your paddlesports destination

Tennessee River & Cypress Creek in Alabama

Trip Overview

I launched from the swimming beach at McFarland Park around 6pm. I listened carefully for a lock discharge whistle when setting up. There was no whistle, so I knew there would not be a downstream barge any time soon.

Winds were about 4 knots and the water on the Tennessee River was relatively calm. As always when paddling around McFarland Park or the facilities nearby, night blindness from the excessive lights was a problem.

I paddled 1 knot downstream to the entrance of Cypress Creek. I turned my headlamp to medium and entered the creek. Although I paddle this creek frequently, the substructure can change daily, so I stayed in the middle of the channel in order to avoid any newly fallen logs or debris.

I paddled upstream past the Coffee Road (#20) bridge without incident. Shortly thereafter, a family of beavers began surrounding my kayak and slapping their tales as they dived.

I had intended to paddle upstream to the ariel pipeline - the point at which an upstream paddle from the TN River usually becomes difficult to shallow water.

The further upstream I went, the more agitated the beavers became. I have spent much time around beavers at night, but the behavior of this family was unusual. I thought, at one point, that a large beaver was going to leap onto my boat or attack me.

I continued about one half knot upstream, but began to feel nervous. I have learned that if a paddle trip doesn't feel right, to listen to the "little voice." I said, "Alright, alright, I'm leaving." to the bold beaver who had kept off my starboard beam and turned around.

I paddled downstream to the TN River, but observed the spotlight of an approaching tug and tows. The tow was downstream and had just passed 7 Mile Island. As the bow wake and subsurface suction is quite dangerous on this narrow section of the river - especially with upstream tows - I paddled back upstream a hundred yards or so and waited for the tow to pass. Even at my distance, I could clearly feel the unmistakable water changes as the tow passed. I waited ten minutes and then entered the TN River.

The paddle upstream to the park beach was pleasant and uneventful. There was about 5 knots of current to paddle against, so the return required a bit of effort.

I scanned the beach carefully before landing (3 watt LED headlamp). Even though I had scouted the beach before launching, a barge tow passing can easily wash up large rocks or other debris. My launch point was still safe, so I landed at the beach and disembarked.

My paddling trip was cut short, but it was a short, safe trip. Much better than a longer trip that might have went badly...


Safe, well-lit. M/F restrooms.

Boat slips are free at the marina, but the swimming beach is much safer to launch/land.




McFarland Park. Near the boat ramp. Swimming beach is just downstream of the marina.

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

Locations on this Trip