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Best Chttanooga Discount

Did you know you can save 15% by purchasing the Aquarium, IMAX and River Gorge Explorer combo ticket? The more you do, the more you save!

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Animal Encounters

Fun Animal Encounters

From a hairy tarantula to a talking African gray parrot, you never know what you’ll bump into in Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari at the Tennessee Aquarium!

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River Gorge Explorer

A River View of Civil War History

A River View of Civil War History

During the Civil War, the Tennessee River was a strategic transportation artery for both North and South. Notable military points exist between Downtown Chattanooga and historic Pot Point. Tennessee Aquarium naturalists highlight strategic locations for passengers aboard the Tennessee Aquarium River Gorge Explorer.

Each cruise begins by heading downstream towards Moccasin Bend, a sharp curve in the Tennessee River at the foot of Lookout Mountain.  Looking up from the water's edge you will imagine what it was like to assault this famous mountain on the morning of November 24th, 1863. On that morning, Union forces began fighting their way from the base of the mountain near Moccasin Bend to the top where Confederate troops had positioned themselves.  The top of the mountain was shrouded in a low cloud deck which forms quite often throughout the year.  Thus the famous "Battle above the Clouds".

This route also retraces the troop movements from downtown Chattanooga to Brown’s Ferry during a turning point of the Civil War. Prior to the “Battle above the Clouds,” Confederate forces controlled the two most reliable supply routes available to the besieged Union army in Chattanooga.  Only a rickety road across Walden’s Ridge, (Signal Mountain) was accessible to wagon trains carrying food, clothing and ammunition into the city.  

In late October, the Union army’s new commander, U. S. Grant, put in motion a plan to secure a more steady supply.  He ordered Union troops stationed in Bridgeport, Alabama to march north and seize the valley west of Lookout Mountain.  At the same time, he ordered troops from Chattanooga to use pontoon boats to float around Moccasin Bend and capture Brown’s Ferry.  Once they secured the ferry landing army engineers would build a pontoon bridge over which fresh troops and adequate supplies could be brought into the city.

In the early morning of October 27, 1,150 men under the command of William B. Hazen boarded pontoons near Downtown Chattanooga and set out toward Brown’s Ferry. Once Union forces drifted silently past Confederate troops, they were able to land on the river’s south bank and take the rebel guards by surprise.  By sunrise they had secured the area and began building a pontoon bridge.

Just downstream from Moccasin Bend and Brown’s Ferry is Williams Island.  This natural treasure is owned by the State of Tennessee - Division of Archaeology, but is managed by the Tennessee River Gorge Trust.  Here evidence of man settling the area dates back to the 12,000 year range. During the Civil War, one of the men who stole the locomotive "The General" from Atlanta escaped custody from authorities in Chattanooga and hid out on Williams Island until he was recaptured.