Jun 6 2022
06:55 am

The water flow of many rivers in Tennessee are controlled by dams. In the past several years kayaking has been promoted heavily in the Knoxville area.

A couple of things to remember before kayaking:
1) Rivers and lakes are deep and not clear (brown/green). It's not like going to a swimming pool. Rivers and lakes can have lots of debris from trees and even dead animals.
2) Rivers flow and the speed of the river flow can be determined by the dam water releases.
3) Life jackets for river and lake sports are critical.
4) Just because you are a good swimmer in a man made pool does not mean your talents will save you in a river or lake.

Over the Memorial Day weekend at least nine people kayaking had to be rescued off of the French Broad River near the Seven Islands State Birding Park (Two on Sunday and seven on Monday).

According to the TVA website, "Douglas [dam] will be spilling until further notice." Spilling indicates the water flow on the French Broad River will be fast.

We floated the French Broad River twice, once when the dam was not spilling and once when it was. When the dam was not spilling we had to pull our kayak a little ways to get past low waters. When the dam was spilling that same section was a thrilling ride, but also scary. If you weren't a good paddler and did not know how to carefully navigate you could easily overturn or get stuck in trees along the side of the river.

All of these companies that advertise kayak rentals should better warn customers as to the conditions of the river and the need for paddling and navigating skills. Sure it's great fun but sort of like trying to pet a bear, it's not Disney World, it's the real world.

WATE has an brief interview with "Kim Abney, an American Canoe Association certified instructor, who said it’s important to know how to be safe, and she said it starts with knowing the condition of the water you plan to be in." Abney provides additional tips for kayaking on rivers and lakes.

Be careful out there.

Alex_Falk's picture


hard agree! see way too many folks with no PFDs, putting in and not knowing if they're going up or downstream, unaware of wind forecast & associated effects on open water

also, thanks for your previous little river posts ("bubba's guide")

WhitesCreek's picture

Rule number 1!




Also, don't take your first trip on moving water. Learn to control and maneuver your boat first. Practice self rescue in a safe place.

And a bunch of other stuff so take a class if at all possible.

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