during a very ungraceful dismount and we were able to see his Gator Aid gently swaying on the bottom. At about this time, we were passed by a john boat with an outboard impeller motor. We waved as the gentleman continued down river.

River Mile 6-9: We left the gravel bar after about an hour, waiting out a thunderstorm that passed just north of us. The scenery is great with huge Sycamores lining the river and high bluffs on the right bank much of the time. The storm debris from the flood two weeks ago was apparent everywhere, but was either 15 ft up in the trees or piled high on the islands that are common along the entire length of this trip. There was very little, if any, hindrance to paddling. This could well change as the river drops and exposes trees in the channel.

At about mile 8, we rounded a bend and saw our fried in the john boat off in the distance. As we approached, we could see he was in some trouble. He had grounded and swamped in the middle of a rapid. We were able to help him bail out hi boat and get off the rocks. We learned that he owns the Canoe/Kayak Livery in Chapel Hill and was running the river with a chain saw and other tools to clear any debris in the river. Luckily, Gregg had a hand operated bilge pump on his boat that he has never used and was considering relegating to the garage.

We got off the river around 3 PM, choosing a campsite on a large island that was about 4 ft off the water. We enjoyed the day and went to bed early. I awoke to the sound of rain hitting my camping hammocks tarp sometime after midnight. It rained continually until about 10 AM Sunday morning.

River Mile 9-12: We broke camp and were back on the river by 9:30 AM. At about mile 10, we encountered the first bridge crossing the river at Hopkins Bridge Rd. There is a private primitive camp ground just before the bridge that caters to canoe and kayak travelers. The river continued to flow at an accelerated pace and we did the last 7 miles in 2 � hours. There are many islands, channels and bends along this entire section of the trip.

River Mile 12-16: Near mile 15, the bluffs are replaced by higher hills on the left bank. There is a sharp left, then right bend in the river around a huge island about a mile upstream from the take-out. When you start to see houses along the left bank, you are near the take-out at Henry Horton. There was a stop sign on the left bank at the take-out ramp, but it was washed away, along with part of the ramp in the flood earlier this month. The take-out is just before a gravel bar on the left.


Primitive Camp Ground at Hopkins Bridge Rd (Fee charged)

Numerous gravel bars and islands suitable for camping


Old Town 14� Dirigo

Perception Monarch 15�

Potomac 10�





From I-24 in Murfreesboro take exit 81A toward Shelbyville for 15 miles. Turn right on Unionville-Deason Rd and go 7.1 miles. Turn left on Longview Rd and go 1.3 miles to US 41. Turn left and go 1.1 miles and turn right on Old Columbia rd. Go one mile and turn left on Staley Rd, follow it for 1.2 miles. Turn right on Halls Mill Rd and go 1 mile to Wheel Rd. Parking and put in is on the right, just after you turn left on Wheeler.

Take Out:
Go out of parking area and turn left, then left again on Halls Mill Rd. Follow to the end at intersection of US 31. Left on 31 through Chapel Hill. State Park is on the left. Park near the boat ramp on the North end of the Park.


USGA Web site

Canoeing & Kayaking Guide to Streams of Tennessee

Trip Details

  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location