One of my favorite places to paddle my flatwater kayak in or around the Chattanooga area would be downtown Chattanooga. Any time is nice, but paddling downtown at night is a special kind of awesome! Launching from the kayak/canoe put-in located immediately under the Market Street Bridge and immediately downriver of the Delta Queen affords paddlers the opportunity to explore Chattanooga's thriving downtown from a unique vantage point. Also of note is the fact that Maclellan Island is a wildlife sanctuary that is operated and protected under the auspices of the Audobon Society. At the upriver end of the Island, there is a Great Blue Heron rookery, and during the spring you can hear these gorgeous, prehistoric creatures calling, as well as see them in the nest.
Photo opportunities abound (oftentimes with the boater being the subject of the photo!), and the likelihood is high that you will become engaged in conversation with folks on the Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge.
As colorful, fun and culturally informative as this particular venue is, if you're new to/unsure about boating, or if you have small children, you might enjoy a different area more. Please note that the current can be strong and variable below the Chickamauga Dam; it is advisable to check flow prior to launching. Stream flow can be checked here:www.tva.com/river/lakeinfo
Parking is available in and around Coolidge Park. During the weekdays and Saturday, there is a parking fee; parking is free on Sundays. One can also park at/launch from one of the upriver launch sites (Rivermont Park on the north side of the TN River or the Tennessee River Park on the south side) and float down; either a shuttle or some upriver paddling would be required for this, though. Be aware that if you do not want to portage your boat from your parking spot to the put-in, you will want to offload your boat prior to parking, then either have member(s) of your party stay with your gear or cable lock your boats while you go park your vehicle.
Occasionally, but rarely, this area and/or the Tennessee River itself is closed. Checking with either Outdoor Chattanooga and/or the offices of Chattanooga Parks and Recreation can alleviate potential headaches if there is a question of access (i.e.: during rowing regattas, triathlons, Riverbend or other waterfront festivals.)
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