Outdoor Adventure Awaits in Chattanooga
Each year when the southeastern landscape reveals its autumn palette and the essence of fall scents the air, Chattanooga whispers to the world, “Come, come.” Beckoning to those who enjoy the outdoors, it’s an invitation to take part in RiverRocks, a 10-day festival that celebrates all that Chattanooga’s natural landscape has to offer.
Simply put, RiverRocks turns Chattanooga into one big outdoor adventure for two weeks, offering access to some of Chattanooga’s best-kept outdoor secrets and the recreational activities that only hard-core outdoor enthusiasts have previously enjoyed.
The outdoor festival features a meticulous schedule of activities for adventurers of all ages and skill levels: guided hikes and historic walks; cycling races; rock-climbing; canoe, kayak and SUP trips; trail runs; hot air balloon rides; spectator sports; outdoor festivals; live music; educational programs and volunteer projects.
This year’s event, which took place Sept. 29 through Oct. 14, featured several elite outdoor competitions. More than 1,200 rowers propelled 335 boats on the Tennessee River during Chattanooga’s second-largest rowing regatta, the Chattanooga Head Race. The largest regatta in Chattanooga comes just a few weekends later during the Head of the Hooch that has more than 10,000 rowers and 2,000 boats.
Renowned racers from across the country competed in the inaugural ChattaJack 31, a 31.5-mile SUP/kayak race on the Tennessee River, and SUPSplash, the Mid South Region National Championship paddleboard race. And 80 open-water swimmers from across the globe participated in the 10-mile Swim the Suck competition through the stunning Tennessee River Gorge.
Chattanooga goes a little mad for the outdoors during RiverRocks – and the more adrenaline the better. Seventy-eight individuals rappelled 240 feet off an office building in downtown Chattanooga as part of Over the Edge, a joint fundraising event for Boy Scouts of America and RiverRocks. Throughout the week, folks got carried away with hot air balloon rides – tethered and not – and enjoyed a spectacular evening balloon glow at Coolidge Park.
Guided hikes for all ages and abilities, offered nearly every day of the week, are a key aspect of festival. Naturalists and lifelong hikers from the area provide personal tours of some of Chattanooga’s most pristine natural areas: Lula Lake Land Trust on Lookout Mountain and the Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center at its base; a portion of the Cumberland Trail on Walden’s Ridge; historic Stringer’s Ridge in North Chattanooga; and downtown’s notorious Tennessee Riverwalk.
Even technology has a role in RiverRocks. Traditional map-and-compass orienteers took on techies with handheld GPS devices for an orienteering challenge within the 5 Points Recreation Area on Lookout Mountain. And the newly named “Gig City” celebrated its 1 gigabit-per-second Internet service by showcasing regional musicians on stage at Coolidge Park in live performance with artists thousands of miles away.
All this outdoor madness ended, appropriately, with the burning of a 15-foot high wooden sculpture, set ablaze to close the festival at Coolidge Park.
Ultimately, event organizers say the role of RiverRocks is to encourage people to experience, learn about and appreciate the natural resources of the region in order to help protect them. To that end, the festival contributes to eight land trusts and conservancies in the Chattanooga area: the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, the Trust for Public Land, Lula Lake Land Trust, North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, Cumberland Trail, Lookout Mountain Conservancy, Friends of Moccasin Bend and the Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center.
Chattanooga’s RiverRocks festival is a fun-filled, family-friendly, environmentally-conscious event that celebrates the region’s natural resources, the health benefits of an active, outdoor lifestyle, and Chattanooga’s commitment to environmental stewardship and land conservation.
Outdoor enthusiasts are certainly taking notice of Chattanooga’s growing presence as one of the country’s best mountain towns. Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine recently named the city as ‘The Best Outdoor City’ in the nation. Check out the article here.
And remember to keep your eyes on www.riverrockschattanooga.com for updates about next year’s RiverRocks.
About the Guest Blogger:
Jenni Frankenberg Veal is a freelance writer and member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors based in Southeast Tennessee. Her blog Your Outdoor Family encourages and inspires families to get outdoors to enjoy and explore all that the natural world offers. Check it out here: http://www.youroutdoorfamily.com/