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Nolichuckey River in Tennessee

Trip Overview

Yesterday a friend & I took a day trip on the lower end of the Nolichuckey, starting from Highway 67 bridge (near Lamar Elementary) and finishing at Bailey Bridge near Limestone. There is easy put-in/outs at both spots, though the put-in the guy who owns the property charges $3.

The trip was approximately 12 miles in length and took us roughly 4 hours. At higher water levels, it would have probably knocked nearly 1 hour off the trip with easy paddling; there was 1 spot I had to portage because the river was too shallow, and numerous spots where I had to push myself free from rock jams (though I didn't have to leave the boat).

Other than getting stuck several times, it was a highly enjoyable trip - because the river is generally shallow, you see few other people about; only an occasional jonboat in the deeper spots. The entire river through this area is undeveloped, with the only sounds from an occasional irrigation pump for nearby farms. Several spectacular views as you wind through the mountains towards Greene County. We spotted quite a number of blue herons along with other birds.

As far as rapids, with the water really low, everything was basically Class 1, a couple of spots would maybe be Class 2 in higher water. Without a spray skirt I did manage to get fairly wet plowing through some of the higher water/rapid areas, but since it was so hot it was kind of welcomed.

This is a good trip to take a beginner on, since there's little danger of being tossed in a rapid and most places the river is shallow enough to stand. Right at Bailey Bridge there's a Class 2/borderline 3 in higher water, but this is past the put-out. Cell service is difficult to come by at the put-out so it's safer to arrange a pick-up time for your ride or leave a car there.

Bring lots of sunscreen, as the river is almost completely unshaded from 9am-5pm, and also bring food since there's no where to stop along the way.


Accomodations in Johnson City and Erwin, no facilities at either spot.


$3 at put-in.


To put in: Interstate 181/23 South to exit 18, right off exit. Follow Rt. 107 for approximately 5-8 miles until you see "The Watering Hole" gas station on right (if you cross the Nolichuckey twice you've gone too far), right before the bridge. Turn right, go to next road, turn left, you'll see put in.

Put-out: Follow Rt. 107 from Watering Hole approx 12 miles, turn right at Roadrunner Market, approx 3/4 mile, left on Bill Makin Road (right before Bailey Bridge), put-out is on the right.

  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip