Paddling the Wolf River

There are many ways to experience the Wolf River, but paddling in a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddle board arguably provides the most immersive experience and the greatest connection with nature. Approximately 75 miles of the Wolf River is open for paddle craft. Learn more about paddling on the Wolf River in this section and refer to the events calendar for upcoming paddling trips. We nearly always have a first Saturday paddle trip, and we would love for you to join us!

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Paddling the Wolf River

There are many ways to experience the Wolf River, but paddling in a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddle board arguably provides the most immersive experience and the greatest connection with nature. Approximately 75 miles of the Wolf River is open for paddle craft. Learn more about paddling on the Wolf River in this section and refer to the events calendar for upcoming paddling trips. We nearly always have a first Saturday paddle trip, and we would love for you to join us!

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River Paddling FAQs

Where can I rent a canoe or kayak?
Who provides shuttle services on the Wolf River?
  • Ghost River Rentals provides shuttle services along the Wolf River.  Contact Mark Babb or Don Hailey at 901.485.1220, or visit their website: ghostriverrentals.com
  • Wolf River Canoe Trips provides shuttle service in Fayette County.  Contact Sarah or John Wilburn at 901.877.3958 for more info.
  • Blues City Kayaks provides tours and rental kayaks in Shelby and Fayette Counties. Visit their website for more info: bluescitykayaks.com
Where do you put-in/take-out boats on the Wolf River and how do you get there?

There are 12 boat access points on the Wolf River from Michigan City, MS to the Mississippi River. Explore the interactive map to help find a section right for you.  The map highlights each river section and shows all of the boat access sites including a Google Maps link for each.

Interactive Map

How safe is paddling on the Wolf River?

Safety on any paddling trip depends on the paddler’s planning and preparation.  Before beginning a paddle trip on the Wolf River, please review and carefully consider this important Safety Information.

Do I need a guide?

For a first trip on the Ghost River section of the Wolf, a guide is essential for inexperienced paddlers and very helpful to experienced paddlers.  Sections below the Ghost section can be negotiated without a guide, though it is best not to go alone.  The Wolf River Conservancy provides experienced volunteer trip leaders on planned monthly paddle trips on the Ghost River and other Wolf River sections, helping to arrange equipment rentals and shuttle services.  See our Activity Calendar for upcoming trips.

How difficult is paddling on the Wolf River?

While the entire Wolf River is a Class I stream (no whitewater), it does have many obstacles and unpredictable currents that often send unprepared paddlers through dense shrubbery and fallen tree branches. Even during its slow flow, the Ghost River section requires use of moderate canoeing/paddling skills to safely negotiate some of its obstacles.  The trip is moderately strenuous, and, in the event of a medical emergency, significant difficulties can be encountered in aiding or evacuating a victim.  The section between Germantown Pkwy. and Walnut Grove Rd. does not offer many obstacles and is the best section for beginners.  During high water conditions (over 8 ft. on the nearest river gauge), any section of the Wolf can be dangerous.  Please review our Safety Information.

How long does a paddle/float trip usually take?

The Ghost River trip from LaGrange to Bateman Rd. takes about 6 hours, including a short lunch break.  This section should never be started later than 7 hours before sunset.  The Bateman to Moscow trip takes about 3 hours.  Germantown Pkwy. to Walnut Grove Rd. normally can be traveled in about one hour.

What should I take with me?

For the Ghost River section, fuel up with a high-carbohydrate breakfast before setting off.  Take at least one-half gallon of water per person, a lunch (which may have to be eaten in the canoe in high water), sunscreen, life jacket (wear it), Epi-Pen or inhaler for those with severe allergies or asthma, supplies and a mobile phone.  Please review all Safety Information.

Remember: In the event of a medical emergency, significant difficulties can be encountered in aiding or evacuating a victim.  Don’t take anything in the boat that you can’t afford to lose or get wet.  Dress in layers in cool weather so you can adjust for the temperature.  Bring a change of clothes and a small towel in a dry-bag or large Ziploc plastic bag.

Are there snakes on the Wolf River?

Yes, as the Wolf River provides them a perfect habitat, and most are harmless water snakes.  The venomous cottonmouths, aka water moccasins, rarely bother people who don’t bother them first.

Is camping available?

Pinecrest Camp and Retreat Center in La Grange, TN offers camping by reservation only.  See more information on camping at Pinecrest at this link.

