Body recovered after canoe overturns near Patten Island identified as Georgia man

Staff file photo / A Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency patch is seen on the shoulder of an officer.

The body of a man was recovered Tuesday after a canoe he was in with two others overturned after they left Harrison Bay State Park for nearby John A. Patten Island on Chickamauga Lake.

The man has been identified by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency as Joshua Murphy, a 25-year-old Georgia resident.

Murphy went missing just after midnight near Harrison Bay State Park after he and two other men left the boat ramp at Harrison Bay, Mime Barnes, agency spokesperson, said in an agency news release.

"The canoe overturned, leaving the three adults in the water," Barnes said in the release. "There were no life jackets on the boat. Two of the men were able to swim to the island, where they built a fire to keep warm. An angler heard their cries for help and responded, calling for emergency assistance around 2:30 a.m."

Officers located Murphy's body around 8 a.m. in 7 feet of water, according to the state agency. Wildlife officers and others assisted in search and recovery efforts.

(3-year-old child drowns in creek near Chattanooga home, police say | Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Murphy's body was transported to the Hamilton County Medical Examiner's office for examination, Barnes said. The incident remains under investigation.

Tuesday's fatality is the 26th boating-related death this year, according to state officials. The total for 2023 is nearing the mark set in 2022 at 29 fatalities, state boating records show.

Annual boating fatalities since 2018 in Tennessee

— 2023 year to date: 26.

— 2022: 29.

— 2021: 21.

— 2020: 31.

— 2019: 8.

— 2018: 23.

Source: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

Boating-related deaths have averaged 22 a year since the state started keeping records in 1965.

Of the 29 boating fatalities in 2022, four involved paddle craft (canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddle boards or similar nonmotorized craft), two involved houseboats, two involved cabin motorboats, one was a personal watercraft and 18 were open motorboats, records show.

(Teen Maze warns Northwest Georgia students about life's disastrous dead ends | Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Watts Bar and Percy Priest lakes both had four fatal boating incidents in 2022, followed by three fatalities each on Chickamauga and Kentucky lakes, records show.

Chickamauga Lake was the body of water in Tennessee with the most boating incidents in 2022 at 13, followed by 10 on Norris Lake and seven on Center Hill, Nickajack and Percy Priest lakes, records show. Incidents on the other 32 lakes across Tennessee numbered between one and six.

Contact Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569.