Rules & FAQs
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Have a float plan. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.
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.
This is dangerous if a boat capsizes and not advised for the Wolf River.
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.
River Paddling FAQs
- Blues City Kayaks | 901.762.1133 | email@example.com
- Ghost River Rentals | 901.485.1220 | firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kayak Memphis Tours | 901.482.2942 | email@example.com
- Wolf River Canoe Trips | 901.877.3958
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Wolf River Greenway, through the City of Memphis, extends from the north end of Mud Island, and heads East, arcing through the North Memphis neighborhoods of Frayser and Raleigh, to Kennedy Park. From there, the Greenway heads due south to Shelby Farms and then links with existing Greenway segments in Germantown. As of 2022, 14 miles of the 26-mile proposed trail system have been constructed.
The Wolf River Greenway is a walking and bicycling trail that supports health and wellness, transportation by bike or by foot, outdoor education, and economic development. The Greenway will be a 10-foot wide to 12-foot wide paved trail that is surrounded by lands that are to be conserved and protected for their natural resource values. Our local drinking water comes from an underground aquifer that interacts with the Wolf River. The Wolf River Greenway trail enables us an organization to physically connect people to the lands and waters that passively nourish them and their neighbors.
The Greenway trail is a City of Memphis Parks and Neighborhoods facility. Therefore the trail is open from dusk to dawn, following City of Memphis Park Facility hours. No internal combustion based motorized vehicles of any kind, other than those used for maintenance and public safety, are permitted on the Greenway trail. No hunting or firearms discharges are allowed along the trail. You may see Conservancy of City of Memphis staff vehicles along the Greenway, performing inspections, or other related activities. These vehicles will have City of Memphis, Wolf River Greenway or Conservancy logos, green, white or amber strobe lights. You may additionally see construction contractor vehicles along the trail near sections under construction.
The Wolf River Conservancy (WRC) in partnership with the City of Memphis Parks and Neighborhoods Division is developing the Memphis portion of the Greenway. The Wolf River Conservancy is an accredited land trust and a not-for-profit organization that is based in Memphis.
The Memphis portion of the Greenway will be approximately 26 miles in length upon completion. As of January 2022, there are 13.85 miles of the 26 completed.
Currently Open For Use: Walnut Grove to City of Germantown – 4.1 miles
Currently, the Wolf River Greenway trail is open for use from the Shelby Farms Greenline to the City of Germantown along Humphreys/Wolf River Boulevard. Past Kirby Blvd, the trail becomes the Germantown Greenway and is managed by the City of Germantown. There are two ADA accessible trailhead parking areas along Humphreys Blvd, the Shady Grove Trailhead and Kirby Parkway Trailhead. As of 2019, there is a new entrance to the Wolf River Greenway across from the High Point Climbing and Fitness, at the intersection of Walnut Grove and Humphreys Blvd. The closest place to park to access the 270' cable stayed suspension bridge is street parking just past the fire station on North Humphreys Blvd.
Currently Open For Use: Epping Way - 2.7 Miles
A: The Wolf River Conservancy owns 138 acres along the Wolf River in north Memphis, where the Epping Way section of the Wolf River Greenway routes through. The property boasts a 25-acre lake for fishing and paddling, 1.1 miles of paved trails, and a working farm field. A 60-foot floating aluminum boat dock extends out on the lake for fishing, and serves as a launch for our paddling instruction programs. The Greenway winds along the scenic lake, and connects to a 1.1 mile protected bike lane along North Highland road to the west. The address of the property is 2630 Epping Way Drive, in Memphis, TN. There is a large trailhead sign and a turnaround with plenty of street parking near the trailhead entrance. There is an Memphis Police Department Skycop camera above the parking area and trailhead entrance for your safety.
Currently Open For Use: Hollywood/Mclean Cycle Track Sections - 3.3 Miles
A: There is a trailhead parking area for the Hollywood and McLean Cycle Track Sections located on the west side of N Hollywood Street, before you cross over the bridge over the Wolf River. The Hollywood section features 1.25 miles of paved trail on top of a levee through the Hyde Park neighborhood. There are numerous neighborhood connectors on this section and is a good route to school for those attending KIPP Memphis Academy Elementary. A neighborhood connector at the intersection of Belmont Circle/Shannon/Heard Avenue contains a bicycle repair station, and a water fountain with a lower, ground level water bowl for dogs. This trail section connects to the west to the McLean Cycle track, 2.1 miles of curb-delineated bicycle track running north and south along North McLean Blvd.
