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Waterlogged: Tennessee’s Lakes, Rivers and Waterfalls You Must Visit

While Tennessee is rich in history, arts, breathtaking landscapes and decadent food, its central location in the Southeast leaves it relatively landlocked. But whether calling Tennessee home or planning a visit, don’t let the lack of waterfront keep you away. The South Central region is home to stunning—and lesser known—bodies of water perfect for boating, swimming or sunbathing, including everything from lakes to rivers, waterfalls to blueways. Don’t let yourself feel landlocked; visit these can’t-miss watering holes in Middle Tennessee instead.


Tims Ford Lake


Considered one of the most picturesque lakes in all of Tennessee, Tims Ford sits within a state park that spans more than 3,500 acres. Spend a weekend along the water by reserving a campsite for an RV or tent, or book a cabin on the Tims Ford Reservoir. Bring your boat and your bathing suit and prepare to swap the Tennessee hills for a lakeside adventure.


Photo: Odinn Media


Normandy Lake


On the fringe of Tullahoma, Normandy Lake is a 17-mile reservoir created in the 1970s on the Duck River, perfect for boating, fishing or canoeing for a landlocked reprieve. Located in the same county as Tims Ford, it’s the quieter lake of the two, rife with opportunities to take out a paddleboard and not fight the wake. While you’re there, take a trip past the 110-foot-tall dam separating the lake from the river.


Photo: Odinn Media


Duck River


The Duck River winds its way through South Central Tennessee and beyond, boasting the continent’s most biologically diverse variety of animals. The river spans 269 miles to create one of Tennessee’s most beautiful waterways. Launch a kayak for a journey downstream, or cool off with a dip on a warm day.


Rutledge Falls


Rutledge Falls sits right in between Tullahoma and Manchester and is located just over a quarter of a mile hike from its parking area. After a short walk, watch the falls unfold before you, revealing a crisp respite from even the hottest Tennessee summer. Rutledge Falls even once made an appearance on the big screen in the 2009 hit, Hannah Montana: The Movie.


Photo: Odinn Media


Old Stone Fort State Park


Also located along the Duck River, Old Stone Fort State Park cites human occupation dating back to 6000 BCE. Now, visitors can enjoy a visit to the archeological park, which houses multiple waterfalls and pools of water onsite. Forgo TLC’s advice and chase a variety of waterfalls, most prominently including Bluehole Falls and Big Falls, both dropping water 30 feet into a pool below. For those who want to plan a full day in Manchester, Old Stone Fort State Park also has a golf course.


Photo: Odinn Media


Woods Reservoir


While owned by the Arnold Air Force Base and created by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Woods Reservoir in Tullahoma is open to the public with five boat ramps perfect for launching a vessel for a weekend of aquatic fun. The 4,000-acre lake is known for excellent crappie fishing and is also home to species including bass, walleye, catfish and sunfish.


Jackson Falls


A popular stop along the Natchez Trace, Jackson Falls is on the perimeter of Centerville in Hickman County. Park at Baker Bluff Overlook and walk the half mile each way to the falls or pull right up to the Jackson Falls parking area, which has bathrooms, a picnic area and a paved path down to the waterfall via a steep, 900-foot drop.


Photo: Odinn Media


Buffalo River


Located right off the Natchez Trace Parkway, Wayne County is an outdoor lover’s paradise. If you’re visiting between April and October, the Buffalo River—the longest free flowing river in Middle Tennessee—is a must-stop with guided horseback riding tours and floats aplenty. If you’ve brought your own kayak or paddleboard, you can put in at Bell Bridge and take out at Horseshoe Bend Road.

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