With abounding rivers, lakes, and swimming holes, water is at the heart of Chattanooga—and visitors will find plenty of ways to enjoy it all. Whether you prefer to experience water from a boat, a board, or through a pair of goggles, Chattanooga has the perfect place for you to get your feet wet. Here are just a few of the ways you can get out and enjoy summer on the water.
One of the best ways to experience the Scenic City is paddling along the Tennessee River, which runs right through downtown Chattanooga. L2 Outside rents SUPs and kayaks starting at around $20 an hour.
If you prefer to do your flat water paddling at a less central location, check out River Canyon Adventures located about 10 minutes from Downtown Chattanooga. You can explore the Tennessee River Gorge and enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and abundant wildlife.
There are plenty of ways to get the Chattanooga water experience without having to paddle your own vessel. The Chattanooga Ducks are a great way for the whole family to explore the city from both land and water. The Ducks, modeled after military vehicles that can both drive and float, take sightseers on a tour of downtown before cruising right into the river for a scenic boat ride. The two-hour tour costs $24 per adult and $12 per child, and reservations can be made online ahead of time.
For a unique group outing, book a cruise on Chattanooga Cycleboats for up to 16 people. Guests are invited to BYO anything, from drinks and snacks to music and books. The rentals start at $20 per person per hour and group rates are available.
Want to ride in style? The Southern Belle Riverboat offers a variety of cruise options ranging from lunch and dinner cruises to sightseeing and special events. Even school field trips and weddings can be held aboard the Southern Belle. Lunch and dinner cruises range from $30-$40 for adults with lower rates for kids, and sightseeing tours range from $13 (kids) to $23 (adults). The Southern Belle is the perfect way to see the city from the beautiful Tennessee River and enjoy a delicious meal along the way.
Chattanooga is dotted with lakes and swimming holes that are perfect for cooling off on a hot summer day. Nearest to the city center is the North Chick Blue Hole, just 20 minutes from downtown in the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge. You’ll find plenty of great swimming holes along the creek, and you can hike in as far as you please until you find the perfect spot for a plunge.
To go for a dip off the beaten path, head up Signal Mountain and take a hike down past Mushroom Rock to Suck Creek. If you follow the creek downstream, you’ll encounter perfect places for a refreshing summer swim.
For a swim without the hike, you can visit Big Soddy Creek Gulf, which is accessible by a gravel road. This spot is ideal for families, as there are picnic areas and nearby parking. Located less than half an hour from downtown near Soddy Daisy, this creek is a great place for a snack, a swim and some summer sunbathing.
STAYING ON LAND
For those who are less inclined to get wet, there are a panoply of local places to enjoy the Tennessee River without actually getting in it.
The Riverwalk is a paved 13-mile path along the southern shore of the Tennessee River that connects Ross’s Landing with the Chickamauga Dam. With eight entry points, plenty of restrooms and picnic areas along the way, the trail is immensely accessible and wonderful for walker, runners, strollers, wheelchairs, and bikes.
The Passage, a pedestrian area near the Tennessee Aquarium, is a permanent historical exhibit that’s both educational and fun to explore. The Passage marks the origin of the Trail of Tears, when the Cherokee were forced to leave Ross’s Landing on the Tennessee Riverbank. The exhibit displays symbols from the 7 clans of the Cherokee nation, and is a serene place to stop for a rest and enjoy the artwork.
At Coolidge Park on Northshore, families can enjoy unique play areas, green grass and paved walkways, all with a picturesque view of the Tennessee River. The popular park features a sprinkler-like fountain for kids to play in, while giving parents the option to stay dry. This an ideal spot for a picnic, a game of Frisbee or some good ol’ rolling around in the grass. From the park, you can take a stroll across the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge to see the river from up high.