From now through the fall, thousands of people will make their way to one of the best waterways for regatta rowing in the country and it’s not where you might expect. Over the past few years, Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, TN (about 20 minutes northwest of Knoxville) has become a premier spot for rowing competitions and practice. Nearly all year long you can drive along the lake and see people moving swiftly along the flat” water in those signature long and narrow boats moving.
Watching rowers paddle Melton Hill lake is a beautiful sight, even if you don't know anything about the sport. Individual competitors and teams of up to eight compete in a variety of races. The course in Oak Ridge is set against a majestic mountain backdrop letting you know you are in East Tennessee.
A small peninsula sits between the course and the launch site for the boats. During competitions, there will be a variety of food and merchandise vendors, food vendors, and possibly a Beer Garden and live music. In many ways the events feel more like a festival than a sporting event. Coming to a regatta is a great way to understand the camaraderie of the athletes, their coaches, and the loyalty of the families and fans. Best of all, admission is generally free.
April 21st & 22nd – SIRA (Southeastern Intercollegiate Rowing Association) Regatta
April 28th & 29th – The Dogwood Juniors Championship Regatta
May 12th & 13th – Big XII Conference Championships
May 19th – Dogwood Masters Regatta
Parking is often limited near the course, but shuttles from nearby locations are often available.
Other things to do in the area
If you are looking for things to do beside watching rowing, it won't be difficult. The federal government built the city as part of the Manhattan Project, the effort to build the atomic bomb. Now, several areas throughout the “Secret City” are part of the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park. That includes, Jackson Square, the historic heart of Oak Ridge. There you will find, the Oak Ridge Playhouse, Razzleberries Ice Cream and the famous Big Ed’s Pizza. Be sure and check out more about the city’s history at the American Museum of Science and Energy the Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge while you are in town.
Upriver from the rowing venue you'll find the Green McAdoo Cultural Center and Museum in Clinton, a place telling the story of the 12 students who were the first to attend an all-white high school in the segregated South. Norris Dam State Park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Downtown Knoxville are also within an hour’s drive of Oak Ridge.