Colorful Cruising Aboard the River Gorge Explorer
10/28/2009 11:04:28 AM
Tennessee Aquarium’s New Boat Offers a Thrilling Way to See Fall Foliage
Chattanooga, Tenn. (October 22, 2009) - Autumn may be the best time to experience the somewhat hidden world of the Tennessee River Gorge. Located downstream from downtown Chattanooga, this protected habitat has an incredibly diverse collection of trees. “We have more species of hardwood trees in the Gorge than anywhere else on the North American continent,” Captain Pete Hosemann said. “So when the fall colors turn, you see virtually every color that hardwood trees are capable of turning. It is a spectacular sight with a mix of evergreens.”
The showy autumn display usually begins along the rim of the Gorge with bands of color lowering down the slopes throughout the season. Passengers aboard the River Gorge Explorer may feel “wrapped” in color because the mountain slopes rise up so quickly from the water’s edge. That’s why Captain Pete believes the Tennessee River Gorge is a “must-see” for everyone. “The upper Mississippi River Valley is the only place that can begin to compare, but the upper Mississippi is much wider than the Tennessee River Gorge. Here you have an up close experience that you can’t get on the Mississippi River,” Captain Pete said.
Chattanooga’s weather in October and November can be sublime, often offering comfortable temperatures and blue skies as a backdrop to the autumn color cascading down the mountains. The combination of climate, geographic location and dramatic rise in elevation not only helps produce vibrant reds, yellows and oranges along the length of the 26-mile Gorge, it also attracts migrating hawks. The broad-winged hawk is just one of many seasonal travelers. “They tend to travel in big groups called kettles,” said Kevin Calhoun, the Aquarium’s assistant curator of forests. “Sometimes they form huge groups, especially during the fall migrations. But other species like red-tailed hawks, red-shouldered hawks, sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks follow the ridges and use the thermals in autumn.”
An on-board naturalist helps point out wildlife such as hawks, ospreys and bald eagles on each cruise and also describes the area’s rich history.
Captain Pete says the hi-tech bridge of the River Gorge Explorer is the best office in the world. And he’s looking forward to another autumn show in the Gorge. “It’s one of the prettiest rivers anywhere in the world,” he said.
The 70-passenger vessel departs from the Chattanooga Pier several times each day. Most cruises last two hours. However, the last cruise of each day will be extended by one hour. These “sunset special” cruises offer guests a three-hour cruise for the same price through Sunday, November 8th.
Discount combination tickets are available with the Tennessee Aquarium and IMAX 3D Theater. Visit the Tennessee Aquarium’s website to check color cruise times and purchase tickets online: www.tnaqua.org .