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Canoe the Caney Fork River

Center Hill Dam
Latitude: N 3xxx'xx"
Longitude: W 8xxx'x"
Elevation: xx'
 

Caney Fork River
Canoeing the Caney Fork River below Center Hill Dam is best done when they are NOT generating at Center Hill Dam. You can check the generation schedule for Center Hill and other Tennessee dams at TVA Web Site or by calling 1-800-238-2264, Center Hill Lake is #37. The river can be paddled by experienced canoers during partial generation but risk of injury is much greater. The Caney Fork River is about 20-30 yards wide in most areas with a slow but noticeable current. The Caney Fork is a great place to trout fish. The riverbed is made up primarily golf ball size gravel covered in a dark green moss. In most areas you can see the river bottom but in other areas there are deep pools.

The length of this section of the river from the dam to the Cumberland River is 28 miles. There are numerous access points which allow for shorter trips by either putting in at an area down stream from the dam or taking out of the river sooner than it's merger with the Cumberland river. These access points are listed below with the approximate river distance from Center Hill Dam. People who canoe it's length generally do it in either two long days or three easier days.

 

Public Access
The entire length of the Caney Fork river is public. However, most of the land along the river is private. Please respect the landowner and do not cross land that you do not have permission to be on. There really is no need to cross private land anyways. There are plenty of places with access that do not require it.
 

Center Hill Dam - Center Hill Dam is located 65 miles East of Nashville, TN, and just a few miles South of I-40 exit #268. From I-40 exit #268 turn South and go 3.7 miles to the stop sign at Big Rock Market, turn right at the stop sign and go .3 of a mile to and watch for the 'Resource Managers Office' sign and turn right. A short .2 mile drive will take you to the parking lot, or if you intend to canoe or launch a boat, drive another .1 mile beyond the parking lot to river.

To get to the West side of the dam (Long Branch recreation area) again turn right at the stop sign near big Rock market and continue to drive until you cross the dam, you can't miss it. After crossing the dam turn right at the first road, Hwy 141. From here you can see the parking area near the power station at the base of the dam.
There is a campground located at the base of the dam on the West side of the river, campground reservations may be made by calling 1-877-444-6777.
 

 

5.2 - Happy Hollow Access Area provides a gravel parking, easy access to the river and a gravel ramp for either launching a boat during generation or easy access for canoes to put in or take out. Happy Hollow access area is located on the Putnam county Deklab county line just 1.3 miles south of I-40 exit #268 and is visible on the West side of the road, there is small brown Happy Hollow Access sign at the parking area. When generation starts at the Center Hill dam the rising water takes approximately one hour to reach Happy Hollow.
 

5.5 - Rest Area at I-40 *This is a good fishing area to park at and walk to, but for canoe access use Happy Hollow Access Area. It's only .25 mile up stream, and you can drive right to your boat. If you use the rest area you have to carry your things .1 of a mile and cross an exit ramp. For walk in fishing the area provides extremely easy access, lots of paved parking and access to a mile or more of the river. To get there simply exit I-40 at the rest area just west of exit #268. The rest area has 2 parking lots, the lower lot (where the East bound traffic enters first) is the best place to park for easy access.
 

9 - Betty's Island Access Area has a gravel parking area and good river access. There is no boat ramp but there is easy access to put in or take out a canoe. To get there Take I-40 exit#268 and go North 1.9 miles to St. Mary's Road and turn left. Take St. Mary's Rd 4.1 miles and you will see a small brown Betty's Island sign on the left at the entrance to the parking area. When generation starts at the Center Hill dam the rising water takes approximately 2.5 hours to reach Betty's Island access area.
 

10.5 - Kirby Rd. Road side parking and good river access. There is no boat ramp but there is access to put in or take out a canoe. To get there Take I-40 exit#268 and go North 1.9 miles to St. Mary's Road and turn left. Take St. Mary's Rd (aprox)6 miles to Kirby Rd and turn left (last time I was there, there was no road sign). You can't miss the pull-offs on the left. This area is about 1.5 miles past the Betty's Island area.
 

16 - Stonewall Bridge has foot access but no ramp. The bridge is located where Hwy 264 (Stonewall Hwy) crosses the Caney Fork River. To get there Take I-40 exit#268 and go North 1.9 miles to St. Mary's Road and turn left. Take St. Mary's Rd 10.4 miles to Stonewall Hwy and turn left, the bridge is just 1/2 mile away you cant miss it.
 

20 - Hell Bend Route 53 runs from I-40 to Carthage and passes close to this access point. From Route 53, look for a train trestle that is more visible from the river than the road. There is a well worn path from the road to the river.
 

28 - Cumberland River Once into the Cumberland you will paddle across the river to the north shore. There is an access ramp on the right bank of the Cumberland River near the new bridge.
 
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