Written by Chattajack Founder and Event Director Ben Friberg
Entering its second year, the Chattajack 31will draw paddlers from all over the United States, as well as a few international paddlers. Last year the event proved an immediate success, and photographs of hundreds of paddlers scattered like ghosts amidst dense fog under the bridges have been shared thousands of times, elevating this two-year old race into one of the most anticipated paddling events of the year.
Racers will paddle on a multitude of vessels, including standup paddleboards, prone paddleboards, surf skis, kayaks, outrigger canoes, traditional canoes and even an Asay row-boat. The race will begin at 8 AM Saturday, Oct 25 after the fleet of paddlers have assembled on the water in downtown Chattanooga. A second wave a paddlers will begin the race at 8:30 AM.
For paddle-enthusiasts, photographers, adventure seekers, and families, the Chattajack provides an opportunity for a memorable day outdoors following the racers as they embark on an epic 31-mile journey from Ross' Landing through the TN River Gorge to Nickajack Lake. Spectators can enjoy amazing views of the paddlers with the scenic city in the background from a number of angles, including the Walnut Street Bridge, Market Street Bridge, Coolidge Park, and Ross’s Landing.
Four river miles from downtown paddlers will begin entering the Tennessee River Gorge where spectators can again cheer and photograph paddle athletes as they zoom through the gorge walls. The gorge is the real reason people come to participate in this race, and it is arguably the best place for spectators to spend the day.
River Canyon Road will allow people to drive the entire length of the gorge on the river's right side all the way to Nickajack Lake. Another option for great photography and spectating is to drive to Raccoon Mountain boat launch. This is located at the bottom of Raccoon Mountain on Raccoon Mountain Road. You’ll see picnic tables and across the river you'll see the beautiful cliff bands, known to climbers all over the world as Tennessee Wall or ”T-Wall”. The finish-line for the race is at Hales Bar Marina on Nickajack Lake.
The racers will have paddled 31 miles after arriving at this point. They’ll be haggard. Some will be strong and immediately ready for post-race banter, while others will be on the verge of collapse and will need help from volunteers as they dismount their boards. You’ll be up close to the racers here and their facial expressions will tell you the story of the experience they've just endured and conquered. Some will be saying things like “Never Again” while others will be crying, hugging, laughing, smiling, or in shock that it’s finally over! The fall colors should be peaking around this event so make sure Chattajack is on your calendar for the last Saturday of October.