Fall Color Cruises Offer Unique Perspective On Autumnal Splendor Of Tennessee River Gorge

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - by Casey Phillips

At any time of year, a cruise aboard the River Gorge Explorer into the protected habitat of the Tennessee River Gorge offers a stunning perspective on its striking geography and abundant wildlife.

Beginning in mid-October, however, the view gets even more spectacular as autumnal hues cascade down the mountainside like Mother Nature is slowly bumping up the color saturation for the whole region. Aquarium guests have more opportunities to enjoy the sights with daily two-hour excursions and special extended cruises planned for three upcoming Sundays.   

This year’s River GORGEous fall color cruises return on Oct. 22 and will occur twice each Sunday through Nov. 5. With peak fall color foliage expected to reach the lower Tennessee Valley from late October to mid-November, these special cruises should show a natural wonder truly living up to the title, says Captain Pete Hosemann.

“I have seen the canyon just in the most incredibly fiery colors of autumn that you can imagine,” said Mr. Hosemann, who has piloted vessels for about 40 years. “I’ve seen some pretty amazing and glorious days. This year? I think we’re going to have some nice foliage, and the canyon offers the greatest variation in coloration that you can find in this region.”

Nicknamed “Tennessee’s Grand Canyon,” the Tennessee River Gorge is the fourth largest river canyon east of the Mississippi River. It straddles the Tennessee River for 26 winding miles. Because of the way sunlight falls on this sinuous geography, the canyon is home to an incredible diversity of plant and animal life. During the cruise, an on-board naturalist will point out passing animal life and discuss locations with historical or cultural significance.

A normal River Gorge Explorer cruise takes guests on a two-hour, 24-mile round trip.  River GORGEous Fall Color Cruises offer an extended journey that lasts three hours and 34 miles.

“We run the entire length of the canyon. That alone is pretty special,” Mr. Hosemann said. “We try to imbue our crew with the recognition that, although we are fortunate enough to do this on a regular basis, on literally every trip, it’s someone’s first boat ride or chance to see our area. That’s a privilege.”

In addition to the normal Fall Color Cruises, this year’s schedule includes two themed journeys. On Oct. 29, guests can learn more about efforts to preserve the gorge from a member of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust. On Nov. 5, historian Jim Ogden will provide insights into the role the gorge and surrounding landscape played during the Civil War.

Fall Color Cruise departs at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Oct. 22Oct. 29 and Nov. 5. Special themed cruises are at 1 p.m. on their respective dates. Morning cruises depart from Chattanooga Pier, with passengers bussing back to Chattanooga at the trip’s conclusion. Afternoon cruises begin with a charter bus ride from Chattanooga to Hale’s Bar Marina with passengers cruising back to Chattanooga.

Tickets for children or adults are $40/$50 for members or $50/$60 for non-members. Because of the popularity of Fall Color Cruises, pre-registration is strongly recommended.

For more information or to reserve a seat, visit http://www.tnaqua.org/plan-your-visit/river-gorge-explorer/fall-color-cruises/

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