Tennessee’s Paddleboard Odyssey: Navigating Nature's Masterpiece!

Tennessee's rich tapestry of rivers, lakes, and vibrant landscapes beckon the hearts of outdoor adventurers. For paddleboard enthusiasts, the Volunteer State's waterways are not just about the thrill of the sport, but about the symphony of nature that unfolds at every paddle stroke. Here are 20 mesmerizing locations where paddleboarding becomes a gateway to Tennessee's wild heart.

Key Highlights:

  1. Reelfoot Lake's Enchantment: Experience the magic of paddleboarding among ancient cypress trees and witness the spectacular sight of bald eagles and migrating waterfowl.
  2. Tranquility at Radnor Lake State Park: Escape Nashville's bustle and find serenity in the still waters surrounded by dense woodlands, home to otters and deer.
  3. Adventure on the Little River: Let the tranquil flow of this Smoky Mountain gem guide you through landscapes alive with river otters and the shadows of fish beneath your board.
  4. Autumn Wonders of Norris Lake: With over 800 miles of shoreline, Norris Lake offers a kaleidoscope of fall colors, wildlife sightings, and mysterious freshwater jellyfish.
  5. Biodiversity at Percy Priest Lake: Close to Nashville, this lake is a haven for herons, ospreys, raccoons, and beavers, with small islands ready to explore.
  6. Hiwassee River's Natural Symphony: Paddle through Appalachian backdrops, accompanied by migrating waterfowl and the hunting ospreys.
  7. Crystal Waters of Dale Hollow Lake: Float amidst clouds over clear waters, spotting smallmouth bass and the occasional fox or coyote along the shores.
  8. Living Museum of Duck River: Navigate through one of the most biodiverse rivers, surrounded by mussel beds, myriad fish species, and bobcats in the underbrush.
  9. Cherokee Lake's Morning Mist: Experience the mystery and beauty of dawn paddles, where deer and ospreys become part of the landscape.
  10. Watts Bar Lake's Wildlife Haven: From playful otters to raccoons and foxes, engage with nature's vibrancy against a backdrop of deep blue waters and lush greenery.

people with paddle boards in Tennessee
Photo Credit: Rusty's Kayak & Paddleboard

1. Reelfoot Lake.

Born from the tremors of earthquakes in the 1800s, Reelfoot Lake is a mesmerizing expanse surrounded by cypress trees shrouded in Spanish moss. As you paddle, the serene ripples might be interrupted by turtles sunbathing or sliding off logs. The autumn months are particularly enchanting when the sky becomes a canvas for migrating waterfowl. Keep an eye out for majestic bald eagles that find this location as intriguing as you do. The horizon, painted with amber sunsets, creates reflections that dance on the water's surface.

2. Radnor Lake State Park.

A few paddle strokes into Radnor Lake, and you'll forget you're near Nashville's hustle. The park cocoons you in its embrace of dense woodlands and still waters. Playful otters skim the surface, while white-tailed deer cautiously approach the shores for a sip. The echo of songbirds weaves through the trees, composing nature's symphony. A morning paddle here often means mist rising, creating an ethereal atmosphere.

3. Little River, Townsend.

As the foothills of the Smoky Mountains roll by, Little River's tranquil flow becomes your pathway. Spring breathes life into the river, making it a playground for river otters. Beneath your board, the shadowy figures of fish dart and dance. Look skyward, and you may spot the graceful arcs of red-tailed hawks. The gentle sounds of the flowing river, paired with the hum of the woods, create a meditative experience.

4. Norris Lake.

paddle boards in tennessee

Norris Lake sprawls with over 800 miles of shoreline, each curve revealing a new secret. Blue herons, with their poised stance, search the shallows, while the mysterious, translucent beauty of freshwater jellyfish might surprise you. The lake is particularly vibrant in the autumn when the surrounding trees become a mosaic of fiery hues. Beneath those fiery canopies, you might be lucky to spot a fox or coyote on a lakeside prowl. The blend of blues and oranges at sunset makes evening paddles an artist's dream.

5. Percy Priest Lake.

Not far from Nashville, Percy Priest is a biodiverse haven. Great blue herons pick their way along the shores, ospreys scan for their next catch, and occasionally, the silhouette of a bald eagle graces the skyline. Along the water's edge, curious raccoons and industrious beavers go about their routines. As you paddle, the lake's expanse is frequently dotted with small islands, each a tiny ecosystem waiting to be explored.

