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Tennessee River in Tennessee

Trip Overview

Tennessee River - Chattanooga, TN

My wife and I wanted to go for a paddle that was close by, but yet still felt like going somewhere different. We decided to hop onto the Tennessee River at Rivermont Park in Chattanooga and float down to Maclellan Island downtown. We put in at a boat ramp (directions below) and paddled the three miles down to the island in about two hours from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

It's a large, wide river so there is no shade, but the temperature was mercifully mild for July in Chattanooga.

It was very much an urban paddle. The right side (usually north)of this part of the river is lined with houses and a golf course. On the left there is the Chattanooga Riverwalk, broken up occasionally by industrial buildings. But there are still plenty of trees and birds, especially blue herons.

When you get close to the island, there are good views of the cities unique, historic bridges and of the art museum on the bluffs to the south. Take the right channel to the north side of the island where there is marked a canoe beach. We stopped for a picnic in the shade of a willow before exploring the island. There is a 1.5 mi trail around the island. More details here:

The trails were pretty rough and it's obvious it is not well traveled ... which is part of why we went there. Mosquitoes and poison ivy are everywhere so come prepared. The site says there is a Great Blue Heron rookery (nesting area) on the east side of the island, but we couldn't find it. Possible that the trail had been swallowed by the vegetation.

After an hour or so on the island, we got back in the boats and paddled a quarter mile to the kayak launch at Coolidge Park. The water was low, so it was a bit rocky at the takeout, but the park was buzzing with summertime fun and there was a concert that evening. I drove my wife's car back to the put in, picked up my truck before loading the boats and heading home.


The island has a little shelter that says bathrooms, but we didn't find them. There are three designated primitive campsites on the island.




Put In:

From Coolidge Park in North Chattanooga, go right onto Frazier and under the Veterans Bridge to go North on Barton Ave. At the fork, bear left onto Hixson Pike. Take a right on Lupton Drive and then a right onto Dixie Drive when you see the sign for the park. Follow directions to the boat ramp.

Take out:
Coolidge Park on the Chattanooga North Shore


View map/launch site of McLellan Island:


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

Locations on this Trip