Currently Open For Use: Kennedy Park - 1.5 Miles
A: In close proximity to the Epping Way section, the Kennedy Park section of the Wolf River Greenway features 1.5 miles of scenic recreational trails running through a mature forest, bounding along the rolling hills and banks of the Wolf River. This section also includes six scenic bridges good for photo opportunities. The section has three access points, with two inside John F. Kennedy Park. The trailhead can be accessed from the road at 4332 Raleigh LaGrange Road. There is street parking at this entrance. There is additional vehicle and RV parking within the park at the other two access points.
Currently Open For Use: Mud Island Loop - 1.2 Miles
A: At the north end of Mud Island, one will find the beginning of the Wolf River Greenway Trail. Here 1.2 miles of paved trail connects to Greenbelt park along the Mississippi River. The trail begins at the end of Greenbelt park and extends in a 1.2 mile loop along the Wolf River and up atop a levee. Parking is available in the north Mud Island parking lot adjacent to the trailhead here.
The firing noises or loud booms sometimes heard on the section of trail past Walnut Grove comes from the Shelby County Sheriffs training compound located directly across the Wolf River on the southern portion of Shelby Farms. Officers use the property for firing practice and other explosives training. You may sometimes hear popping noises coming from the area.
The Conservancy, City, and County are currently working on opening new sections of the Greenway through a phased approach. The dates for completion are dependent on securing additional funding, weather, permitting and other lengthy construction processes. For more information, please contact Nick Wiggins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opened in 2017:
- Confluence Park to Second Street (downtown Memphis)
- Kennedy Park (Raleigh neighborhood)
Opened in 2018:
- North Highland Avenue (Protected bicycle lane)( (north central Memphis)
Opened in 2019:
- Epping Way
- Walnut Grove to TVA Powerlines (west of Walnut Grove Road)
Opened in 2020:
- McLean to Chelsea
Opened in 2021:
- McLean to Hollywood
- Shelby Farms Greenline to Wolf River Greenway East
The Greenway within the City of Memphis will be owned and managed by the City of Memphis. The Conservancy is assisting with the development of the Greenway trail, and as sections are completed, they will be turned over to the City for maintenance and management. A Governance, Operations, and Maintenance manual is currently being prepared and will be adopted and implemented before any new sections of the Greenway are opened for public use. This manual describes in great detail how the City will govern, operate, and maintain the Greenway that is located within the Memphis city limits. Past Kirby Blvd, the trail becomes the Germantown Greenway and is managed by the City of Germantown.
The Conservancy and City of Memphis are employing many different strategies to ensure that the Greenway can be used safely. First, we are employing Crime Prevention through Environmental Design principles (CPTED) as we design and construct each phase of the Greenway. Second, we deploy and monitor trail security cameras, in strategic locations throughout the Greenway. We are also developing a wayfinding and signage system that will feature the City’s 311 system and the 911 emergency response system. The Greenway will have an address system so that law enforcement and emergency response can be conducted efficiently. Finally and most importantly, we believe that the Greenway will be an attraction for the city and will be utilized frequently by our residents and by visitors. Frequent use is the best way to keep the Greenway safe for everyone to use.
Additionally, the Wolf River Conservancy launched the Greenway Ambassador program in November 2020, utilizing helpful volunteers with marked vests that will traverse the trail system and answer user questions, remove tree limbs/other trail obstructions, and lead community service events in their own neighborhoods along the Wolf River Greenway trail. You can look for an Ambassador wearing a bright green safety vest with the embroidered Wolf River Greenway logo.
This option is for those interested in protecting the scenic, natural or wetland values of his/her property while still retaining ownership of your property.
There are potential tax incentives (click here to read document).
You must own property in one of the following counties in Tennessee: Shelby, Fayette, Hardeman, Tipton, Haywood; or in Mississippi: Desoto, Marshall, Benton, Tippah or Alcorn; and/or within the following watersheds: Wolf River, Coldwater River, Hatchie River, or Loosahatchie River.
There are instances where the Conservancy can purchase or accept a donation of a property. The Conservancy may purchase property in Shelby or Fayette Counties in TN (with few exceptions). Donation of property is accepted on a case-by-case scenario and can also occur in Benton County, MS. Ideally, properties that we acquire have Wolf River frontage or are adjacent to Conservancy-owned or State-owned property.
If you are looking to purchase a recreational property for agriculture production, timber management and/or private hunting, fishing or camping, you might consider a property and subsequently placing a conservation easement on it. This scenario protects your property in its natural state and may provide tax benefits to the landowner. Wolf River Conservancy also owns property available for purchase, though certain restrictions via a conservation easement or deed restriction will apply to protect the high conservation values of these properties.
You might currently own a property or be looking to purchase a conservation property. If so, we encourage you to consider donating the property to the Wolf River Conservancy through a Life Estate. This allows you the freedom to utilize the property as you wish in your lifetime and protects the conservation values for future generations.