6. Hiwassee River.

Set against the picturesque backdrop of the Appalachians, the Hiwassee is a river of legends. A hub for migrating waterfowl, it's not uncommon to find yourself amidst a squadron of them, their wings barely kissing the water's surface. Ospreys, with their keen eyes, make this their fishing ground, diving in thrilling arcs. The river's song, combined with the distant call of birds, is a lullaby for the nature lover.

7. Dale Hollow Lake.

With waters so clear they rival crystal, Dale Hollow is a mirror to the sky. Paddleboarding here feels like floating amidst clouds. Smallmouth bass roam the depths, visible from above, while the shores might reveal glimpses of prowling foxes or the mysterious eyes of coyotes. The lake, surrounded by dense woodlands, also boasts hidden coves and pockets, making each paddleboarding excursion a new adventure.

8. Duck River.

Paddleboarding on Duck River is like navigating through a living museum. It boasts an impressive biodiversity, from mussel beds that decorate the river floor to a myriad of fish species. The shores often rustle with the movements of wildlife, and a keen eye might spot a bobcat stealthily navigating the underbrush. Overhead, the shimmering wings of kingfishers dive, breaking the water's surface in a splash of excitement.

9. Cherokee Lake.

The tranquility of Cherokee Lake is punctuated by the distant calls of wildlife. Dawn paddles often feature deer delicately sipping at the shores, their reflections mirrored in the still waters. Mist often hovers, creating an aura of mystery. As the sun climbs, ospreys might disturb the peace, their sudden dives creating ripples that travel far and wide.

10. Watts Bar Lake.

Meandering through dense woodlands and open expanses, Watts Bar is a sensory delight. Playful otters might race your paddleboard, while the shores come alive with the antics of foxes and raccoons. The vivid contrast of the lake's deep blue waters against the lush greenery is a photographer's delight, capturing the essence of Tennessee's natural beauty.

11. Tellico River.

A shimmering jewel of East Tennessee, the Tellico River cascades through deep valleys and rugged landscapes. As you paddleboard along its flow, you’ll find yourself captivated by the rhythm of waterfalls and the challenge of occasional rapids. It's a playground not just for adventure seekers but for nature enthusiasts too. Above, a spectrum of songbirds, from warblers to tanagers, fill the canopy with their melodic symphonies. Beneath your board, the clear waters reveal trout darting amidst river stones, their iridescent scales reflecting the dappled sunlight filtering through the trees.

12. Ocoee River.

The roar of the Ocoee is known to whitewater enthusiasts, with its world-class rapids and churning waters. But between these challenging stretches, calmer pockets offer a momentary respite and the chance to immerse in nature’s wonders. The highlight for many is the majestic sight of a golden eagle soaring overhead, its broad wings casting fleeting shadows over the river. The banks of the Ocoee are teeming with life; from vibrant wildflowers that sway with the breeze to the playful antics of river otters, there's always a spectacle to behold.

13. Pickwick Landing Reservoir.

The allure of Pickwick Landing Reservoir is twofold: the harmonious blend of its waters with the enveloping hardwood forests and the diverse fauna that calls it home. The soft glow of dawn often reveals the silhouette of black bears ambling along the water’s edge, their deep footprints marking the wet sands. As you glide deeper into the reservoir, you may stumble upon secluded coves, each echoing the sounds of nature — from the splash of fish to the distant calls of forest creatures. The deeper pockets of water are home to various fish species, making it a frequent spot for herons and egrets hoping for a catch.

14. Clinch River.

Flowing with an ancient grace, the Clinch River is a testament to time and nature's undying beauty. Its waters are remarkably clear, often allowing paddleboarders to peer deep into its aquatic world, where fish dart between underwater plants and shadows. Overhanging branches, laden with bright green leaves, occasionally touch the water's surface, creating gentle ripples. On these branches, you might spot red-winged blackbirds or hear the chirping of tree frogs. As the day wanes, muskrats might be seen skimming the water, their sleek bodies leaving a delicate wake behind.

15. Tims Ford Lake.

Nestled between limestone bluffs and dotted with islands, Tims Ford Lake is a dream for every paddleboarder. Its waters reflect the cerulean sky and are frequently broken by fish leaping or birds diving. Groundhogs, curious and often humorous, can be seen scampering along the shores, while deeper into the lake's heart, secluded coves offer tranquility and the melodic tunes of nature. Each island beckons with a promise of discovery, be it a hidden sandy shore or a viewpoint that captures the lake's grandeur.

