Tennessee Paddlesports Association

Growing, Protecting, Supporting Tennessee's Paddlesports Businesses


Our Mission

To grow, protect and support Tennessee's paddlesports outfitting businesses by improving members' financial viability, ensuring a fair and reasonable regulatory environment and enhancing members' ease of doing business.

June 2, 2020

Know Before You Go Paddling for Safety Sake

Since the Coronavirus pandemic led to shutdowns and restrictions on some leisure travel, the public has been flocking to the outdoors.  Paddlecraft use of waterways has increased dramatically in 2020 with many self-guided paddlers using their own craft to visit the state’s rivers.  Some paddlers do not have sufficient experience or are attempting to paddle rivers in high water conditions increasing the risks of a serious incident or water rescue. 

Safety data shows that paddlers are much less likely to be involved in a serious incident when they go with a professional outfitter, in part because outfitters do not operate when water conditions are too treacherous for inexperienced paddlers.  When a customer rents a canoe, kayak or inflatable they also receive a briefing on potential hazards and are issued a Coast Guard approved life-jacket.

The Tennessee Paddlesports Association (TPA) is offering a free set of briefing posters to the public in an effort to reduce the risks to inexperienced paddlers who venture out in their own canoe, kayak, paddleboard or inflatable. 

BeSafePoster General 2020.pdf

LifeJacket Poster General 2020.pdf

Water hazards Poster 2020.pdf

Kayaking Basics.pdf

Canoeing Basics.pdf

TPA also urges paddlers to be considerate of other users and to avoid leaving their boats on ramps where they block access by other boaters.  TPA has a set of Best Practices designed to diminish user conflicts.

The Tennessee Paddlesports Association is a state-wide association of outfitters providing paddlecraft rental equipment, instruction, and other services on Tennessee waterways under permits issued by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.


May 8, 2020

Governor's E.O. 35 Authorizes Businesses Providing Water Activities to Open under the Following Conditions

From E.O. 35 issued on May 8th:

b. Other than the venues defined or specifically listed in Paragraph 1 1 .a., entertainment, recreational, and other gathering venues that operate in the following manner may reopen:

(1) All persons are in groups of less than ten (10) persons; and

(2) Such persons and groups maintain at least six  feet of separation from, and avoid physical contact with, other persons or groups of less than ten persons outside of their own group.

Examples of such venues that may be allowed to reopen, provided that such venues can and do operate in accordance with this Paragraph 1 1 .b., include, but are not limited to:

i. Bowling alleys;

ii. Arcades;

iii. Climbing gyms;

iv. Water sports activities;

v. Golf driving ranges and mini-golf facilities;

vi. Shooting ranges;

vii. Dance classes; or

viii. Other similar activities and venues that can achieve and maintain the necessary capacity and proximity limitations.

All venues, businesses, and employers that reopen are expected to operate in accordance with, and to fulfill the spirit of, the Non-Contact Recreation Guidelines (e.g., Tennessee Pledge) issued by the Governor's Economic Recovery Group, https•.//www.tn.gov/governor/covid-19/economic-recovery/recreation-guidelines.html.


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March 22, 2020

Paddlesports Outfitters Altering Operations.  Some Are Delaying Opening.

Paddling opportunities close to home should offer recreation opportunities consistent with the guidelines for social distancing and other interventions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  Many outfitters are having to revise their operations or delay the start of their season to help in the campaign to reduce the spread of the virus.  Governor Lee recently issued an executive order banning social gatherings of of more than 10 people.  Check with your outfitter to determine the availability of their services and when they might be open for business.

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January 2020

Getting Ready for the 2020 Season

TWRA regulations are set for the 2020 season and add a new twist to preparations for paddlecraft rental outfitters.  

As a reminder below are some basic tasks you need to complete to be in compliance when you start the season.  This is not a complete list, so take time to read the TWRA regulations.

As you prepare, let us know of issues you encounter so we can take them to the TWRA through the Paddlecraft Outfitters Advisory Committee.  TPA executive director David Brown is Chair of the Paddlecraft Outfitters Advisory Committee.  