The only public access overnight camping near the Wolf River is in the Holly Springs National Forest, which is less than a 20-minute drive from the Michigan City boat launch.  Please follow rules for dispersed camping on National Forest lands.  All other public land in the Wolf River watershed is day-use only.

Short River Hikes

Whether you want to go for pleasant after-work stroll or bike ride, or follow a boardwalk into a wild natural area which preserves some of the mid-south's most beautiful habitat, the wolf river has something to offer.

Wolf River Greenway

This list does NOT include the Wolf River Greenway trail itself, but several of the trails below intersect the Greenway - For information and updates on the Wolf River Greenway Project, click here.

John F. Kennedy Park

John F. Kennedy Park (4575 Raleigh LaGrange Rd.) is the fifth largest park in Memphis at 260 acres.  Built in the mid-1990s by the Conservancy and volunteers, this 1.25 mile trail (one way) begins atop a hill at a gravel trailhead parking across from the Alzheimer's Center.  Walk down the hill following yellow signs and enter the forest where the trail winds through big trees.  The trail becomes a boardwalk for a quarter mile through a high quality bottomland hardwood forest. The trail then zigzags across the Wolf River Greenway and along the banks of the Wolf River.  You can make it a loop trail by walking the park roads back to the gravel trailhead parking.

For a map of John F. Kennedy Park, click here.

The Beach at Epping Way

Started by an boy scout troop in 2019 and finished to the beach by volunteers on MLK Jr. Day in 2020, this unpaved hiking and mountain biking trail connects to Phase 9 of the Wolf River Greenway at 2630 Epping Way Drive, Memphis, TN.  The 2-5 ft wide path squeezes between the river and the Conservancy's 20-acre lake for over 0.5-mile to a large beach in a major bend of the river.  The total out-and-back distance from the parking area at Epping Way cul-de-sac to the beach and back is roughly 1.7 miles. Wolf River Conservancy is planning to extend this trail all the way around the lake to connect back with the Greenway for a nice loop trail.

Lucius Burch State Natural Area

Designated in 1988 by Wolf River Conservancy and local partners, Lucius Burch SNA is located in Shelby Farms along the Wolf River and is accessed from: Walnut Grove Road near the bridge over the river, near Germantown Road and Walnut Bend at the paved parking area or at the gravel parking area at the Raptor Center.  The northern section can also be accessed on foot or bike via the Shelby Farms Greenline, Unpaved hiking and biking trails afford good river views.  Old channelized streams and exotic invasive plants, such as privet, illustrate some of the effects of channelization and urbanization. Conversely, pockets of high quality bottomland hardwood forest with a state-listed species are found along the trails as well.  For a map, see the trails in the dark green areas in the south and western portions of Shelby Farms Park:  click here for rough trail map.

Germantown Greenway and Wolf River Nature Area

The Germantown Greenway is a 4-mile paved trail in the Wolf River Nature Area, which can be accessed from Wolf River Blvd. between Kirby and Riverdale, between Riverdale and Germantown Pkwy., or from Germantown Pkwy. at the Chik-Fil-A parking lot. The trail includes interpretive signs, benches, butterfly gardens, and wetlands. Thanks to the efforts of WRC and community leaders, the Germantown Greenway now connects to the Wolf River Greenway.  One day there will be a continuous trail extending 15 miles west to the Mississippi River and 15 miles east to Collierville-Arlington Rd.

For a map of the Germantown Greenway and surrounding area, please click here.

Riverwoods State Natural Area

The trailhead for this short unpaved trail is located on Kimbrough Rd just south of Wolf River Blvd. Look for the kiosk next to a gravel parking lot. Recently, TDEC Division of Natural Areas removed exotic invasive privet to restore the habitat.  For a complete description and a map, click here.

Overton Park and Old Forrest State Natural Area

Overton Park is an amazing ecological refuge within the heart of Memphis and lies within the Wolf River watershed.  Enjoy old growth hardwood forest on the many paved and unpaved trails within the park and natural area. Overton Park Conservancy stewards and manages this park in partnership with city of Memphis.  DIRECTIONS  For more information on the park and Overton Park Conservancy, visit overtonpark.org.

