(Water) Trail Review: the Narrows of the Harpeth River

Perfect for a beginner (or lazy) water lover!

Today was my first time inner tubing the Narrows of the Harpeth, but I’ve kayaked it before. Other than the speed at which I moved, there was little difference between the tubing and kayaking experiences.

The Narrows of the Harpeth is part of the Harpeth River State Park. If you put-in/take-out at the standard spots, it’s a 5.5-mile float (or paddle) down a Class 1 river.   We chose to leave vehicles at both the put-in and take-out, but the two spots are only about half a mile apart, so it’s walkable if you’ve only got one vehicle.

The river has always been calm when I’ve been on it. There are a few small rapids spread far apart, but no navigation is really needed other than staying away from the bank and making sure you don’t get caught on a submerged tree limb. There are some very shallow parts where you need to get out of your kayak (or canoe, or tube) and walk your craft over before hopping back in.

I’ll be honest – there aren’t many interesting sites along this route. When you first start, you pass by the Montgomery Bell Tunnel, which is neat, but it’s filled with logs and debris and there’s a big HAZARDOUS KEEP OUT sign, which kills the magic a bit. After that landmark, there’s really not anything impressive. It’s just views of riverside trees. At the end, you’ll pass under the Harris Street Bridge; the take-out is on the gravel bar just past the bridge. If you were to keep going, you’d eventually end up in the Cumberland. This part of the Harpeth River is incredibly peaceful, though, and a great place to take beginners.

Great interactive map by Tennessee Valley Water Trails

We went on a hot, busy Saturday in the summer (it’s technically still spring, but at 86F/ 30C, I’m calling it summer), but it didn’t seem that crowded. We were able to find parking spots for everyone in our group, and never risked bumping into others – even though we were a giant, connected floating circle most of the time. When I’ve kayaked, even on a very busy weekend, I didn’t have any crowd issues except having to wait a little bit at the take-out point. If you can go on a weekday, that’s great; if not, don’t worry.

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