We’re proud to have commercial operators in the Share Our Rivers Coalition. We chose not to picture a Tennessee operation, because we welcome all that seek a balanced solution for all users. Instead, pictured here is a Texas-based example of what we’re seeing here on our rivers. Photo by Patrick Lewis

Share Our Rivers Coalition:

Commercial Boat Rentals

Commercial canoe and kayak rental services have grown quickly and without guidelines. Reasonable rules have been adopted but companies are trying to roll back basic guidelines for safety and sharing our rivers.

On our most popular rivers, there have been increases in water rescues, unsafe practices, litter, bad behavior, and conflicts with other citizens. Meanwhile, individual anglers and paddlers are crowded out of these public water resources. But the rules just adopted to fix these issues could be undone by bills now in the Tennessee General Assembly.

Take a moment to join the Share Our Rivers Coalition to be alerted when you can take actions against these bills and to show your support of reasonable rules for commercial operators.

Sharing Access to a Public Resource

More and more, the Federation heard from anglers and private paddlers that commercial operators had come to dominate our most cherished rivers and public access points, while increasing litter, bad behavior, and damage to habitats. Meanwhile, the commercial operators had no rules guiding safe and fair operation.

Not all commercial operators are created equal. Some seek to be good stewards but others operate without regard to our water or wildlife, much less other users.

In 2018, Tennessee Wildlife Federation developed and secured passage of a law to give the Tennessee Fish and Wildlife Commission the authority to create rules for these commercial operators. The Commission led a public process to develop rules that were then unanimously approved to begin January 1, 2020.

Commercial operators must obtain a permit; meet certain safety standards, including safety briefings for renters; and document how many commercial trips they are generating on what portions of our rivers.

But bills were filed in the Tennessee General Assembly that could limit—or completely rollback—the new rules for commercial operators. We expect challenges like these to continue for years to come. That’s why we need you to join the Share Our Rivers Coalition to support a balanced soultion for all users.

In the News

Quick Facts

  • Tennessee’s 1.25 million anglers support wildlife conservation through license fees and special taxes. Crowding anglers off rivers could reduce critical funding.
  • Fishing generates $1.2 billion in economic output and supports 7,669 jobs in Tennessee.
  • 181,000+ commercially-guided trips are made on the Ocoee River each year. Fees make water management on the river possible.

More from the Federation about Share Our Rivers Coalition

deer swimming

Frequently Asked Questions

Beginning January 1, 2020, commercial paddlecraft rental services must:

  • obtain a permit;
  • meet certain safety standards, including safety briefings for renters;
  • and document how many commercial trips they are generating on what portions of our rivers.

No fees were included in the final rules but the Share Our Rivers Coalition is excited that TWRA will soon have the firm data needed to ensure our public resources are being enjoyed by everyone.

Yes. In Tennessee, permits are issued to commercial operations conducting business within the Ocoee River management zone. Here is the current Tennessee Code for those permits.

Various regions throughout the country have enacted similar permitting with great success—conserving the public resource, restoring access for individual users, and allowing commercial operations to continue to thrive.

Currently, there is no permitting fee. But if one is put into place in the future, we believe it should be scalable. For example, in the Ocoee River management zone, permitting fees are equal to 10 percent of the annual gross revenue of the commercial operation. This ensures no business carries an unfair share of the burden. Operators in this zone, and others like it, continue to run healthy businesses.

No. Private citizens will still be able to access and use the rivers. This permit and associated fee will only be for commercial operators. In fact, if commercial liveries are required to obtain permits, private citizens may find improved access to the rivers, as well as safer, more enjoyable experiences.

Currently, anglers and fishing guides are the primary funders of river management and maintenance, through their licensing fees.

Under the new rules, commercial canoe and kayak rental companies will be required to mark watercraft as commercial vessels. This will make it easier to track river traffic. Additionally, when illegal activity takes place on the river, the perpetrators can be more easily identified and pursued through the livery records.

More Information

Get the latest conservation news and actions to take!

300 Orlando Avenue
Nashville, Tennessee 37209
(615) 353-1133

© 2020 Tennessee Wildlife Federation