After reading about the Tennessee River Blueway on Paddling.net we planned our trip. Six of use drove from Middletown, OH to Chattanooga, TN where we camped at Harrison Bay State Park. We dropped a vehicle at Shell Mound County Park and launched from the Greenway Farm Park where the staff was very helpful about securing our car at their office.
We paddled 2.5 miles down the creek before entering the Tennessee River just below the Chickamauga Dam Lock. They were having a good release that day so we had help paddling past Chattanooga. Chattanooga is a city focused on its river with many river front parks and activities. We passed the Delta Queen, which is now permanently docked and used as a hotel. They have fountains spraying onto the river that we paddled under to cool off since we were having record setting temperatures.
We went 18.8 miles our first day and camped on Williams Island at the Williams Island Farm. They have a campsite with picnic table, fire ring and composting toilet. It's an organic farm with no electric or running water. We found water across the river at Baylor School. As good guests we brought a chair as a recycled gift to the Farm that we found along the river. Check out the Farm at williamsislandfarm.com/news.html .
The next day we got deeper into the Gorge. We had a lunch break on a beach with a great rope swing. We found a water volleyball net set up on a sandbar but forgot to bring a volleyball. We stopped at Sullivans Landing for a cold drink. Further down river was The Catfish House but was only open Friday through Sunday.
Osprey, Heron, Kingfisher were everywhere. We also got very close to an immature Bald Eagle. We saw deer on one of the islands that swam back to the shore as we paddled by. It was strange to actually paddle from Eastern Daylight Savings Time into Central Standard Time. We had planned to camp at Oates Island TVA campsite but it had a sheer embankment with 4 feet of water at the bank that made it very difficult to get out of kayaks. There was only a small table to cook on and a small area of weeds. We passed on this campsite and went on to Hale's Bar Marina. We got there late and they were only set up for RV camping but they let us set up our tents and tarps behind the playground next to the bathhouse (bonus). They had a restaurant and bar but it closed at 8pm.
Up early and on the water for a short day. We found a good spot along the cliffs that line this section of the river, to jump off of. There is a marker on the top of the cliff and a good safe spot for a 50 foot jump.
As we were finishing out trip an Osprey flew close to the water and drug one foot in the water across in front of my kayak. We ended our trip at Shell Mound County Park next to the Nickajack Dam.
Camping site from TN Blueway