January 2021 Events + News
Let's all raise a toast and give gratitude for surviving the madness of 2020! It's a huge accomplishment and warrants a big celebration! Cheers! As we look back and reflect on one of the most difficult years we've ever experienced and set resolutions for the new year, we must take a moment to express how grateful we are for our health, our jobs, our loved ones, the strength of our community, and the healing power of our outdoor spaces. Here's to health, happiness, and lots of outdoor adventures in 2021!
Outdoor Chattanooga Programs
Traditionally, we teach "classroom-based" workshops during the winter months but with COVID lingering longer than anyone wants, we couldn't safely offer in-person workshops in the coming months. Instead, we used the feedback we received from our loyal readers about which outdoor topics they wanted to learn about most and taught ourselves how to use technology well enough to host a series of interactive virtual workshops! Workshops will occur bi-weekly on Tuesdays, 7:00-8:00 PM beginning January 12 through March 23. We begin the virtual workshop series with Hiking 101, followed by Fishing 101. Other topics include backpacking, camp cooking, bike maintenance, and wilderness survival skills. Workshops are free and open to all ages. No experience required to participate. Online reservations are required in advance (links below). Attendees will have the opportunity to win a door prize for attending. We hope you'll join us for one, some or all!
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Hiking 101 | Jan. 12, 7-8 PM

Hiking is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the outdoors and connect with nature; and the best part is, it doesn't require much more than a little planning, sturdy shoes, a sense of adventure, and a small backpack to carry essentials. If you haven't tried hiking yet because you don't know where to start, this interactive workshop with an experienced hiker is for you! Outdoor Chattanooga's Sunshine Loveless will cover what gear you need, things to consider, and how to use Outdoor Chattanooga's website to find the info you need to plan your first hike in Chattanooga! There will be time for Q&A with the instructor so come curious and prepared with your best questions. One attendee will be randomly selected to receive a free Map & Compass Navigation class from our friends at REI.

Fishing 101 | Jan. 26, 7-8 PM

What's the catch with fishing in Chattanooga? Chat about the basics of fishing with local expert, Captain Richard Simms, owner/guide of Scenic City Fishing Charters. Capt. Simms will hit some area fishing highlights and then respond to your questions - beginner or expert. In this interactive session, participants can present whatever questions you may have - when and where to fish for your favorite species; lure, bait, and tackle techniques; who needs a license, and what kind. It will be "no holds barred" - your chance to chat with this former game warden and area fishing expert. Participants will have the opportunity to win a $25 Gift Card from the Chattanooga Sportsman's Warehouse (one winner will be randomly selected from all participants following the online session).

Monday, Jan. 11 | 4:00-5:30 PM
Learn how to ride a bicycle in as little as one class with Outdoor Chattanooga's experienced instructors. Gain the skills and confidence to get out there riding on your own! FREE classes offered monthly on the 2nd Monday at 4 PM. Ages 5+. Bikes, helmets, and instruction provided. Online reservations required in advance. Call 423-643-6888 to learn more.
Local Outdoor Adventure Spotlight
January is the peak of the annual Sandhill Crane Migration when thousands of these beautiful birds converge on the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge in Birchwood, Tennessee, just an hour from Chattanooga. If you haven't witnessed these elegant creatures in person, you should make an effort this year. Here's what you need to know to try this month's outdoor adventure.
Sandhill cranes are considered one of North America's tallest birds standing 3-4 feet tall with a wingspan of 6-7 feet. They have long necks, long legs, red heads, and bright white cheeks. These cranes have an interesting appearance and a loud trumpet-like call, which can carry more than a mile. Sandhill cranes mate for life and the mated pairs stand close together and synchronize to engage in "unison calling". They can live 20 years or more, but have one of the lowest reproductive rates of all North American birds. Only one nest in three produces a chick that survives to migrate in the fall. During the 1800's overhunting and habitat loss nearly wiped out the sandhill crane population in the east. In the early 1990s, the population began recovering and stopping at the Hiwassee Refuge as they traveled to and from the Canadian tundra to their traditional wintering grounds in Georgia and Florida because it provides the perfect combination of wet grasslands, marshes, and grain fields for the cranes to feed and roost. They can be seen in the Southeast from late fall to early spring. Their population is now thriving with an estimated 15,000-20,000 birds.
The Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge is 6,000-acres located on Chickamauga Lake at the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers, near the site of the historic Blythe Ferry, and includes the 400-acre Hiwassee Island. It's home to the largest winter flock of sandhill cranes in the southeast United States outside of Florida due to the refuge providing the perfect combination of wet grasslands, marshes, and grain fields for the cranes to feed and roost. The refuge is an official stop on the Tennessee Wildlife Viewing Trail. The refuge lands are closed to visitors between November 15 through the end of February. A wildlife observation platform is open year-round for visitors and is a great place to view the sandhill cranes, as well as other birdlife. It's also possible to kayak, canoe, or paddleboard around the Refuge from the Blythe Ferry boat ramp to get an up-close and personal view of the migrating birds and the natural beauty of the area. (*Note: check local hunting schedules before you make your way onto the water and all paddle crafts must remain in the channel. The island is a refuge and TWRA reminds visitors to not disturb or interact with wildlife on the island.)
A Virtual Celebration of Cranes!
The 2021 Tennessee Sandhill Crane Festival has been canceled due to COVID. In it's place, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) will host a virtual celebration of the Cranes January 11-16. Each day on Facebook, TWRA will post a brief interview with some of the folks that make this festival successful along with interactive and educational activites to learn more about these beautiful birds.

