The Tennessee River Blueway is a great way to experience the heart of Chattanooga's picturesque river gorge. (Photo by Sunny Montgomery)

An afternoon on the water is never enough. So why not stuff your dry bags, fill your water jugs and plan an overnighter?

There are a number of multi-day river trips located within a few hours' drive of Chattanooga, with runs ranging from urban to wilderness to a mixture of the two.

Here are three itineraries to help get you started.

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Big South Fork of the Cumberland River (Kentucky)

This 20-mile trip offers paddlers spectacular scenery, complete with dramatic gorges and sandstone bluffs. The stretch is mostly flatwater, but does include some fast-moving shoals, so be cautious.

Commitment: 2 days, 1 night

Miles from Chattanooga: 140

Day one: 10 miles

Put in at Blue Heron Mining Community in Stearns, Kentucky.

Camp at Alum Ford Campground.

Day two: 10 miles

Alum Ford Campground to takeout.

Pro tip: The takeout is an unnamed but easy-to-spot boat ramp on river right. Its GPS coordinates are 36.837528, -84.594683.

Shuttle? Sheltowee Trace Adventure Resort offers year-round shuttle services for paddlers. Pricing depends on the number of paddlers, but having your vehicle waiting at the takeout is usually worth the cost.


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The French Broad River Paddle Trail serves up a number of riverside breweries along its flatwater stretch. (Photo by Amy Brock-Hon)

French Broad River Paddle Trail (North Carolina)

This 49-mile flatwater paddle takes trippers on a tour of beautiful Asheville, offering views of the Biltmore Estate and riverside breweries. You'll want to plan to pull off to sample their refreshments. Don't worry, a couple of high-mileage days will help you burn off those craft beer calories.

Commitment: 2 nights, 3 days

Miles from Chattanooga: 195

Day one: 10 miles

Put in at Hap Simpson River Access Park in Brevard, North Carolina.

Camp at Little River campsite, located at the confluence of the Little and French Broad rivers.

Pro tip: This campsite is on private property and must be reserved at It includes a picnic table, fire ring and porta-potty.

Day two: 22 miles

Little River campsite to Buck Shoals campsite.

Camp at Buck Shoals.

Pro tip: Look for this campsite on river left about a mile downriver from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Day three: 17 miles

Buck Shoals to New Belgium Brewery.

Take out at brewery.

Shuttle? There are a number of easily researchable shuttle services in this area. Because this trip's setting is mostly urban, another option is to park your car at the takeout and Uber back to the put-in.

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Tennessee River Blueway (Tennessee)

This 46-mile flatwater run stretches from Chickamauga Dam to Nickajack Dam. The slow-moving river takes paddlers through downtown Chattanooga and deep into the river gorge, with a number of campsites along the way. The last day of the journey can be long, so weary paddlers might consider taking out a day early at Raccoon Mountain.

Commitment: 4 days, 3 nights

Miles from Chattanooga: 0

Day one: 6.2 miles

Put in at Chickamauga Dam.

Camp at Maclellan Island in downtown Chattanooga.

Pro tip: To camp on the island, you must first purchase a permit at Camping permits are $25. Toilets are available but water and electricity are not.

Day two: 9.6 miles

Maclellan Island to Williams Island.

Camp at Williams Island.

Pro tip: Williams Island also requires a permit for use of its primitive campsite. Permits are free, but you must apply at least one full business day before you plan to camp. Visit for more information.

Day three: 10.7 miles

Williams Island to Prentice Cooper State Forest.

Camp in Prentice Cooper State Forest.

Pro tip: This primitive site is a bit more inconspicuous. When you see TVA's pump facility at Raccoon Mountain (alternate takeout) on river left, start to look for a clearing and fire pit on river right, located 0.1 mile upstream of the pump facility.

Day four: 19.8 miles

Prentice Cooper State Forest to Nickajack Dam.

Take out at Shellmound Campground at Nickajack Dam.

Shuttle? The easiest option for this trip is to set your own. Have one friend leave his or her car at the takeout, then drive yours to the put-in.