33 kayakers rescued after high winds slam Tennessee cave tour group

FILE - Colorful kayaks by a riverside. Getty Images

Dozens of kayakers were rescued after a jaunt on the waters turned harrowing during a strong wind event.

A group of 33 – including children – had left a boat ramp to paddle across to Nickajack cave Monday when high wind knocked some over into the water, according to Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials.

The group scrambled to a river bank near the cave and then called for help.


Rescue crews work to save 33 kayakers who became stranded during poor weather near Nickajack Caves in Marion County, Tennessee on March 27, 2024. (Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency)

Emergency crews arrived but even had to fight the weather themselves before getting into the water. High winds blew over one of the rescue boats while it was still attached to its trailer. 

Luckily, the boat wasn’t damaged and crews could get on the water. And despite "extremely poor water conditions," they could still ferry the kayakers back to shore. No one was injured in the ordeal, officials said.

Rescuers credited all the kayakers for wearing life jackets as contributing to the successful rescue and survival.

"This is a great example of the importance of life jackets," said TWRA Boating Officer David Holt. "With water temperatures in the mid-50s and high wind speeds, life jackets were a key safety factor."

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