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home | Locations | 4 of 13 Types of Tennessee Recreatio . . .

4 of 13 Types of Tennessee Recreational Facilities--Aquariums
Ivan Gillis
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Tennessee Aquariums

Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies - Gatlinburg

Another popular attraction is Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies which also features special exhibits covering subjects such as the Titanic, pirates and more recently the planet Mars. The aquarium opened in 1997.

Tennessee Aquarium - Chattanooga

The Tennessee Aquarium is a non-profit public aquarium located in ChattanoogaTennesseeUnited States. It opened in 1992 on the banks of the Tennessee River in downtown Chattanooga, with a major expansion added in 2005. The Aquarium, which has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1993, is home to more than 12,000 animals representing almost 800 species.

More than 20 million people have visited the facility, with the twenty-millionth visitor arriving in March 2013. It is consistently recognized as one of the country's top public aquariums.

The Tennessee Aquarium was designed to serve as a cornerstone for redevelopment in downtown Chattanooga by reconnecting the city with the Tennessee River. At the beginning of the 1980s the Chattanooga-based Lyndhurst Foundation funded a series of initiatives to promote revitalization in the city, which was suffering from the impacts of deindustrialization and population decline. In 1981 the University of Tennessee's urban design program, with funding from Lyndhurst, established the Urban Design Studio in Chattanooga as an opportunity for its students to gain real-world experience in urban planning. This led to the first public mention of an aquarium project, in a 1982 student exhibit of what they described as an "urban design structure" for downtown Chattanooga and the adjacent riverfront. Another Lyndhurst-funded venture, the Moccasin Bend Task Force, was impaneled in 1982 by the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County to study options for the Moccasin Bend archaeological site immediately north of the Tennessee River, but expanded its scope to cover the city's entire 22-mile riverfront. Its Tennessee Riverpark Master Plan, finalized in 1985, also included a recommendation for a riverfront aquarium. The aquarium plan was additionally endorsed by Vision 2000, a public visioning process carried out in 1984 under the auspices of the nonprofit Chattanooga Venture, as one of forty goals set out for the city to pursue.

Development of the aquarium and the adjoining Ross's Landing Park, part of the Tennessee Riverpark project, was funded by a combination of nonprofit, public, and private individual supporters. The site selected for the aquarium was a group of abandoned warehouses at the foot of Chattanooga's Broad Street, which was acquired for $4.5 million by the RiverCity Company, a nonprofit development agency created in 1986 to implement the Tennessee Riverpark Master Plan, and later deeded to the Aquarium.[24] The park received public funds, but the $45 million needed to construct the aquarium was raised privately. John T. Lupton, the chairman of the Lyndhurst Foundation, contributed $10 million from the foundation and $11 million of his personal funds to the project, as well as raising funds from other donors.[20]


The aquarium building was designed by Cambridge Seven Associates, which had previously designed the National Aquariumin Baltimore and the New England Aquarium in Boston. The decision to focus on freshwater environments was made during the planning process, as participants reasoned that it would be difficult to raise money for an aquarium offering conventional salt-water exhibits and that most people would be unlikely to travel to Chattanooga in order to visit one. The resulting structure is organized vertically, following the theme of water traveling through the Tennessee River system from the mountains to the sea. The two living forests, representing terrestrial habitats in Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta, are located at the top of the building and lit by skylights, while underwater habitats are viewed or accessed from the building's dimly lit, multi-story central "canyon." The building's exterior reinforces the focus of the exhibits with a series of 53 bas-relief depictions of the history of the Tennessee River valley set into the walls. In the surrounding plaza of Ross's Landing Park, variegated bands of plantings and paving represent a chronology of Chattanooga, with a stream flowing through the park to guide visitors through its history from its beginnings as a Cherokee settlement during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, facing towards the river, to the present, facing towards downtown Chattanooga.

Construction began in November 1988, and the aquarium opened to the public on May 1, 1992. Some observers were skeptical of the project, with local detractors describing it in terms like "Jack Lupton's fish tank" and some analysts questioning whether Chattanooga had fallen victim to a fad for public aquariums and overestimated the potential economic impact. However, it was successful from the beginning. The aquarium met its first-year goal of 650,000 visitors by the end of August 1992, and by the end of May 1993 more than 1.5 million people had visited.[

Scientific research and conservation activities have been an integral part of the Aquarium's work since it opened in 1992. Its research department was established in 1994. In addition, the Aquarium's parent Tennessee Aquarium Corporation and board of trustees oversee a separate conservation initiative, the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute.

Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute[edit]

In 1996 the Aquarium founded a research and conservation arm, now known as the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute (TNACI). Its mission is the protection of aquatic species and habitats in the southeastern United States. The TNACI was founded as the Southeastern Aquatic Research Institute (SARI), and was initially a joint venture between the Tennessee Aquarium, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and the Tennessee River Gorge Trust. In 2002 it became the Tennessee Aquarium Research Institute (TNARI), and in 2011 was renamed as the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute to emphasize its conservation mission. Between 1999 and 2011 the institute was housed at a site in Cohutta, Georgia. Since then, its workspace has been divided between its propagation facility in Cohutta, and other activities based at the Aquarium in Chattanooga and its animal care facility.[33][44][45] In October 2015 the TNACI announced that it will be building a new home, a facility which Institute director Anna George described as a "freshwater field station" for research and education, on the campus of Baylor School on the north shore of the Tennessee River. The $4.5 million project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2016.[43]


The TNACI is focused on the restoration of freshwater ecosystems, including the study of water quality and the propagation and reintroduction of native aquatic species to southeastern waterways, and works in partnership with other conservation groups and agencies in Georgia and Tennessee. Since 2000, the TNACI has participated in the Tennessee River Lake Sturgeon Working Group, a program to restore the lake sturgeon to the Tennessee River Basin. In order to reestablish a self-sustaining population of sturgeon, which were declared extinct in the Tennessee River in 1961, the TNACI collects eggs from populations in the Great Lakes, hatches them in Georgia, and raises them at the Tennessee Aquarium until they are large enough to be released into the river. More than 180,000 sturgeon have been released as of October 2015, and sightings have been reported along the length of the Tennessee River between Knoxville, Tennessee, and Kentucky Lake. Some fish have been implanted with tracking devices, providing an additional means of monitoring the population; the trackers include acoustical devices detectable by receivers, including a mobile receiver aboard the River Gorge Explorer. The program is projected to continue until the oldest released fish have reached breeding age, an estimated 20 years in all.

The TNACI participates in the Barrens Topminnow Working Group, which works with property owners in the Barrens Plateau region of central Tennessee to restore 15 historic populations of this fish with the goal of preventing it from becoming an endangered species. In 2013 the TNACI began a program to reintroduce and monitor captive-raised southern Appalachian brook trout, which have suffered from the effects of climate change and competition from introduced species, in suitable rivers and streams. Other reintroduction efforts have included the restoration of eighteen species of native southeastern snails and mussels, including the Alabama moccasinshell mussel and the interrupted rocksnail, and the Conasauga logperch. The Institute also participates in habitat restoration projects, including the restoration of the privately owned Colvard Spring near Dalton, Georgia which provides habitat for the endangered coldwater darter.

Other TNACI projects include conservation genetics research on fish species, including the blue shinerflame chublaurel dace, and Conasauga logperch, and the development of the Freshwater Information Network (FIN), a database of current and historic locality information for 62 southeastern fish species in peril. In April 2016 the Institute, working with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Southeast Missouri State University, began an assessment of the alligator snapping turtle population in Tennessee.

Turtle conservation[edit]

The Aquarium's collection of turtles and tortoises includes more than 500 individuals, representing more than 75 species. In 1993 Tennessee Aquarium researchers partnered with researchers from the University of Tennessee at Martin to undertake a three-year study of turtle populations in Reelfoot Lake, the first scientific assessment of turtles in that habitat. Its efforts to reintroduce native southeastern species include work with the yellow-blotched map turtle, which the Aquarium has worked to restore to its natural habitat in the Pascagoula River system, and the bog turtle. The Aquarium has participated in the Bog Turtle Headstart program, part of the Georgia Mountain Bog Enhancement Project, through captive breeding of the turtles.

The Aquarium is working to conserve endangered Asian turtle species through captive breeding. Since 2011, its scientists have coordinated species survival plansfor four turtle species, the keeled box turtle, the endangered spiny turtle, the endangered four-eyed turtle, and the critically endangered Arakan forest turtleIt is the only accredited zoo or aquarium in the United States to hatch another critically endangered southeast Asian species, the Beal's eyed turtle. The Aquarium's collection of these turtles, which reached 20 individuals by 2015, has grown large enough to provide founding individuals for populations at other institutions, beginning with the Knoxville Zoo.


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