You've got all your gear ready, the kayaks are bought and you're all geared up for your kayaking trip to Burgess Falls. But wait!! You've never been to the area!?! Do you know where to go, what to bring or what to expect?! Don't worry kayaking family, we've got you! We are local guides who not only want our guests to have a great/safe time but also our entire kayaking family. **This information is for those who have their own equipment and are going on your own but are new or unsure of the area and would like some tips before you visit to The Queen of all waterfalls.**
Cane Hollow is a beloved launch by locals and travelers alike. It surged to popularity in 2020 with more people hitting the water during the pandemic. Cane Hollow Rec Area & Center Hill Lake are property of the Army Corps of Engineers. They have made wonderful improvements over the last couple of years including 2 designated parking lots and clearing more area upfront by the water (with much more to come!). The road is now paved that leads down to Cane Hollow Rec Area. Some GPS will stop about halfway down the hill so don't be alramed if it says arrived and there is just a hill in front of you. There is also a sign before the final turn where you'll see the water that says (road ends in water). Don't worry the parking is before that, it's a boat launch so it does end in the water... eventually :)
IMPORTANT: Do not have bare feet, wear slides or have on flips flops at any point. We highly recommend wearing tennis shoes that can get wet. Cane Hollow is used as a fishing area and there are a lot of nails and other sharp objects in the water/shore and also at Burgess Falls. The worst thing would to be to get all the way there and get injured before you start, be smart and wear the shoes. Don't let the kiddos go barefoot in the water either!!
https://goo.gl/maps/FyRdBX7Aesq7xfw67 (Cane Hollow Rec. Area on Map)
When you reach the launch and are looking at the lake from the boat ramp go straight across the water (it sometimes looks like its all trees but there is an opening you can see when you get closer. Do not go to the left or right from the boat ramp. (The right is a dead end and the left is headed towards Cookeville Boat dock the opposite direction of Burgess!
The lake you will be on is Center Hill Lake. This is a very large (64 miles long!) still water lake. You may experience waves from a passing boat or wind but unless water levels are down to winter pool or we got an abnormally high amount of rainfall in a very short amount of time then you shouldn't experience a current.
The trip is approximately 4 miles total from Cane Hollow to Burgess Falls and back. This is an out-and-back adventure (2 miles each way). Keep in mind because this is a still water lake you have to paddle to move unlike a river which would push you with a current. It's not a difficult paddle but be prepared to put some work in especially if it's windy.
On the way out to Burgess, about halfway there, you'll see a large opening. This is Cane Creek to the left. Be sure to go RIGHT at the split (opening) or you're going to add some milage and come to a dead end. You'll have to turn around and go back the correct direction. If it's a busy day you'll see where all the boaters and kayakers are headed. Pay attention on the way back to make sure you are headed in the correct direction at that opening. If the water is up some, enjoy cutting through the tree line, be very cautious for two important reasons! 1. The trees are dead and skinny; running into one may cause it to topple or part of it to fall down on top of your kayak/paddleboard and you. 2. There are thousands of tiny clear spiders (wont bite you) in the trees and while they won't harm you if you run into the trees or shake the branches that are dead or alive they will rain down on your mode of transportation in a very large clump of creepy crawler :)
**Disclaimer: The below months are estimations based on previous years and can change based on how Army Corps is regulating the water the year you go. Always feel free to message our FB page for questions or check Center Hill Lake levels before going)**
Yes! You've finally made it to the bottom of the Queen!! If water levels are at summer pool (typically April-late June) you'll kayak all the way there. During April and some of May you probably won't be able to get out of your kayak but it is wonderful floating and viewing her!
Sometime in May the water levels typically come down to a point where you can get out of the kayaks and have a nice lunch at the bottom of the falls. By late June water levels start slowly going down towards winter pool. That means we go from short walk to a pretty good hike (September/October-winter months).
In the winter months water is typically down to winter pool, you'll have about a 3/4 miles moderately strenous to strenous hike up. It's not for everyone but is very rewarding when you get to the bottom. The best part is you'll typically have the bottom all to yourselves! (Unless we show up then you have to deal with our shenanigans hehe)
Remember what I told you about that paddle and how you have to put some work in?!?! That means you're going to be burning energy and you're going to need some food. Bring a lunch, snack, water or gatorade. Having a small first aid kit is always a good idea too. Remember at Burgess Falls you will be 2 miles from Cane Hollow and help. Be prepared as you're going out into the wild. (If you have an emergency and see us on our trips, feel free to flag us down. We are both wilderness first aid certified and happy to help the general public if we can). If you have kids with you that are in their own kayak always have something to tow them with. We keep our age limit at 9 and above for Burgess Falls and most of those 11 and under cannot make the full trip. So be prepared to tow the little ones and watch them closely as there is a large boat presence when lake levels are at or near summer pool.
**Zip lock bags DO NOT float, neither do most of those waterproof phone cases that hang around your neck. Be sure to have a waterproof case that is attached to you or your kayak. There is also this handy little thing called a Koala Phone Harness. Best thing I have ever bought and holds my phone tight by the outside over my case and attaches to my life vest. **
Safety first and most important: Have your life vest and wear it too!!! Someone loves you dearly and would be devastated if you don't come home from your adventure. Having a life vest on your kayak, paddleboard, inflatable kayak, etc is the law!! Attach a whistle for emergencies and you'll be ready to hit the water. Wear it like all the other cool kids do :)
We can't stress sunscreen enough no matter the temp outside. The sun is bright and firece and you will definitely thank us later for making you slather on the sunscreen when you see all the lobster people walking around.
It's important to dress for the water temperature and not the air. Keep in mind layers can always be taken off but if you don't have layers to put on and are far from anything you can find yourself in trouble. You will typically feel a large temperature drop as you get closer to Burgess Falls, having that extra layer to put on or take off will make you extra comfy and make your trip so much more enjoyable.
Alright ya'll i'm going to go over this one last time because it's super important. Please DO NOT wear flip flops, sandals, or have bare feet (Chacos are really pushing it lol we would say no to these too as they don't protect the sides of your feet). At Cane Hollow, on shore and in the water, we have found TONS of hooks (often found after attaching to our shoes), nails, knives sticking straight up etc).
Burgess Falls is home to two former power houses, the remnants you'll see when you get there. In the water there is metal from those all over, fishing hooks (again found attached to our shoes while walking in the water), loads of glass and other sharp objects. On top of that there is typically a very large snake presence during the summer months (Don't let this scare you from coming). Most snakes are non-venomous water snakes who could care less about you and will calmy swim away. We did see several venomous copper heads last year. These snakes will NOT bother you if you leave them alone. **it is illegal to kill them in the state of TN** This is their house you're going into and we all need to respect that.
If you wear your tennis shoes, follow the above instructions and take a whole day to enjoy your experience, you're going to have a fantastic day on the water. We are here for questions from the general public as we are highly experienced as the local guides. We go year round even in the off season to monitor the area and stay up to date with any changes made by Army Corps and The State Park. I am on trips during the day but answer all of our pages (IG, FB & Tiktok) before and after trips.
We hope this information helps you have the best trip ever! If this helped you, leave us a review after you go and tell us how great your trip was.... don't forget the pictures!! Have a wonderful adventure!