Tennessee: Canoeing the Cumberland River

Nashville, TN from the canoe, Cumberland River

The Christmas Break road trip continued after we canoed the Coosa River in Alabama. Next on the itinerary, canoe in Nashville, Tennessee while also enjoying a big city for New Year’s Eve. On our way up to Nashville we made a stop in Birmingham, about an hour and a half Northwest of where we were staying in Wetumpka. We had some deliciously cheesy sandwiches at MELT in the Avondale neighborhood then head over to the 16th Street Baptist Church. Four young black girls were killed here in 1963 when a bomb went off in the church basement. The park directly across the street has 8 monuments that tell the story of the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham.

Three more hours on the road and we arrived at the Birdhouse, our AirBnB spot in Nashville. The Birdhouse is a shipping container converted into a small home. The Birdhouse includes a loft bed, living room, kitchen and fully functioning bathroom.

The Birdhouse, Nashville, Tennessee

Experiencing Nashville (with horrible colds!)

Unfortunately for us, we were both sick with colds. Tony’s cold started a little before Christmas and stuck with him through the trip. Mine set in on our drive up to Nashville. We committed to resting up and paddling the Cumberland River the following day. First, we needed to head downtown and experience a little bit of Nashville’s nightlife. We had dinner at Acme Feed & Seed. We loved it and they’re vegetarian friendly! The live music was on point as well.

With temperatures in the 40s, we opted to wait for the early afternoon warmth before we got on the water. After running some errands and grabbing breakfast at the Frothy Monkey, we went to scout the take out location.

When In Doubt, Scout

Our intended takeout spot was Cumberland Park, right smack dab in the middle of downtown Nashville. From there, one of us would take an Über to our car then drive back for the pick up. We weren’t exactly sure what that would look like so we decided to scout the location. On a normal day this would have been easy as pie, however today was the Music City Bowl, the Tennessee Volunteers vs the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Over 10,000 rabid college football fans were bobbing in seas of sherbet orange and bright red. We knew we’d face a challenge, but if worse came to worse we could paddle upstream, back to our car.

Canoe the Cumberland

We drove up the road about 8 minutes to Shelby Park and Nature Center. After about a half hour trying to find the boat ramp, we put in and paddled on. The Cumberland is an incredibly industrial river. Rigby did not get an opportunity to swim here. We paddled past barges (be on the lookout for moving barges and get out of the way!) and industrial businesses all with the goal of seeing the Nashville skyline as we came around a corner.

Rigby and the Nashville Skyline

The paddle to downtown took us about 40 minutes. Paddling under the two bridges leading to the stadium was a fun experience. Some people focused on getting to their tailgating party, others leaning over wondering why in the world we were canoeing in the cold. When we arrived in Cumberland Park we pulled the canoe up onto the cement and scouted where we’d do the pick-up with all of the road closures.



Victory Avenue was open to traffic so we ordered an Über and I was off to get the car. Unfortunately, the crowds and road closures made finding the Über an absolute nightmare. An hour after we arrived on shore I was finally in a car and on my way back the Shelby Park.

Tony pulled the canoe up to the road while also keeping Rigby occupied. I pulled up between some cones at the corner of Victory Avenue and Titan Way. We’re pretty fast at getting the canoe strapped to the car so within 7 minutes we were back on the road.Cumberland Park, Nashville, TN

Since we were battling colds the entire time we visited Nashville, we’ll have to come back to enjoy the city, but until then, we enjoyed our final paddle of 2016. Even if it was peppered with challenges.Inside the Birdhouse, Nashville, TN

Next Stop:

Spring break in South Carolina’s Congaree National Park.

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