1.  File an application for your TWRA permit.    The link take you to a fillable form from TWRA.  To submit your application, you will need to know the following:

  • Number of non motorized vessels in your rental fleet
  • Public access points you intend to use (try to use the TWRA name)
  • Official documents to include are 1. Photocopy of Business License 2. Photocopy of Department of Revenue Certificate of Registration 3. Proof of Liability Insurance

2.  Read the TWRA regulations.  Click here.

3.  Develop an internal system to keep track of types of boats launched daily at public access points, accidents and water rescues.  The regulations require you to submit reports on May 1, October 1, and December 1 regarding which public access points you used during those periods and how many boats of various types you launched at each public access point.  Reports can be made by paper form or electronically.  TWRA is working up the systems and the Paddlecraft Outfitters Advisory Committee is working with TWRA to develop a reasonable reporting system.  One issue will be insuring that there is some standard name used to report access points.  

Outfitters not using public access points are still supposed to report their daily numbers, but we don't know yet how specific that reporting will be.

The form will also require you to report accidents and water rescues.  It is important to note that a water rescue is not every time some capsizes in a canoe or kayak or falls off a paddleboard.  The definitions are as follows:

(7) “Accident” means any occurrence in which the operator of a commercial NMV requires medical attention beyond basic first aid.

(8) “Water rescue” means any occurrence in which, absent intervention, an occupant or operator of a commercial NMV could suffer serious bodily injury or death.

TWRA's safety report for 2018 found only one paddlecraft rental incident.  The other 6 were private paddlers.  This record keeping is likely to create a special report within the TWRA report.

4.  Develop your customer briefing consistent with TWRA regulations.  TWRA regulations specify content for briefings with flexibility for the type of water resources (river, lake).  TPA has outlines for each vessel and venue as an unofficial guideline and will have other materials available for members.  Contact us if you want them.  TWRA is also expected to post videos and other resources online.

5.  Put your name or logo.on each rental craft.  Many outfitters prefer a decal.  Some outfitters already have their names on their boats, but some who retail used rental boats have not done that in the past.

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December 19, 2019

TWRA Now Taking Permit Applications for the 2020 Season for Paddlecraft Rental Outfitters

Read below to see if you need a permit.  Click on the Link Below to Download an Application Form

TWRA is now taking permit applications for paddlecraft rental operations for the 2020 season.  The permit is officially titled the Non Motorized Vessel Outfitter Operating Permit application (click the link for a fillable pdf of the application).

A permit is required for

  • any entity (business, joint venture, individual, etc) that leases or rents non-motorized vessels for non-commercial use by the public on the waters of Tennessee.

The only exceptions are for

    • The only exceptions are: 
      • A commercial outfitter operating with a permit issued by the US Forest Service on waters in and adjacent to the Cherokee National Forest
      • A commercial outfitter operating at a lake or pond wholly contained within the boundaries of any property owned or operated by the TN Dept of Environment and Conservation agency.
      • Any state governmental entity.

    A permit is not required for these operations.

     For questions about whether or not your operation needs to have a permit, contact TWRA.Commpaddlecraft@tn.gov 

    Permit application requirements are as follows:

    An operating permit is effective for one year from January 1 through December 31 of each year.

    (1) All operating permit renewals shall be filed with the TWRA between October 1 and December 15 (after 2019). That requirement obviously does not apply to new permits at this point.

    (2) Each application shall include, among other information, the following information for each applicant:

    (a) The number of vessels owned by the commercial NMV outfitter that are available for lease or rent;

    (b) The waterways of the state on which the applicant intends to operate, if known;

    (c) Any public access areas the applicant intends to utilize;

    (d) Estimated months of operation;

    (e) Tennessee Secretary of State control number, if applicable;

    (f) A copy of the applicant's business license;

    (g) A copy of the applicant's Department of Revenue Certificate of Registration;

    (h) Proof of liability insurance; and

    (i) Designated representative for the applicant.

    (5) Operating permits may be transferred upon written notification to the TWRA of the date of transfer, the name of the new business owner, and the new designated representative. Transfer notifications must be submitted before the date of transfer.

    Outfitters will be required to submit reports to TWRA on May 1, October 1, and December 1 of each year.