Peterson Lake Nature Center at W.C. Johnson Park

Peterson Lake Nature Center encompasses a 0.7 mile long boardwalk from Peterson Lake, a natural oxbow,  through forest and wetlands to the banks of the Wolf River. At the end of the boardwalk, you can see part of the Wolf River restoration project, i.e., one of the  rip-rap weirs created by the U.S. Corps of Engineers to stop the degradation of the river caused by channelization. Deer and other wildlife are frequently seen along the boardwalk, and there are abundant cypress, tupelo, and other trees. DIRECTIONS to Johnson Park, follow Bill Morris Pkwy. (385) to Byhalia Rd., go left or north, and stay on Byhalia Rd. which will dead-end at Johnson Park.  Keep driving past the play areas and the lake. The road makes a small loop and becomes a parking lot.  Look for the Peterson Lake Nature Center sign and the beginning of the boardwalk.

For more information, visit the Collierville Parks website.

Wolf River Wildlife Area

A large park north of Collierville contains over 2,000 acres of woods and wetlands along both sides of the Wolf River. The 5-mile crushed limestone trail is open 7 days a week from dawn to dusk and can be accessed at the Collierville-Arlington Rd. bridge where there is a gravel parking lot on the north side of the river. The park can be accessed at its western end from Bethany Rd. Eventually, the trail will extend for 8 miles to Houston-Levee Rd. The farm fields north of the woods are now open for hiking and biking. The map below shows a trail on the farm roads. There are two parking areas off Collierville-Arlington Rd.,one on the north side of the bridge, and one farther north at the main trailhead. On the map, TR-1,2,4,5,6 all represent the tributary weirs. There is no hunting and no ATV (four-wheeler) use allowed.  Day-use only. The County sheriff’s deputies have begun checking the parking areas after dark.

Wolf River Wildlife Area Map

William B. Clark Preserve

A short unpaved trail along the Wolf River leads from the parking lot to a boardwalk through a first-class wetland with tupelo and cypress trees. The entrance to the Clark Preserve is .25 miles north of the Wolf River Café and Rossville Square. Go over the bridge and turn into the parking lot on your right. The Clark Preserve is owned by The Nature Conservancy.  For a complete description and a map, click here.

Clark Preserve information from The Nature Conservancy.

Bateman Bridge

The area around the boat ramp was protected by Wolf River Conservancy in 2016 and 2018 and is now part of Ghost River State Natural Area. This boat ramp at Bateman Bridge offers access to the Wolf River. There is no trail, but wading is possible here because the bottom of the river is sandy and the river is usually fairly shallow. Shoes are recommended. Take Hwy 57 east through Moscow and take a right onto Bateman Rd. DIRECTIONS.  For a map of the area, click here.

Mineral Slough Boardwalk, Ghost River State Natural Area

The 0.5-mile Mineral Slough trail and boardwalk traverses a fine stretch of bottomland hardwood swamp characteristic of the Wolf River floodplain. The Ghost River is a section of the Wolf River in which the river seems to disappear, widening into a broad, vegetation-filled swamp. It is a popular destination for paddlers and has been named one of the best wetland canoe trails in the country. DIRECTIONS. To read a complete description and for a map, click here.

Baker's Pond, Holly Springs National Forest

This is a beautiful hike to the source of the Wolf River, a large spring-fed pond about .25 miles from the trailhead, in the hills of Benton County, Mississippi. Look for natural springs trickling out of the earth and the unique purple sands along the stairs on the trail.  Click here for DIRECTIONS:  on Hwy 72 heading east, ff you cross the Tippah County line, you've gone too far. Turn right or south at the small brown sign for Baker's Pond onto Tower Rd., and bear right where the road forks. Look for the Baker’s Pond trailhead parking area on the left.  The trail used to connect to Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, but a large tornado destroyed that portion of the forest and has overgrown the trail.  Restoration efforts are being made to repair the trail.

Baker's Pond Map

Safety Information

Planning A Paddle - Safety First

Paddling the Wolf River in a canoe or kayak can be a wonderful experience. The quality of that experience, however, will depend largely on your training, planning, and follow-through.

The Wolf River Conservancy recommends always paddling in groups of two or more, regardless of your skill level or experience. The level of skill you need to paddle the Wolf River depends on your physical condition, prior training and experience, and the paddling conditions of each river section. If in doubt about your skills or how to find appropriate training, or for any other questions, please contact a Wolf River Conservancy Volunteer River Guide, a local outfitter or paddling retailer, or the American Canoe Association, of which the Wolf River Conservancy is an affiliate.

Your trip will be much more enjoyable, comfortable, and certainly safer if you bring along appropriate clothing, gear, and other items, including a change of clothing in the event of a capsize, emergency gear, medications, and a first aid kit. Any river trip involves an element of risk, and it is necessary to be prepared for emergencies. Please read this Safety Information and consider these rules and recommendations carefully in planning your trip.

