As summer days turn inexorably toward fall, nature beckons. It’s the perfect time—still warm, but not so hot—to get out on the water and explore the Middle Tennessee oasis that is Tims Ford. It is, in short, a paddler’s paradise.
Tucked among rolling hills between the lovely hamlets of Estill Springs and Winchester, Tenn., and hemmed in by Tims Ford State Park, Tims Ford is the lake formed by the 175-foot-tall same-named dam, which stretches 1,580 feet across the Elk River. The lake comprises over 10,000 acres of water to explore, and offers 255 miles of bucolic shoreline to explore.
“Tims Ford is an ideal paddle destination for beginners,” says Tiffany Foster, specialist in Partnerships and Education Outreach for TVA Natural Resources. “It’s flat water, so you don’t have to worry about rapids. It lets you paddle from campground to ice cream shop, and there are plenty of little coves and islands to stop and explore. Plus, the area truly is beautiful.”
With 20 public put-in/take-out locations, it is the perfect location to explore via water trail in your kayak or canoe.
Tims Ford Put-Ins/Take-Outs
|Tims Ford State Park/Lakeview Marina||35°1238.5308, 86°1449.3908|
|Winchester City Park||35°1202.8980, 86°0739.9036|
|Estill Springs City Park||35°1537.8468, 86°0658.3344|
|Dry Creek Beach||35°1113.8192, 86°0808.4768|
|Fairview Campground/Devil Step Boat Ramp||35°1211.7720, 86°0953.6868|
|Holiday Landing Marina||35°1608.2488, 86°1441.0496|
|Tims Ford Marina||35°1320.9424, 86°1420.0364|
|Taylor Creek Greenway||35°1606.8304, 86°0805.8344|
|Awalt Bridge||35°1513.5000, 86°1515.6564|
|Lost Creek Boat Ramp||35°1532.1696, 86°1816.7256|
|Anderton Boat Ramp||35°1334.8240, 86°1743.9692|
|Pleasant Grove Boat Ramp||35°1558.1580, 86°1201.6092|
|Rock Creek Boat Ramp||35°1507.9488, 86°0831.4952|
|Turkey Creek Boat Ramp||35°1559.9220, 86°1631.0476|
|Devils Step Island||35°1211.7720, 86°0953.6868|
|Maple Bend Island||35°1302.0100, 86°1132.8740|
|Goose Island||35°1235.7552, 86°1133.1836|
|Leatherwood Island||35°1210.0044, 86°1452.7892|
|Big Island||35°1257.4668, 86°1602.3124|
|Little Island||35°1240.2984, 86°1619.3080|
Given those locations, we’ve mapped 37 water trails for you to explore. Here they are, complete with descriptions of prominent features. There’s one for every interest and ability.
Turkey Creek Boat Ramp—Holiday Landing: Put-in at the Turkey Creek boat ramp, stay on the left shoreline, and follow the signs to Holiday Landing. This is a charming 2.5-mile paddle past TVA land with forest and rolling hill vistas. Primitive camping available by permit. Lodging and restaurant at Holiday Marina. Put-in/take-out drive time: 10 minutes.
Turkey Creek Boat Ramp—Hurricane Creek Loop: Put-in at Turkey Creek and follow the beautiful cove of “Hurricane Creek” (a moderately large tributary). This paddle is roughly 2 miles but can easily be extended or shortened. Mostly wooded areas with some private residences. Primitive camping available.
Turkey Creek—Awalt Bridge and Cove: This 1.5-mile paddle will take you past wooded hillsides to Awalt Bridge. This area experiences heavy boat traffic. Paddle up Awalt Cove for a quieter experience or paddle to the first cove on your right after the bridge to see Awalt Falls. Put-in/take-out drive time: 10 minutes.
Holiday Landing Resort—Awalt Bridge: Grab a bite to eat and then set out on this 1.5-mile paddle. Shoreline is predominately wooded. Paddle south when exiting the cove then head left toward the main channel. Paddle to the first cove on your right after the bridge to see Awalt Falls. Watch for boats. Put-in/take-out drive time: 10 minutes.