16. Center Hill Lake.

With its maze of waterways snaking between dense woodlands, Center Hill Lake is an explorer's delight. Hidden waterfalls, only accessible by water, pour down in shimmering veils, their mist creating rainbows in the morning light. The thick woods echo with the calls of various birds, but the haunting hoot of the great horned owl often stands out, especially as dusk approaches. The lake’s depths are home to various fish species, from catfish to bass, their movements occasionally betraying their presence through gentle surface ripples.

17. Buffalo River.

Paddleboarding on the Buffalo River is an exercise in serenity and wonder. The river winds gracefully through gorges and past towering bluffs, each turn revealing scenes that seem painted to perfection. Playful otters occasionally accompany paddleboarders, their swift movements creating playful splashes. The shores, dense with reeds and foliage, often hide the mysterious mink, its sleek body gliding seamlessly between land and water. Above, majestic egrets and herons, with their pristine white plumage, add a touch of elegance to the river's wild beauty.

18. Nickajack Lake.

Nickajack's claim to fame is not just its expansive beauty but its resident bats. As evening descends, a cave along the lake's shores comes alive as thousands of bats emerge, their synchronized flight patterns creating mesmerizing patterns against the twilight sky. Paddleboarding during this spectacle is both eerie and enchanting. The lake's waters, calm and reflective, often mirror the surrounding landscapes, creating a double panorama that's breathtaking. It's not just about the bats; ospreys, with their piercing calls, often dive for fish, making every paddleboarding session an adventure in wildlife observation.

19. Elk River.

Running through a blend of pastures and dense forests, the Elk River is a palette of vibrant colors and lively sounds. Paddleboarding here is a treat to the senses. The shores often rustle with the movement of wildlife, from groundhogs to skunks. The river's waters, sparkling under the sun, teem with aquatic life. The sudden gobble of wild turkeys might startle you, while the slow, deliberate movements of armadillos on the shores provide a contrasting, calming effect.

20. Kentucky Lake.

Despite its name suggesting otherwise, Kentucky Lake stretches into Tennessee, offering a vast expanse for paddleboarding enthusiasts. The lake's biodiversity is its crown jewel. Playful minks might dart in and out of the water, while overhead, the lofty flight of vultures and eagles create a dynamic sky show. The distant lapping of the water against its shores, combined with the myriad sounds of its resident creatures, makes Kentucky Lake a symphony of nature's melodies.

Conclusion to the best places to view wildlife from a SUP in Tennessee.

women on paddle boards
Photo Credit: Nashville Paddle

In the heart of Tennessee, where nature and water converge, lies an untouched canvas of wonder and serenity, awaiting the soft brush strokes of a paddleboard. The allure of its waterways is not merely in the thrill of navigation but in the ever-evolving tableau of wildlife that paints itself along the shores, in the depths, and across the skies. As the sun sets over these pristine waters, the amber hues reflect not just the day's end but the countless stories that unfolded with every paddle stroke.

To embark on a paddleboarding journey across Tennessee is to indulge in an intimate dialogue with nature. From the mischievous gaze of an otter to the haunting echo of an owl, from the majestic rise of an eagle to the gentle rustle of deer on the banks, every moment resonates with a unique story. It’s a dance where humanity and wilderness move in tandem, set against the backdrop of shimmering waters and verdant landscapes.

In the silence of dawn or the tranquility of dusk, on the vastness of a lake or the gentle flow of a river, Tennessee speaks a language that every paddleboarder understands. It's a language of adventure, of discovery, and most importantly, of connection. So, whether you're a seasoned paddleboarder or a curious soul with a board in tow, let Tennessee's waters be your guide. Dive deep into its tales, ride along its rhythms, and let your heart sync with the wild heartbeat of the Volunteer State.

Tips, Tricks, and Fun Articles await.

Here are a few quick links to help you keep going, don't forget to check our blog out for more tips and expert advice. For wildlife tips check out our blog and this article on Beginners Guide To Bird Watching. And don't forget to read our article on Stand Up Paddle Boarding and Wildlife Encounters. For a complete guide of where to paddle board in every state, this one is for you! The best places to paddle board in the United States a state by state tour of where to paddle board with Glide Paddle Boards.

Or perhaps something international is what you are looking for, then these two articles will help out. Check out the ultimate guide on finding places to paddle board near you for tips and tricks on finding new and exciting places near you! And for international spots Epic Spots Globally To Paddle Board is for you! And check out the Glide O2 Angler and why it makes an incredible platform for birding and wildlife viewing.