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Tennessee River in Tennessee

Trip Overview

Drove to Knoxville knowing that I didn't know where I would launch. I did know that I was going to paddle from below Knoxville up to the forks of the Holston and French Broad Rivers, which forms the Tennessee River. Got off of Alcoa Hwy. and drove on to Neyland Drive. Headed upriver. Parked at the Third Cr. bike trail parking lot. Third Cr. looked pretty dirty, so I decided to carry my canoe under Neyland Dr. and launch directly into the River.[about 200 ft.]

As soon as I put in I headed straight across the river to Cherokee Bluffs. I am about 1 mi. below downtown at this point, fabulous view. Got some great pictures of Neyland Stadium as I passed it. I paddled under the bridges that I had driven over when I lived in Knoxville as a child. I always wondered what the view was like from down there now I know.

I read in some historical book or article that the Tennessee ran clear and shallow in Knoxville before the area was settled and forest became field and industry started polluting the water and before Ft. Loudon Dam was built. Anyway, at one point just before I got to the downtown area, I was on the east side of the river and at one spot where the current quickened around an obstruction there was a place on the shore where the silt was washed away and at that spot there was a lot of smooth round rocks just like you would expect to see up in the Smoky Mts. Made me wonder what the river looked like as far as the stream bottom and the shores are concerned.

Paddled on upriver and got out at the mouth Of First Cr. There is a monument there dedicated to the memory of signing of the Treaty of Holston in the late 1700's. This treaty gave much of the Cherokee Nation to the settlers. This is a major historical site in this part of our state and I was thrilled to see it and be there.

Put Knoxville behind me and next passed the Knoxville waterworks. After I got beyond the waterworks the river becomes very undeveloped except in a few places, mostly fields and woods. Island home airport is a very interesting part of this section of the river. Airplanes took off and landed often as I passed thru. A couple of miles more and I was at the forks of the river. Looking up the Holston was mostly East Tennessee farm country at it's best. Looking up the French Broad the scenery was dominated by some huge industry of some sort. There is a boat ramp right where the rivers meet and in the very near future I will probably put in there and run up the Holston. I was baptized in the Holston just above Boyd's Island in 1965. I have not been back there since. It will be nice to paddle there in the near future.

My return trip was uneventful. I did take the east passage around Island Home airport. It is a lot smaller and cuts off about 1/2 mi. of the trip.

Total one-way mileage was 6 mi. It took me 2hr. and 41 min to get to the forks. The return trip was somewhat quicker due to the shortcut around the airport and paddling with the current instead of against it. This was a very enjoyable trip. It was striking how quickly Knoxville ends above the downtown area and turns rural in about a 1/2 mi stretch.


Parking lot and a sidewalk going under the road to the river.


Come into Knoxville on Alcoa Hwy. Exit on to Neyland Drive. Head upriver about 1 mi. Look for Third Cr bike trail parking lot on the left side of the road. Park there and walk to the river on the bike trail.

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

Locations on this Trip