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Open water swimmers want their own Tennessee River lane in Chattanooga

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Bethany Smithers, manager of L2 Boards, paddles between the Market Street Bridge and the Walnut Street Bridge. Stand-up paddlers and other river users can be seen by boaters, but swimmers can't. Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press Bethany Smithers, manager of L2 Boards, paddles between the Market Street Bridge and the Walnut Street Bridge. Stand-up paddlers and other river users can be seen by boaters, but swimmers can't. Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press
CHATTANOOGA, TN (Times Free Press) -

Boats and barges on the Tennessee River, sure. Bass fishermen, kayakers, paddleboarders and Ducks, of course. But COWS? Maybe. These are milers, not milkers.

The Chattanooga Open Water Swimmers -- COWS for short -- is drafting a plan to help make the Tennessee River downtown more swimmer-friendly. The group hopes to propose a "swimmers easement" along the North Shore, but complications are rife, from restricting access to a popular fishing area to winning state and federal approval.

It's a natural evolution for an outdoors-oriented city that's hosting the U.S. Masters Swimming Open Water National Championship in May and the Ironman triathlon next September, organizer Karah Nazor says.

"One would think that Chattanooga would be open-water-swim friendly, when in fact it is not," said Nazor, an English Channel swimmer who founded the annual Swim the Suck event and whose mother is Chattanooga Times Free Press staff writer Karen Nazor Hill.

Read more from our news partners at the Chattanooga Times Free Press



Bethany Smithers, manager of L2 Boards, paddles between the Market Street Bridge and the Walnut Street Bridge. Stand-up paddlers and other river users can be seen by boaters, but swimmers can't. Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press

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