After operating on the Tennessee River for more than nine years, Aquarium President and CEO Keith Sanford informed staff and volunteers that cruise operations aboard the River Gorge Explorer will be ending in January.
“After developing a new strategic plan and carefully evaluating the Aquarium’s resources, we have decided to stop operating the boat,” said Mr. Sanford. “We are proud of our captains and crew who have consistently delivered a safe and exceptional passenger experience.”
No one had seen a high-speed, waterjet-propeled vessel operating on an inland waterway before the River Gorge Explorer first docked in Chattanooga in the summer of 2008. And while adding the River Gorge Explorer to the Aquarium’s operations was an ambitious project, only four percent of the Aquarium’s visitors were reached through this experience.
“It has been a pleasure to oversee the day-to-day operations of the River Gorge Explorer and to have spent so much time on the water with our guests,” said Captain Pete Hosemann. “While I’ll miss piloting this vessel, I do understand the Aquarium’s desire to change direction.”
The Aquarium has mapped out a new course for the organization that is focused on three core areas:
- Science education programs within the Aquarium and IMAX Theater
- Conservation science to better understand and protect freshwater ecosystems and the animals that depend upon them
- Continued investments in the Aquarium’s overall experience so it remains a top driver for Chattanooga tourism
The River Gorge Explorer will continue operations through Jan. 15, 2018, when the Sandhill Crane Cruises conclude. The Aquarium will then seek a buyer for the vessel.
“We are grateful for the community support and sponsors who made it possible for us to offer this experience,” Mr. Sanford said.