Awalt Bridge—Mouth of Hurricane Creek: Park at the roadside pull-off at Awalt Cove. Paddle to the first cove on your right after the bridge to see Awalt Falls. Continue on this 2-mile paddle to the mouth of Hurricane Creek. This is a gorgeous wooded area with some residences. Highland Ridge subdivision is located on the left bank. Four miles round-trip.
Mouth of Hurricane Creek—Tims Ford Marina: Feeling hungry? Extend your paddle 2 miles to and follow the right side of the shoreline up through Anderson Branch cove to Tims Ford Marina. Lodging is available at Tims Ford Marina
Tims Ford Marina—Tims Ford State Park/Lakeview Marina: This 2.5-mile paddle will take you through one of the largest stretches of water on the reservoir. Take a right out of Anderson Branch cove, go under the bridge and keep to the right after traveling down a long wooded peninsula. The left shoreline houses Heatherwood subdivision. Once you’ve arrived, grab a bite to eat at the marina, go for a hike or take a swim at beautiful Tims Ford State Park. Put-in/take-out drive time: 10 minutes. Camping and cabins are also available.
Campground—Lakeview Marina Loop: Camp out at Tims Ford State Park then paddle from the campground to Lakeview Marina to grab some pizza and ice cream. Low boat traffic allows paddlers to enjoy scenic views of the park’s flora and fauna.
Tims Ford State Park Boat Ramp—Leatherwood Island: Paddle 0.5 mile out to Leatherwood Island. Catch a glimpse of the Bear Trace golf course on your right and Heatherwood subdivision on your left.
Tims Ford State Park Boat Ramp—Kitchen Creek: This 3-mile round trip paddle will take you south across a fairly wide and heavily used section of the lake into scenic Kitchens Creek cove. This cove is comprised of TVA land and has deep, clear water with beautiful wooded shorelines.
Leatherwood Island—Little Island: From Leatherwood Island paddle west towards the Bear Trace Golf Course, and then follow the right shoreline north towards Little Island on this 2-mile paddle. Camping permit required.
Little Island—Big Island: From Little Island travel north 0.5 mile to Big Island. Camping permit required.
Big Island—Anderton Branch Boat Ramp: Paddle 2.5 miles northwest around the Beech Hill residential community into Anderton Branch cove. This quiet cove contains many small fingers surrounded by a wooded shoreline and is excellent for bird watching.
Lost Creek Boat Ramp—Big Island: Put-in at Lost Creek boat ramp and travel southeast to Big Island on this 6-mile round-trip trek.
Lost Creek Boat Ramp—Anderton Branch Boat Ramp: Paddle 3.5 miles. There will be many side coves excellent for fishing and nature watching. Put-in/take-out drive time: 20 minutes.
Pleasant Grove Boat Ramp—Little Hurricane Creek Loop: Head south out of Pleasant Grove Boat Ramp into Little Hurricane cove for a gorgeous 4-mile round-trip paddle surrounded by Owl Hollow WMA, which has minimal residential development. Stay to the shoreline to explore the many small fingers of this cove. This area has great fishing and bird-watching areas. Extend your paddle up Long Branch or Carvers Branch cove to escape the traffic and take a swim. Add 2 miles per cove.
Devils Step Boat Ramp—Goose Island: This 1.25-mile paddle will take you through one of the largest sections of the lake. Take a left out of the boat ramp and head west while hugging the south shore. You will pass several coves on your left, excellent for fishing. These coves border Owl Hollow WMA. Keeping heading west to see Goose Island. Camping permit required.
Devils Step Boat Ramp—Maple Bend Island: This 2-mile paddle will take you through one of the largest sections of the lake. Take a left (heading west) out of the boat ramp and stay on the south shore past several coves, then north past Goose Island.
Winchester Springs Loop: Paddle north from Maple Bend Island to beautiful Winchester Springs Branch surrounded by Owl Hollow WMA on this 3-mile round trip. This area has many small coves great for fishing, swimming and nature watching
Goose Island—Maple Bend Island: From Goose Island travel north 0.5 mile to Maple Bend Island. Camping permit required.
Goose Island Loop: Head south out of Goose Island into Owl Hollow Creek for this 4 mile round trip. This blue cove is comprised of Owl Hollow WMA and has steep wooded hillsides, clear waters, and excellent fishing.