    Operating requirements include:

    • A commercial NMV outfitter must possess a valid operating permit issued by the TWRA.
    • A commercial NMV outfitter must maintain the following records:

    (a) Number and type of NMV leased or rented each day;

    (b) The public access and body of water utilized by an NMV each day, if known;

    (c) Number of accidents and/or casualties involving the use of a commercial outfitter's NMV; and

    (d) Number of water rescues each day involving a commercial NMV outfitter's vessel.

    • Records maintained by commercial NMV outfitters required by these rules are subject to inspection by TWRA personnel. Commercial NMV outfitters shall provide the TWRA with any such requested information.
    • A commercial NMV outfitter shall not lease or rent to an individual less than 16 years of age unless the individual is accompanied by someone at least 18 years of age.

    There are other regulations and safety requirements in the regulations, such as a mandatory customer briefing requirement with prescribed content.  Briefings have to be approved by the TWRA. 

    The Paddlecraft Rental Outfitter Advisory Committee has submitted recommended outlines for methods and content, for customer briefings which may vary by resource and type of paddlecraft.  The Advisory Committee recommended that TWRA approve the outlines and provide them to permit holders rather than approve each outfitter's individual orientation.  

    For more information contact TPA at info@tnpaddlesports.com

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    December 12, 2019

    Joint House and Senate Government Operations Committee Approves TWRA Regulations on Paddlecraft Rental Outfitters.  Permits Required for 2020 Operations.

    Earlier this fall the Joint House and Senate Government Operations Committee approved the proposed TWRA rules which requires paddlecraft rental outfitters to apply for and obtain a permit from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency prior to beginning operations in 2020.  As of December 12, 2019 TWRA had not started taking permit applications, but the agency should announce availability of the application soon. 

    Permit application requirements are as follows:

    An operating permit is effective for one year from January 1 through December 31 of each year.

    (1) All operating permit renewals shall be filed with the TWRA between October 1 and December 15 (after 2019).

    (2) Each application shall include, among other information, the following information for each applicant:

    (a) The number of vessels owned by the commercial NMV outfitter that are available for lease or rent;

    (b) The waterways of the state on which the applicant intends to operate, if known;

    (c) Any public access areas the applicant intends to utilize;

    (d) Estimated months of operation;

    (e) Tennessee Secretary of State control number, if applicable;

    (f) A copy of the applicant's business license;

    (g) A copy of the applicant's Department of Revenue Certificate of Registration;

    (h) Proof of liability insurance; and

    (i) Designated representative for the applicant.

    (5) Operating permits may be transferred upon written notification to the TWRA of the date of transfer, the name of the new business owner, and the new designated representative. Transfer notifications must be submitted before the date of transfer.

     Outfitters will be required to submit reports to TWRA on May 1, October 1, and December 1 of each year. 

    Operating requirements include: 

    • A commercial NMV outfitter must possess a valid operating permit issued by the TWRA.
    • A commercial NMV outfitter must maintain the following records:

    (a) Number and type of NMV leased or rented each day;

    (b) The public access and body of water utilized by an NMV each day, if known;

    (c) Number of accidents and/or casualties involving the use of a commercial outfitter's NMV; and 

    (d) Number of water rescues each day involving a commercial NMV outfitter's vessel.

    • Records maintained by commercial NMV outfitters required by these rules are subject to inspection by TWRA personnel. Commercial NMV outfitters shall provide the TWRA with any such requested information.
    • A commercial NMV outfitter shall not lease or rent to an individual less than 16 years of age unless the individual is accompanied by someone at least 18 years of age.
    There are other regulations and safety requirements in the regulations, such as a mandatory customer briefing requirement.

    For more information and to join TPA contact dbrown@tnpaddlesports.com or click on the Join link.


    Senate Passes SB 665/HB 1328.  Establishes Advisory Committee on TWRA Regulations and Fees.

    Governor Lee signed SB0665 on May 10th, which establishes an advisory committee to work with the TWRA on regulations and fees.  A copy of the bill as amended can be found here: Haile amendment.pdf

    TWRA regulations approved by the the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission and amended by SB0665 become effective November 11, 2019.  Most of the regulations will not become effective until 2020.  Some regulations have been in effect for a while and will be enforced, such as boating safety and DOT regulations.  But permit applications will be accepted sometime after the effective date for the 2020 calendar year.  No reporting requirements are expected this season.  

