Enjoying East Tennessee
Enjoying East Tennessee

RiverRocks in Chattanooga

October represents a true change in seasons, and living in the mountains of East Tennessee, the month just beckons residents and visitors to come outside. It’s an opportune time to enjoy the region before we are forced indoors for the winter.

As outdoorsmen, the men in my Hoover family have always enjoyed nature. Avid fishermen and duck hunters, lessons on the river were given to my husband by my father-in-law, Ted Hoover, early on in life, and Brad did the same for our son, Bradley.  Today, these men share a true connection and an appreciation for God’s creation through many wonderful adventures with nature. 

Celebrating its second year as a 10-day outdoor festival in Chattanooga, RiverRocks happens September 30th – October 9, 2011, and it will get participants, visitors, and spectators involved outside.

RiverRocks was originally the idea and reflection of the passion of cofounders Mike and Stormy McGauley. According to Chattanooga Presents! Operations Director, Ann Ball, these passionate conversationalists and avid outdoor enthusiasts felt that Chattanooga needed to capitalize on its natural beauty and showcase it with a festival, and that is exactly what the city has done.

“We wanted to gather people who were already doing athletic events under a big marketing umbrella,” said Ball. “There is no prettier time of year anywhere, and especially in Chattanooga, than early in October. It’s starting to get a little cooler at night, so the days are a lot more comfortable. It’s nice and dry, and we just have beautiful weather.”

Surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, and creeks, there’s something for everyone to appreciate and enjoy at the festival, and RiverRocks expertly highlights the region’s natural beauty.

“Our plan is for RiverRocks to be a nationally recognized event in its category… We’re an outdoor festival that focuses on all of the things that showcase what we call Chattanooga’s fresh air lifestyle,” explained Mike McGauley.

The McGauleys have both been very involved with conservation efforts, Stormy having just completed a two-year term as chair of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, and

Mike has also served on that board as well as others. The couple utilized their combined knowledge and experience to formalize RiverRocks.

RiverRocks is divided into activity categories, including river, mountain, terrain, and more, and the festival touts over 90 events. “What we are trying to do is introduce people to play with a purpose,” said Ball.

From rock climbing and hiking to whitewater rafting, still water paddling, cycling, running, caving, and more, during RiverRocks, “world-class, adventure athletic events” happen within a 15-mile radius of downtown Chattanooga.

 “There is a strip of rock that runs the length of the Tennessee Gorge that’s called the Tennessee Wall or ‘T-Wall’…, and it is world known,” explained Ball.

According to Ball, the “Triple Crown of Bouldering,” which is also internationally known, attracts people from everywhere who are just drawn to the natural, outdoor beauty of the city, and the Chattanooga leg of the climbing event at Fort Stone now takes place during RiverRocks on October 8th.

“Most communities focus on one event or the other.  They might have a big trail running event or a mountain biking event or a regatta,” said McGauley. Chattanooga hosts all of these and more at RiverRocks and exposes a wide audience to the plethora of natural resources while also raising awareness.

“Our goal is to get people out, active, and involved. The pillars of our event are the health benefits of an active, outdoor lifestyle, environmental stewardship, and the protection of our natural resources,” said McGauley.

Tickets are not required, which makes it easy for groups and families to attend. Proceeds from sponsor dollars and merchandise sales benefit eight local land trusts and conservancies.

“These events and this awareness benefit all of these land conservation organizations who are taking care of this land that we want people to get out and enjoy. It’s a full circle…symbiotic relationship,” explained Ball.

In addition to the numerous, ever growing list of outdoor activities, there are also hot air balloons during the festival, and weekends are flanked by free music. The 3 Sisters Bluegrass Festival is going on during the opening weekend, and the Jayhawks will be performing on the final weekend of RiverRocks.

For individuals looking to experience and truly enjoy the beautiful outdoors in the mountains of East Tennessee, RiverRocks offers nature combined with healthy, adventuresome activities.

“I think that people are doing more than just saying, ‘I have to get healthy,’” said Ball. “I think that they are actually doing it. And, you don’t have to be a world-class athlete to enjoy RiverRocks.”

For additional information about the RiverRocks Festival in Chattanooga, be sure to visit the website at



Login and voice your opinion!