Row, row, row your way to Oak Ridge
Over the next few days, thousands of people will be flocking to Melton Hill Park in Oak Ridge. And while the city has gotten used to hosting big rowing competitions, this one feels like it's going to be one of the biggest. All this week, as I've driven along Melton Lake Drive, I've watched workers trimming all the brush and small trees along the greenway, putting up tents, roping off slots for boat trailers, and putting in new features out on the water.
The US Rowing Maters Nationals start on Thursday and run through Thursday. According to the association's website, there are national titles at stake in 202 categories in this competition. As with any rowing competition in Oak Ridge, people can expect traffic congestion near the venue as well as limited parking. (The main parking lot at Melton Hill Park will be closed to the public.) If you are wanting to watch the competition, you might consider parking at Roane State Community College and taking the shuttle.
Rowing in Oak Ridge
Oak Ridge has hosted dozens of regattas over the years including several collegiate events like this one in the spring of 2017.
Watching rowers paddle through the "flat" waters of Melton Hill lake is a beautiful site, even if you don't know anything about the sport. Individual competitors and teams of up to eight members compete in a variety of races. This course is set against a beautiful mountain backdrop that's enough to make you forget about the large smoke stacks at the nearby Bull Run Steam Plant.
A small peninsula sits between the course and the launch site for the boats. During the competition, there will be a variety of food and merchandise vendors, a Beer Garden and live music after the competitions have ended. If you haven't been to one of these rowing competitions before, it's a great way to understand the camaraderie of the athletes, their coaches, their family and fans. It's a great way to enhance a walk or bike ride along the Melton Lake Greenway or dinner at Calhoun's.
For those of you reading this that aren't from the area and are looking for something to do when you're not watching the rowing, there's plenty to do. Oak Ridge is home to one of the sites in the Manhattan Project National Historical Park and the American Museum of Science and Energy. Upriver from the venue you'll find the Green McAdoo Cultural Center and Museum in Clinton which tells the story of the 12 students who were the first to attend an all-white high school in the South (also told in a special Disney Channel short). Norris Dam State Park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Downtown Knoxville are also not too far away.
If you want to get a taste of what's happening at the US Rowing Nationals without heading to the venue, you can watch it on youtube.