Life Jackets (PFD's)

Participants in Wolf River Conservancy float trips will be required to wear an approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD) while on the water. These are provided by the outfitters along with boat and paddle for those renting. Paddlers arranging their own trips are required by state law to have an approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD, or life jacket) for each person on board; children 12 years old or younger are required to wear a PFD at all times while on the water.  Click here for more information on Personal Flotation Devices.

The Conservancy recommends that everyone wear a U.S. Coast Guard Approved life jacket (PFD) while onboard any kind of human-powered, natural-powered or motorized boat, on any body of water, at all times. Remember, a life jacket (PFD) must be properly fitted and sized to the person wearing it and must be worn correctly to work!

Always Assess your Skill Level

Although the Wolf is rated as a class one river (no whitewater), conditions can rapidly change. It is imperative that paddlers realistically evaluate their experience and abilities in regard to an anticipated trip, especially if considering bringing children along. If in doubt, ask a Conservancy River Guide. Paddlers of any skill level should check both weather conditions and water level prior to departure.

Don't Go Alone

No paddler, regardless of experience level, should paddle alone. Beginners are advised to seek out some type of formal training before paddling; afterwards, paddle only with highly experienced guides for the first few trips. The Conservancy membership trips are well-suited for beginners, depending on the river section, because they are led by experienced paddlers familiar with the route who provide limited basic instruction at the beginning of the trip. Please do not paddle with children as passengers unless you are an experienced paddler yourself.

Check the Weather and the River Level

Always check weather conditions and water level before your trip. Do not attempt a trip if the forecast indicates severe weather such as a thunderstorm. Do not attempt a trip during flood conditions. For weather conditions and forecast, use this link. The Conservancy recommends not paddling any section of the Wolf River if the USGS River Level Gauge closest to the section being paddled reads 8 feet or above for most paddlers. Use the following links to check water levels:

Gauge at LaGrange

Gauge at Rossville

Gauge at Collierville

Gauge at Germantown Pkwy

Gauge at Hollywood St

Gauge at Mississippi River

Explore Our Interactive Map

Our Interactive Map provides a description for each of the accessible sections of the Wolf River, helping paddlers to choose the section that best meets their needs.


Always bring plenty of drinking water, regardless of the season. We recommend a half gallon or more per person for all-day trips.

Emergency Supplies

Always bring necessary allergy medications and emergency supplies such as a first aid kit, prescription medications you might need, a change of clothes to carry with you in the boat, flashlight, whistle, compass, rain gear, cell phone, sunscreen, insect repellent, snacks, etc., and a waterproof “dry” bag to hold these items. Local outfitters are a good source for other suggestions as well as ready-made kits and supplies; these can also be found online.

Let Someone Know

Have a float plan. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.

Wear Appropriate Clothing

Always wear clothes and shoes suitable for conditions. Denim and other types of cotton clothing are not recommended to be worn in or around water or while boating at any time of the year. Fast-drying synthetic polyester materials, which can be layered for cold weather conditions, are preferred. Shoes which fit securely are recommended. Avoid crocs and flip flops can easily slip off the foot when wet, and waders or rubber boots which could fill with water. Water shoes or some form aquatic “bootie” are highly recommended. Protect your feet at all times.

Cold weather clothing suggestions: Neoprene booties, synthetic (e.g., fleece) or wool fabrics worn in layers, a hat, gloves. Avoid cotton clothing. During cold weather, it is essential to bring a full set of rain gear and at least one change of clothes in a dry bag in the boat with you to prevent possible hypothermia.

Warm weather clothing suggestions: Neoprene booties or water shoes which fit securely, layered clothing, including synthetic fabrics, and a hat with a brim or visor. A change of clothes in a dry bag is recommended. Be sure to bring sunscreen and insect repellent as well.

Other items to consider:  Food and snacks, binoculars, camera, field guides, cell phone, sunscreen, insect repellent. Again, if you want to keep it dry, store it in a waterproof bag.

Do Not Tether Yourself or Anyone to a Boat

This is dangerous if a boat capsizes and not advised for the Wolf River.

Boating Safety Rules

Familiarity with basic boating safety rules is strongly advised, especially for those arranging their own trips. More information can be found on the TWRA Boating website and TWRA Paddlesports Laws.