Looking For Water Adventure This Summer? Head to Knoxville, Tennessee

The Great Lakes of the South. Ever heard of such a place? That nickname affectionately refers to East Tennessee, where seven large lakes and countless rivers combine to create a whopping 220,000 acres of water! Together the bodies of water form over 4,500 miles of shoreline and result in unlimited recreational fun!

In the heart of this water paradise lies Knoxville, Tennessee. Referred to as “Knox” by the locals, there’s hardly a water activity that can’t be enjoyed in, or just outside of, the city.

Knoxville Water Sports To Try Out This Summer

Now that summer has made a full appearance, we thought you might enjoy learning a bit about exactly how and where you can enjoy the wet ‘n wild world of Knox! Here are some of our favorite Knoxville water sports we recommend experiencing on your next Knox trip:

Whitewater Paddling

Knoxville Water SportsRegarded as one of the best paddling towns in the country due to being surrounded by exceptional whitewater, Knox is a whitewater paddler heaven. It’s also a great place to try whitewater paddling for the first time if you’ve yet to try the activity.

The different whitewater regions are:

  • Big South Fork National River
  • Cherokee National Forest – North
  • Cherokee National Forest – South
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Obed Wild & Scenic River
  • Walden Ridge
  • Western Plateau

Whitewater paddling is paddling a kayak on a whitewater river. How intense the whitewater river is moving, though, depends, and in Knox, there is a range of rivers and places that fall into different classifications. If you’re a beginner you’ll start on Class I and Class II – easy and novice classes. If you’re a seasoned paddler, you can choose out of all the classifications. For more information on whitewater paddling in Knox, visit here.

RELATED: Your Guide to a Complete Sensory Experience in Knoxville, Tennessee

Whitewater Rafting

One of the most accessible and downright exciting water sports of all time – whitewater rafting! For many, the term whitewater rafting brings up images of Colorado and California, but as it happens, Eastern Tennessee is the top destination in the U.S. for whitewater rafting! During your next Knox trip you can:

  • Whitewater Rafting on the Pigeon River – An adventure for the entire family, rafting down the Pigeon River brings big, bouncy wave trains and nearly continuous Class II-IV rapids on the Upper Pigeon. For a lovely, calm, float trip (better for young children) opt for the lower Pigeon River.
  • Whitewater Rafting on the Ocoee River – The top river in the country for rafting, the Ocoee River is known as the Ocoee Coaster due to its splashy waves and continuous action. The 1996 Summer Olympic Whitewater Games were held here!

You can learn more or book trips on either of these rivers here.


Knoxville Water Sports
Concord Yacht Club | Facebook

There may not be an ocean in Knox, but there is an abundance of sailing nonetheless! Whether you already bow how to sail or wish to have private lessons, head to Concord Yacht Club for all of your sailing needs!

Stand up Paddling

Having exploded in popularity over the past few years, SUP has become a Knox favorite. Easy to do on any of the lakes and some of the rivers, the best way to SUP, if you already know how is to rent the boards and head out on your adventure! Head out on Mead’s Quarry Lake and explore the historic marble quarry. For a more urban nature experience head out to a City Lights Paddle excursion through Billy Lush Boards & Brew. On the City Lights Paddle, you’ll get to see the sunset over downtown Knoxville, and then light up the water at dusk with LED lights, which are mounted underneath the paddleboards.

Canoeing + Kayaking

Due to the Tennessee River and its many tributary lakes, Knoxville is in the center of some of the best flatwater paddling in the entire southern U.S. You can hop into a canoe or kayak in the heart of downtown and quickly emerge into a whole new world. It’s a phenomenal experience! Whether you want to rent a canoe or a kayak or want to enjoy a lesson or group outing, visit Outdoor Knoxville for all your needs.

As you can see, there’s no limit to the excitement and adventures to be had on the liquid surfaces of Knox. Beat the heat, try something new, and have an epic summer vacation in one of America’s most incredibly unique cities. Knox is full of surprises, and we know you’ll fall in love with every quirk, corner, and sunset during your stay. For your accommodation needs, head to the heart of downtown Knox for a stay at The TENNESSEAN Hotel. The TENNESSEAN Hotel is steps away from downtown Knox’s robust dining and entertainment scene. It’s also conveniently located near Outdoor Knoxville and Ijams Nature Center.



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