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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Wolf River, Tennesee

Once an impassable, swampy "ghost river," now a paddler's dream.

by: Richard Banks

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Contact Information:

Wolf River Conservancy Box 11031 Memphis, TN 38111-0031 (901) 526-9653 Location: The Wolf River lies in southwest Tennessee. Moscow is about 35 miles east of Memphis.

Getting There: To reach the western terminus for the full two-day trip, take TN 57 east from Memphis to Moscow. Park at the boat ramp next to the highway on the western edge of town. To reach the eastern put-in, turn south on Yeager Road at the La Grange town square and proceed for about 2 miles to the river. If you want to split the trip, turn south on Bateman Road, just before entering La Grange, and continue for about 3 miles to the river.

Seasonal Information: Spring and fall, when the flora color is at its best, are the recommended seasons. Spring brings the fresh, brilliant greens of new growth while fall can provide a thousand shades of red, yellows, purple, and orange. Temperatures in these seasons average in the 70s and water level is great for floating. Heavy rains in April and May may cause the river levels to rise to dangerous levels. Check conditions before setting out on trip.

As summer approaches, temperatures may get up to 100 degrees F with high humidity, and the river level tends to be low. If you decide to make the trip in winter in freezing temperatures, you'll be rewarded with a great show of migrating waterfowl.

Wildlife: Wildlife is plentiful throughout this entire stretch. Whitetail deer, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and rabbits abound but are largely nocturnal. During warm months, snakes are everywhere, while a host of bird species, including great blue herons, kingfishers, and pileated woodpeckers (some with three-foot wingspans), live here throughout the year. Within Shelby County, the Mississippi kite - an endangered species - has been discovered to nest in the Wolf River Greenway. The Wolf is also home to the playful river otter, and a large population of belly-flopping beavers.

Look for small piles of scattered, opened mussel shells left over from mink and muskrat feasts. Beavers also leave their mark with scent mounds ~ piles of mud one to two feet high along the bank.

The river is known for outstanding largemouth bass, crappie, and bream fishing.

Insects: Mosquitoes and other insects are rarely a problem during the day.

Plant Life: Flora ranges from hardwoods to sawgrass to cypress, water lilies, tupelo gum, and itea bush. Silver and red leaf maple, ironwood, and river birch nearly create a full canopy over the river as they compete for scarce sunlight along the banks.

Facilities: Currently there are no designated public camping areas along the river. Most of the land along the river is privately owned, but camping is available 30 minutes east of La Grange off Hwy. 57 at Big Hill Pond State Park (800/421-6683).

To rent canoes near the Ghost section of the Wolf River, contact Ghost River Canoe rentals, Inc. (901/877-9954, e-mail

Canoes are also available through Wolf River Canoe Rentals (901/465-2975) and A.J.'s Canoe Rentals (901/753-6426).

Parking: Parking information is available from the park office.

Permits: No permits are needed. Licenses are needed to hunt or fish.

Policies: Contact park office for information.


  • Watch for fishing lines.
  • Hunting is allowed at the wildlife management area, so be sure to check seasons with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (800/372-3928).
  • The middle section near Collierville-Arlington is prone to log jams.
  • Most snakes encountered are common water snakes, and rarely are water moccasins seen. But learn to check overhanging logs and limbs before passing under them and watch when stepping. Do not kill snakes when encountered. For those particularly paranoid, carry the $15 physician recommended Sawyer snake bite kit.

Leave No Trace:

All LNT guidelines apply.

Maps: Information is available from the Wolf River Conservancy.

Other Trip Options:

  • After La Grange, the Wolf heads south and crosses the Mississippi border, flowing into Holly Springs National Forest.
  • And while you're in the area, take a walk through La Grange, a historic registered town.

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Reader Rating: -


Eric Kelley
Nov 10, 2008

Great article. You just need to change the last sentence. It doesn't take two days. it only takes about 6 - 7 hours.


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