What a wonderful adventure the participants in the 6th annual Flotilla, sponsored by FirstBank, experienced on Saturday, May 20, 2023. It was a day that brought communities and families together with nature!
The Beaver Creek Kayak Club, located in the small communities of Powell and Karns, had over 430 kayakers registered to “float the Beaver.” Over the last several years, these communities have created a very special water trail that offers close-to-home recreation for local paddlers. The popularity of the trail has grown to include paddlers from all over the Knoxville area.
The Blueway project started with a few community-minded people with a strong interest in paddling and has become a county-wide aspiration. The plan to turn the meandering 44-mile stretch of water that had a history of flooding and pollution issues into a family-friendly destination has gained the support of the Knox County Stormwater Division, the Knox Parks & Recreation Department, Knox County Mayor and Commissioners, Legacy Parks Foundation, and the local community.
Over the last few years, Knox County Parks and Recreation, the manager of the trail, has made the trail a top priority. The beautiful stretch of water is regularly cared for, cleaned, and cleared by crews to ensure a safe and smooth water trail for paddling and fishing. There is a dedicated crew who works on the trail daily to continue its progress and maintain what has been cleaned and cleared.
Officially named the Knox County Water Trail, the 44-mile stretch of navigable water crosses five communities between Clayton Park in Halls and Melton Hill in Hardin Valley. Nourishing their natural resources is something the department focuses on and something they take pride in. To date, the park department reported they’ve removed about one thousand tons of debris and jams from 12 miles of the 44-mile-long creek, completing Phase I of the project. To learn where it all began, watch this video: Knox County Water Trail.
This year’s float started at Aubrey’s Launch, behind Powell High School, and ended at the Roy Arthur Stormwater Park Launch on Harrell Road in Karns. The 12-mile-long Flotilla section is the only section that is completely cleared and currently floatable without any portage. On Saturday, over 430 registered boaters took to the water for some relaxing fun. What made the Flotilla popular and easy to access are the two BoardSafe Adaptive Kayak Launches located at the launch headquarters and take-out. More adaptive launches are planned to be put in place as the cleaning and clearout continue along Beaver Creek. This will make the water trail inclusive and accessible for the widest range of users, because the long-term plan is to continue down the 44-mile-long stream to Melton Lake.
The two BoardSafe Adaptive Kayak Boat Launches were called “a huge asset to the Beaver Creek project, for making it easier to get in and out of kayaks.” Read more about the Beaver Creek project here: https://loom.ly/Zrjta2M.
The Beaver Creek Kayak Club has a membership of over 4200 paddlers. The Flotilla receives support from Knox County Parks and Recreation, Legacy Parks Foundation, Karns Community, Knox County Watershed, Knox County Mayor, Knox County Commissioners, Weigel’s, Aubrey’s, BoardSafe Docks, and numerous other stores, restaurants, and businesses.
All event proceeds for the Flotilla have been dedicated to continuing the improvement of Beaver Creek with debris cleanout, creek bed clean up, and installation of courtesy and accessible adaptive kayak launches. Flotilla highlights can be viewed here:
6th Annual Beaver Creek Flotilla video highlights
Contributing to the Flotilla’s success is the hardworking group of community-minded people from the Beaver Creek Kayak Club. Most notably, Charlie Austin, BCKC president, received well-deserved recognition for his endless efforts over the years. The BoardSafe Adaptive Kayak Launch at Roy Arthur Stormwater Park take-out was renamed “Charlie’s Launch” to recognize his leadership and spirited commitment to Beaver Creek. Charlie grew up on the creek, believes in the value of caring for the natural resource located in their community’s backyard, and has led the volunteer efforts through promotion, advocacy, and physical efforts to clear, clean, and care for their beloved Beaver Creek.
Despite the threat of rain— which stayed away until the Flotilla ended—over 430 paddlers still showed up and had a blast. There was a light sprinkle of rain before paddlers hit the water, and they received a beautiful rainbow prior to the 3 hours of kayaking down Beaver Creek. As expected, the day did not disappoint and everyone left with a smile!
The 6th Annual Beaver Creek Flotilla, presented by FirstBank, was another great day for community and fellowship. The community and its sponsors are due huge accolades for hosting one of the biggest and best paddling events in the region. One paddler was overheard saying, “The Flotilla was the best-organized event of any kind I’ve ever been to, bar none!”
Learn more about the Flotilla here:
Another paddler remarked, “Who would have ever thought so many people would fall in love with our little creek?” The communities will benefit from these inclusive improvements to the creek—even people with mobility limitations. Active adults, families, and children, can now enjoy recreational experiences in a beautiful public space. This is what community is all about. Until next year—Happy paddling on Beaver Creek!