Devils Step Island—Goose Island—Maple Bend Island: Dare to do the Devils Triangle? Head west 1.5 miles from Devils Step Island across a wide section of the lake to Goose Island, then 0.5 mile from Goose to Maple Bend and back 1.5 miles to Devils Step for a grand total of 4 miles. The north shore is somewhat developed, while the south shore is predominantly wooded.
Winchester City Park Loop: Take a left (east) out of Winchester City Park and paddle under Highway 131 Bridge. Continue past Winchester Village subdivision on left toward downtown Winchester to bridge on 41A. Visit the Old Jail House Museum or grab a bite to eat on the square along this 4-6 mile round trip.
Winchester City Park—Dry Creek: Paddle 2 miles southeast to Dry Creek cove. The western shore is comprised of Dripping Springs subdivision while the eastern shore is somewhat wooded. Visit Dry Creek Beach for a game of volleyball or a swim. Continue past Dry Creek Beach to the tip of the cove to camp on TVA land (primitive only). Put-in/take-out drive time: 10 minutes. Light to moderate boat traffic.
Dry Creek Beach Loop: Put-in at Dry Creek Beach and take the loop by heading south down to the cove. The western shore is comprised of Dripping Springs subdivision while the eastern shore is more wooded. Primitive camping available on TVA land at tip of cove.
Winchester City Park—Devils Step Boat Ramp: Head right (west) out of Winchester City Park past Dripping Springs subdivision on the left. Continue west following the southern shoreline past Fairview/Devils Step campground to Devils Step boat ramp. Shorelines are predominately developed, except for some portions of TVA and state park land.
Devils Step—Dripping Springs Loop: For this 3-mile paddle head right (east) out of Devils Step boat ramp following the southern shoreline past the state park campground down to Dripping Springs cove. The left shoreline is comprised of Dripping Springs subdivision while the right shoreline is wooded and ideal for fishing.
Devils Step—Dry Creek Loop: Head right (east) out of Devils Step boat ramp following the southern shoreline past the state park campground, then continue past the tip of Dripping Springs subdivision, and then turn south into the Dry Creek cove.
Dry Creek Beach—Devils Step Boat Ramp: For this 2-mile paddle put-in at Dry Creek beach and take a right (north) out of Dry Creek cove. Turn left (west) into the main channel past Dripping Springs subdivision, and continue west past Fairview/Devils Step campground to arrive at the boat ramp.
Devils Step Boat Ramp—Devils Step Island: For a quick and easy paddle put-in at Devils Step boat ramp and paddle north approximately 100 yards to Devils Step Island. Camping permit required.
Estill Springs City Park Loop: This 2-mile loop has some shoreline development but is predominately vegetated. This quiet cove allows paddlers to enjoy nature and solitude.
Estill Springs City Park—Rock Creek Boat Ramp: Put-in at Estill Springs City Park and follow the cove south to Rock Creek boat ramp. Some shoreline has development but is predominately vegetated.
Rock Creek Loop: For this 5-mile paddle take a left (north) out of the boat ramp towards Rock Creek cove. Follow this beautiful cove to the tip and back. Shorelines are mostly residential with some vegetation.
Estill Springs City Park (A)—Estill Springs City Park (B): For this 3-mile paddle, head south down Taylor Creek cove, then once out of the cove veer left past a residential area, and follow the shoreline under Estill Springs Bridge to Estill Springs City Park (B).
Estill Springs City Park (B)—Rock Creek Boat Ramp: Follow the right shoreline under Estill Spring Bridge, and continue past Taylor Creek cove on the right. Go around the southern tip of Rock Creek residential area past Rock Creek Bridge to Rock Creek boat ramp. Shorelines are a mix of wooded and residential areas.
Rock Creek Boat Ramp—Lee Ford Bridge: This long curving paddle goes for 5 miles and boasts beautiful habitat for bird watching.
Maple Bend Island—Winchester Springs Branch Loop: Camping permit required for Maple Bend Island.
It’s always a good time for fun on the Tennessee Valley’s lands and waters. Not sure where to start? We have you covered! Check out some of the best recreational activities on our reservoirs. While you’re enjoying the lakes, trails, picnic areas and campgrounds, share your own stories and photos on Instagram using #TVAfun.
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