fall view of the TN River Gorge

River Gorge Explorer

Travel swiftly and smoothly downstream from the Chattanooga Pier into the scenic Tennessee River Gorge aboard this high-tech vessel.

***Note:  Because of the “Head of the Hooch” competition on 11/3/17, 11/4/17, and 11/5/17 we ask passengers on these specific dates to meet at the IMAX Box office 45 minutes before your assigned cruise time. A member of our visitors staff team will be walking you down to our alternate pier located at 201 Riverfront Parkway.  Expect road closures on these dates.***

Experience Tennessee's Grand Canyon aboard the River Gorge Explorer during a two-hour cruise. Each excursion is guided by an Aquarium naturalist who brings local history to life while helping you spot wildlife. Relax in the climate-controlled cabin and soak in the beautiful scenery from the topside observation deck.

Click here for the River Gorge Explorer Schedule

Ticket Prices:

  Adult Child (3-12) Under 3
River Gorge Explorer $32 $24.50 $18
Tennessee Aquarium/River Gorge Explorer Combo $56.95 $39.95 $18
All children under 3 riding the River Gorge Explorer will be charged $18. They are counted as a passenger via U.S. Coast Guard regulations.

Cruises take 2 hours. Please allow 10 minutes for loading and disembarking. The boat boards at the Chattanooga Riverboat Pier - two blocks from the Tennessee Aquarium. Refreshments & restrooms are available on the boat. Seating on the boat is first come first served. The Explorer is handicap accessible, however only two wheelchairs or small motorized chairs are allowed aboard each trip due to limited cabin space. Passengers with large motorized chairs or scooters will be asked to transfer to a cabin chair whenever possible.

Due to limited space we are unable to allow large strollers safely onboard. They can either be left at the IMAX Theater or we can lock the strollers to the bench at the pier. Umbrella stollers are allowed because they can be slipped under the seats.

Please call 423-265-0698 for advance reservations. The reservations department is open Monday - Friday, 8:30 am - 4:45 pm. Please note cruises are subject to cancellation due to circumstances beyond our control (river conditions, weather, etc.). Whenever possible those holding advance reservations will be given one day’s notice of schedule changes. 

Locating the River Gorge Explorer is easy!  Boarding Basics: 

  1. From either the Tennessee Aquarium or IMAX 3D Theater, simply walk toward the Tennessee River on Chestnut Street.
  2. Turn left on Riverfront Parkway and continue to the Chattanooga Pier, located at the corner of Riverfront Parkway and Power Alley.
  3. Proceed under the arch displaying the nautical flags and continue down the ramp to board the River Gorge Explorer.

Tour Highlights and Civil War History
Join us aboard the River Gorge Explorer and experience “Tennessee's Grand Canyon” as it was meant to be seen - from the water.

About the Tennessee River Gorge
The Tennessee River Gorge winds along 26 miles of the Tennessee River, and contains over 27,000 acres of protected land.  It is the perfect setting for taking beautiful photos from the deck of your Chattanooga riverboat cruise.

Ticket Information & Sales
Order your tickets online anytime for the Aquarium, IMAX Theater and River Gorge Explorer and you can pick them up at the will-call window.

Charter a Chattanooga Cruise
Whether it's a special occasion with family and friends, or a relaxing company cruise, the River Gorge Explorer can be chartered for all kinds of events making it both flexible and fun!

The River Gorge Explorer in the spotlight
Rob Wilds, from Tennessee Crossroads, describes his experience cruising in “Tennessee’s Grand Canyon” with our captains and crew in the video below.

The Tennessee Aquarium gratefully acknowledges these official sponsors who help make learning fun aboard the River Gorge Explorer:

First Tennessee logo

small turtle next to dime


Your gifts support educational programs as well as conservation and research efforts in the region.

Donate Now
group of people looking at a toad


The Tennessee Aquarium provides an unforgettable learning experience for children at all grade levels.

Learn More
group snorkeling in river

Calendar of Events

We offers a variety of special events each month. Explore this calendar for fun outings that match your family's interests and age ranges.

View Calendar
Little girls at the IMAX Theater


The huge, six-story screen at the IMAX 3D Theater puts YOU in the action. Travel to undersea reefs filled with colorful creatures, or visit exotic locations from around the world.

View Showtimes