    A fair amount of debate accompanied passage of SB665.  Senator Hensley expressed concern that the Advisory Committee might be a rubber stamp for the TWRA.  Senator Haile explained that a majority of the members will have to be paddlecraft rental outfitters.  Senator Massey said the fees proposed initially were "astronomical".  TPA had commented on the fees proposed in November 2018 and said that they were illegal.

    TPA will work throughout the next year coordinating input from members to provide a unified position on TWRA regulations and fees.  The legislation postpones fees until July 1, 2021, which will have to be implemented by rule-making and therefore be subject to approval by the legislature and Government Operations Committees.  We also need to educate legislators to reverse some of the negative image promoted by adversaries of paddlesports.  The orientation required by the TWRA has some issues, which need to be addressed.

    Your support for TN Paddlesports Association made this victory possible.  Without your foresight, your business would have been without organized advocacy.  

    TPA members receive regular updates and detailed information on compliance with TWRA regulations and much, much more of benefit to your business.  We help members save money .  Are you a professional paddlesports outfitter or vendor?  Join us today, we need your help and you need TPA!



    Watch the latest TWRA Commission meeting on potential rules affecting paddlesport outfitters

    • January 24, 2019 5:29 PM | Dawn Nelson (Administrator)

      Permits to be required with new regulations

      On January 18, 2019 the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to require paddle craft rental outfitters to obtain a permit from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency before operating on the State's waters.  Regulations will also be attached to the permit, which has a term of one year and may not be renewed for failure to provide the information required with the application. 

      While no fees are attached to the regulations for now, Commissioners vowed to apply the fees later along with additional regulations.  The approved regulations require all outfitters to report water rescues which require more than first aid, the number of rental boats in their fleets and launches.  Parking at TWRA ramps will be regulated. TWRA will approve the orientation provided to customers, which is a concern since the agency has no experience with paddlesports.

      The regulations have to be approved by the Tennessee General Assembly before they can be enacted.  TPA is considering alternative legislation.

      Fees and river specific regulations are expected to come later.  The regulations are supported by the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, which believe paddlers should be paying "impact fees".

      The regulations come after legislation was pushed through the Tennessee General Assembly late in 2018, authorizing the TWRA to regulate "all aspects" of paddle craft rental outfitters operations.  The legislation exempted outfitters in or adjacent to the Cherokee National Forests and in state parks.  College and university programs are also exempted by TWRA.

      TWRA proposed extensive regulations in August 2018 at a TWRA Commission meeting. Following that meeting outfitters formed The Tennessee Paddlesports Access Coalition, which has since become the Tennessee Paddlesports Association.  The goal was to modify the proposed regulations.  TPA submitted comments to the TWRA, including legal analyses, and participation in an Advisory Committee.

      Many outfitters thought the fees proposed in August would put them out of business.  TPA's response generated more than 2,000 letters opposing the regulations, which were sent to members of the General Assembly, who expressed surprise at the extensive TWRA regulatory proposals.  TWRA was attempting to collect fees at ramps and launch areas it did not own or manage, for example.

      As growth in revenues from hunting and fishing license sales decline, many state fish and wildlife agencies are looking for non traditional sources of revenue.  While TPA agreed to the permit fee and some reasonable fee for use of TWRA ramps, we do not believe paddlers should pay the agency to paddle the State's navigable waters.  At the most recent Commission meeting, the Chairman also asked private boaters if they would be willing to pay fees as well.  The hostility some Commissioners expressed toward paddlesports was alarming. One Commissioner even suggested TWRA investigate closing ramps to outfitters.

      The Tennessee Paddlesports Association, an organization made up of many of the state's paddlecraft rental outfitters, has hired a lobbyist and law firm to assist with modifications to the legislation authorizing the regulations, which are unprecedented.  We are also developing best practice guidelines to promote responsible, shared use of Tennessee waterways.

    For more information about this issue check out our Legislative Issues page


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    Paddlesports Outfitters help Tennesseans and visitors reconnect with nature and truely enjoy the beautiful rivers and lakes throughout Tennessee. 

    Tennessee Paddlesports Association, PO Box 66, Strawberry Plains, TN 37871

    1-800-995-4991

    info@tnpaddlesports.com

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