January 11 - Crane Stories with The International Crane Foundation

Join educators from the International Crane Foundation as they share stories about cranes from all around the world! This prerecorded program will be a fun, active way for your young Craniacs to learn about cranes and culture. 

January 13 -  Crane Talk + Q&A with The International Crane Foundation

Taylor from the International Crane Foundation will share information about the Sandhill Cranes we see here in Tennessee and provide a special virtual tour of the International Crane Foundation zoo and headquarters in Baraboo, Wisconsin! A period for questions will follow the program.

January 14 -  Eat Lunch with the Eagles

Grab your lunch and log in to the American Eagle Foundation for a behind the scene’s tour of their facility. See the birds, learn about the American Eagle Foundation and what it takes to run this amazing foundation.

January 16 -  Cranes at the Hiwassee!

Can’t make it to the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge to learn about the birds yourslef? Join TWRA on Facebook on January 16 at 8:00 a.m. for a live Q&A about the cranes at the Refuge.

Outdoor Community Experiences
Self-Guided First Day Hikes at Tennessee State Parks
Every year, Tennessee State Parks joins America's State Parks in their annual First Day Hike event. This year, they're encouraging those who don't feel comfortable being in a group setting to get out and hike between January 1-7 anywhere they would like. To participate, simply register online and log the miles you hike between the 1st and 7th of January. We would love to help connect you with a state park near you, or you can choose to take a hike in your neighborhood. With 56 state parks and 85 natural areas across the state containing over 1,300 miles of hiking trails, there is enough room for everyone to enjoy the outdoors and join in on a First Day Hike.
Want to escape the crowds, or explore something new on your own? Whatever your preference might be, Tennessee State Parks encourages you to forge your own First Day Hike whether it be in a State Park, State Natural Area, State Forest, or your own neighborhood! Click here to register to log your miles and share your own experience!

Need a trail map? Click here to see a list of trail maps available at each State Park. There are free and paid options available that provide the details you need to have your next great adventure in Tennessee. 

Don't feel comfortable going alone? Tennessee State Parks will be offering Ranger-led First Day Hikes across the state on January 1st. Find a hike near you by clicking here
Outdoor Chattanooga's Advice for Coping with COVID-19
We strongly believe the outdoors is the safest place to be during the on-going health crisis and we encourage you to get outside and recreate as often as possible as a way to maintain your physical and mental well-being. We want to help you do that as safely as possible and will be offering virtual workshops to teach outdoor skills. We hope you'll continue to recreate responsibly and be considerate of those who are more vulnerable to infection by staying close to home and avoiding long distance travel. Avoid crowded trails, crags, rivers, lakes, recreation areas, and campgrounds. The outdoors is a safe place to be when we all practice good judgment, wear face-coverings when in close contact with others, and/or maintain a physical distance of at least 6ft with others. We ask that you self quarantine if you've come in contact with someone who has tested positive or you yourself are experiencing symptoms. We want everyone to continue to enjoy the great outdoors long after we've safely made it out of the COVID-19 woods. 🏕️🌳🥾
P.S. Please continue to practice Leave No Trace Principles.
Upcoming Events
Outdoor Chattanooga | 423.643.6888 | info@outdoorchattanooga.com | www.outdoorchattanooga.com