Paddle Dog Adventures
Photo: Paddle Dog Adventures

Middle Tennessee is currently experiencing some scorching hot weather. When this kind of heat hits Tennessee, it is time to get on the water, and what better way to social distance and enjoy the water than kayaking one of the local rivers.

With the pools closed or only allowing organized activities, kayaking is a great way to cool down with friends or family.

Both the Stones and Harpeth Rivers offer kayaking opportunities, or for those willing to head a little further away from home, there is the Duck River.

Kayak Basics

Understanding the basics of kayak paddling, rules of the road (water regulations), and water safety are essential. Luckily, Stone River Kayak and Canoe Rental has this information on their Facebook page. And on their website, they have a list of what to bring and what not to bring. If you need to watch someone do it before you go, REI offers a great beginners lesson on YouTube.

According to the American Kayak Association, there are five types of flat water kayaks: sit-on-top, recreational, touring, pedaling, and inflatable. They each have different qualities:

  • Sit-on-top kayaks do not have a closed cockpit, so they are easy to get into and out of. They are usually wider than most, so they have good primary stability. These are what most rental companies offer in single or tandem styles as they are simple for beginners to use.
  • Recreational kayaks have a closed cockpit, but with a large enough opening to put a small child in there with you. They are shorter than touring kayaks, usually 10 feet or less.
  • Touring kayaks are usually 12 feet or longer, they generally have smaller cockpits. They are also narrower. The smaller cockpit also has thigh braces in it so that if the kayak rolls over the paddler uses his thighs and hips to roll himself back upright. These take a bit of training to use.
  • Pedaling kayaks are great for people who have back or shoulder problems because the only time you need to use your arms is when pulling into shore.
  • Inflatable kayaks are exactly as they sound. The American Kayak Association does not recommend them as they can be punctured.

Stones River

Unlike most of the other rental companies, Stones River Kayak and Canoe Rental is a mobile service; they bring the kayaks to you. They offer two routes, each offering a roughly four-hour float: Jefferson Springs and Walter Hill Dam. It is important to read over the descriptions of how the process works for each route, as they are different. Each float includes a life jacket, kayak and paddle. For the Walter Hill Dam route, it requires a van trip to the drop-off point. They are open seven days a week. Cost is $35 to rent a kayak. Book online.

Harpeth River

There are several places to catch a ride on the Harpeth River. If you are visiting the city of Franklin, you might consider Paddle Dog Adventures. They are located in the Westhaven development, and offer trips on the river, and paddling on Westhaven Lake. River trips are about two hours long. They are a weekend only business. Cost is $30 to book a kayak. Call to book at 615-975-0732

Also on the Harpeth River out of Kingston Springs on Highway 70S are several places to rent kayaks. This is the place most people go and it can be a bit of a zoo on weekends, however COVID-19 has made things a little different. They have strict precautions they are following, including wearing a mask when you are anywhere near people – specifically inside their store to pay and inside the van ride to the drop-off point.

The three popular places to rent are Canoe Music City, Foggy Bottom and Tip-A-Canoe. Tip-A-Canoe lists some very specific rules they are following with COVID-19 besides those listed above. These include no groups larder than 10 people, groups must remain six feet apart, one group member will need to go in to pay for the group, no multiple payers. Release forms will now need to be filled out in the parking lot before payment, and they will only accept groups who have already made reservations. Tip-A-Canoe has been around since 1971, and they manufacture their own canoes and kayaks.

Duck River

River Rat Canoe Rental is out of Columbia, and in spite of their name, they do offer kayak rental. The company has ties to Middle Tennessee State University. Bill Stewart, the owner, has a Bachelor of Science in Outdoor Recreation from the university. He is also the second-generation owner, his father, Ernie, started the business. Kayak rental is $30 for three to four hours. Book online.

All of these trips are going to allow you to enjoy nature, and step back from all the craziness of the world right now. There are lots of animals that make the river home, and beautiful vistas asking to be captured in a photo. Grab your swim suit, sun screen, and bug repellant – then float your cares away.


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