From the thrill of Class IV rapids to the serenity of paddleboard yoga on the river, there’s reason for everyone to enjoy the rivers and lakes of east Tennessee. Planners can guarantee out-of-the-ordinary adventures, from world-class waterparks to the majesty of rushing water in cave-bound rivers and waterfalls.
With the Tennessee River at its doorstep, the city of Chattanooga has a multitude of splashy options for fun.
“The Tennessee River goes through downtown, into the heart of Chattanooga,” said Brian Murphy, vice president of sales for the Chattanooga CVB. “There are lakes and rivers in the surrounding area as well, so our accessibility to water activities can’t be beat.”
Downtown activities for groups can include kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding in the river. Outfits like Chattanooga Paddleboards and L2Outside specialize in river trips downtown, are experienced with groups and can even do a beginner’s learning class for those who have never even seen a paddleboard. For teambuilding, groups can attempt dragon boat racing. Each 45-foot canoe holds 20 paddle-wielding competitors who must learn to work together to propel their boat forward. The team with the best cooperation and speed wins. Dynamic Dragon
Boat Racing arranges events from teambuilding to group fundraising.
Boat tours are also a popular pick for groups. The Chattanooga Duck tours are held aboard genuine WWII amphibious craft that run on land and water, and feature historic tours that educate and entertain. The Southern Belle Riverboat also offers tours for up to 450 guests, along with lunch and dinner options. Meeting space is available onboard, and the riverboat can accommodate up to 825 in a theater capacity.
Adrenaline junkies can get their fix aboard the Tennessee Aquarium’s River Gorge Explorer, a high-tech boat built for speed; the craft’s four jets enable the Explorer to reach up to 50 miles an hour and cover larger distances within the tour’s two-hour time frame. Each tour is led by a naturalist from the aquarium, and groups can explore the stunning beauty of Tennessee’s river gorge while remaining in climate-controlled comfort. Planners can combine the river trip with a tour of the Tennessee Aquarium; the site also is available for event rentals.
For more adventure, groups can take on white-water rafting just outside the city, on the Ocoee River, with outfitters like the Nantahala Outdoor Center, or stay dry and see the majesty of
Ruby Falls, an underground waterfall in a breathtaking cave system. Above ground, the campus also sports a zipline attraction for teambuilding activities.
Three rivers and numerous lakes, creeks and streams make Knoxville a great choice for groups seeking some fun on the water. There’s also an abundance of outdoor activities on dry land as well, according to Kim Bumpas, president of Visit Knoxville.
“Knoxville is home to the Urban Wilderness, which is about five minutes outside of downtown,” she said. “While we have Great Smoky Mountains National Park in our backyard, we are excited to have over 1,000 acres of multiuse trails. These trails have something for every experience, from Black Diamond mountain biking to historic, serene quarries.”
The confluence of the Holston and French Broad rivers form the headwaters of the Tennessee River in the eastern part of the city, and water activities like kayaking, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding give groups a fun, active way to see Knoxville. The staff of Visit Knoxville has assisted planners in creating special outings for groups, from kayaking and canoeing to fishing excursions.
The city also recently opened its first ADA-compliant dock at Ijams River Landing, which features rollers on the dock surface, handrails and a specialized seat providing help to those who need assistance getting into watercraft, so everyone can experience kayaking the Tennessee River.
For receptions, tours and other special events, planners can also contact Volunteer Princess Cruises, which offers a sleek luxury yacht that can accommodate up to 132 guests. A variety of packages are available, from brunch to a late-night party cruise.