From expansive, glassy lakes to rolling whitewater, Chattanooga offers a smorgasbord of paddleboarding opportunities. Ben Friberg, a native Chattanoogan and the first person to stand-up paddleboard from Cuba to Key West said, "There are some pretty significant bodies of water in the area, so you’re pretty unlimited in the things you can do with a paddle and board."
Spending 20-plus years floating the region’s waterways, Friberg made the switch from kayaking to paddleboarding about four years ago. Hardly a day passes where he isn’t on the water for at least an hour, drinking in Chattanooga’s distant mountain views while massive gar, turtles and catfish swim beneath his board.
Even if you’ve never set foot on a SUP before, you can jump right into the sport with little to no experience. Here’s how to max out your Chattanooga stand-up paddleboarding experience without getting all wet.
Where to Begin
First things first, you’ll need a board. Newbies (and those who don’t want to schlep their board to town) can rent from local retailers like Chattanooga Guided Adventures, L2 Outside, and Outshine Adventures.
The typical paddleboarding season in Chattanooga is April to October, and it’s always important to dress for the elements. Generally, a synthetic shell is adequate to protect you from cool breezes. You’ll also need to keep an eye out for boat traffic, particularly the barges that frequent the Tennessee River. Finally, a waterproof case for your phone is always recommended in case of emergencies.
Hit the Water
The most common routes are loops around Maclellan Island and downstream through the Tennessee River Gorge. Both are accessible through L2 Outside and Chattanooga Guided adventures, but if you have your own board you can do some further exploring. You’ll want to confirm access points with Outdoor Chattanooga's map.
Williams Island Loop, approximately 4 miles
This scenic section meanders through Baylor School, so expect to share the river with local rowers. Public access is upstream about one mile at the Suck Creek boat ramp.
Chickamauga Lake, various
Chickamauga Lake offers various scenic loops. Access by the dock at Chickamauga Dam/Marina or at Booker T. Washington State Park’s public boat ramp.
Chickamauga Dam to Downtown, approximately 7 miles
Access at Tennessee RiverPark or the dock at Riverwalk (off Amnicola and Lost Mound Drive).Downtown to Chickamauga Dam and back, approximately 14 miles
Access at Coolidge Park and get ready to paddle – you’ll be fighting the current half the trip.
Downtown to Nickajack, approximately 31 miles (Chattajack course)
This grueling 31-mile route rewards you with arguably the prettiest section of the Tennessee River. Begin at Coolidge Park or Ross’ Landing and take out at Hales Bar Marina. For a shorter trek, put in at Suck Creek boat ramp and take out at Raccoon Mountain boat ramp. You’ll need to coordinate dropping off a vehicle.
Special Events and Tours
SUP Yoga Sessions, times/dates vary
Namaste like no other with this on-water yoga class. Join Outshine Adventures for a relaxing SUP Yoga Session on the calm waters of Chickamauga Lake with a certified yoga instructor.
Down River Paddleboard Adventure and Rental
No fighting this current with this paddleboard excursion. Rent a paddleboard through Chattanooga Guided Adventures and your rental includes a shuttle upstream so that your downstream paddle has you passing by iconic Chattanooga views like the Tennessee River Park, Maclellan Island, Walnut Street bridge and more!
Bat Cave or Full Moon Paddleboard Adventures, times/dates vary
Outshine Adventures puts on both of these magical tours!
The Bat Cave Paddleboard Adventure features a short, peaceful paddle to the mouth of Nickajack Cave at sunset to watch thousands of endangered gray bats emerge at sunset for their nightly feeding.
Or, opt for the Full Moon Paddle. This two-hour, guided, and fully-equipped paddleboard tour is perfect for beginners and intermediate paddlers. The paddle begins at sunset on the calm waters of Chickamauga Lake and ends by the light of the full moon.