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Seasoned to Perfection

Tennessee Aquarium's River Gorge Explorer.

Tennessee Aquarium's River Gorge Explorer.

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Fall wraps the Heartland in a brilliant coat of jewel-toned colors as crisp days and cool nights provide an idyllic cruising experience that welcomes boaters with pleasant seasonal amenities — less crowds, mild temperatures, rate discounts. Whether you enjoy the timeless sites of history, the excitement of cityscapes or the solitude of natural sanctuaries, wonderful venues can be found along majestic waterways such as the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee rivers, Lake Monroe and Kentucky Lake.

Yes, it’s time to calendar up one more excursion before you put the boat in storage until next year. To assist you, we’ve put together an “options itinerary” with something for everyone on board. The natural beauty of these locales comes alive with brilliant autumn hues in rich shades of golden yellow, burnt orange and deep burgundy — so, go ahead, drift into a new state of mind this fall.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Steeped in Southern history and nestled in a scenic panorama comprised of mountains, ridges, the winding Tennessee River and nearby lakes (Chickamauga and Nickajack), Chattanooga affords boaters with a breathtaking excursion. Several marinas and ramps provide easy access to this beautiful waterway, including Raccoon Mountain, a favorite launch for boaters.

The Tennessee River Gorge, a 26-mile canyon formed by the river as it cuts into the Cumberland Plateau and carves an aquatic path into Alabama from Tennessee, is also known as the Grand Canyon of Tennessee. The Signal Mountain bluffs just below Signal Point offer a spectacular view of the Tennessee River as it moves along the Chattanooga riverfront, curves around Moccasin Bend and on past Williams Island in Marion County.

The Moccasin Bend Archaeological District, a 956-acre National Historic Landmark, sits across the river from Lookout Mountain. Both Moccasin Bend and Lookout Mountain possess immense historical aspects, from American Indian settlements to Civil War battles.

Meanwhile, Chattanooga’s vibrant downtown riverfront offers a diverse attraction of parks, restaurants and museums: Tennessee Aquarium, IMAX 3D Theatre and Hunter Museum of American Art. The Tennessee Riverwalk runs nearly 13 miles along the river for a picturesque trek and a stop at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. This historic Southern Railway Terminal Station has been converted into a Historic Hotels of America property featuring vintage train car accommodations, giving visitors a trip down memory lane.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Mariner’s Landing, a full-service facility 14 miles west from downtown, provides in-water slips directly on the Ohio River and easy access to Cincinnati. Whether the game plan calls for a day of Bengals football at Paul Brown Stadium or a city getaway, there’s something exciting to do, including some mega events in September. Oktoberfest Zinzinnati USA (September 22-23) is a world-renowned German celebration that’s second only to Munich, while the Cincinnati MidPoint Music Festival (September 27-29) rocks with some 250 national and international bands playing an array of genres.

A unique departure from Cincinnati’s bright lights is the Little Miami River, a Class I tributary of the Ohio River flowing some 111 miles through five counties in southwestern Ohio. Designated as a National Scenic River, it joins the Ohio River just east of Cincinnati and invites boaters to discover timeless natural and historical treasures: abundant aquatic life, lush foliage and relics from the past.

The Four Seasons Marina east of Cincinnati is an ideal port for visitors who want to spend time exploring the Little Miami, its several state and county parks dotted with peaceful trails built alongside abandoned rail grades running beside the shoreline. Remember to exercise caution when traversing Little Miami due to the river’s immense and often hidden power — high water and rapid flow from heavy rains, log jams or submerged trees creating strong forces in the current at low-head dams.

Grand Rivers, Kentucky Lake

The Tennessee River winds its way towards the Ohio River, flows into a portion of the stunning region known as Kentucky’s Western Waterlands and makes its way to Kentucky Lake — home to the quaint town of Grand Rivers, a charming village dotted with antique shops, boutiques, restaurants and bike paths. The natural beauty of the area is truly an outdoor recreational destination all its own. Nicknamed the Village Between the Lakes, Grand Rivers boasts a spectacular lake view from the jetty (especially at sunset) and a wonderful two-mile trek along its walking trail. Lighthouse Landing, a picturesque resort and full-service marina, affords those with an appreciation of the outdoors a secluded yet convenient locale tucked along the Kentucky Lake shoreline that’s a mile north of the entrance to Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area and three blocks to area landmark, Patti’s 1880s Settlement & Restaurant.

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