With more than 3,500,000 miles of rivers and hundreds of thousands of acres of lakes, both natural and man-made, to choose from, selecting a freshwater destination in the U.S. can be a serious challenge. Fortunately, the communities that surround these sites make it easy with excellent resources and service to support any event, of any size.
LaPorte County, Indiana
Located on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, LaPorte County is the place to go to find a home for a diverse array of freshwater sports.
"Michigan City was once known as the CoHo capitol of the world and the waters of southern Lake Michigan are quickly bringing that designation back to the city," says Jason Miller, sports development manager, LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Washington Park is again becoming a sought-after destination for charter captains looking to catch their limit of big salmon and trout, and perch fishermen are having their best season in years, as well. Add to that the bountiful catches in Pine Lake, Stone Lake, Trail Creek and Fish Lake, and LaPorte County, Indiana, is once again top-of-mind for some of the world's most ardent fresh-water fishermen."
This lake oasis brings more to the freshwater sports world than fishing, as well. This August, speed will be center stage when a collection of the world's fastest powerboats roar past the Michigan City Lighthouse Pier at speeds nearing 150 miles per hour during the 2010 Great Lakes Grand Prix (sanctioned by Superboat International) in Michigan City, Indiana.
Botetourt County, Virginia
Fishing finds another phenomenal home in Botetourt County, Va. In fact, fishing has such a big following in the state that several of the community's organizations have come together to form Fish Virginia First.
"Fish Virginia First promotes our outstanding regional fishing trail," says Kevin Costello, Botetourt County tourism director. "About 40or so communities have gotten involved in this project, put together a website, brochures, and even a TV show for our website, all of which highlight the exceptional rivers, streams and reservoirs in our region."
Already, fishing is big business in Virginia. With more than 176,000 acres of public lakes statewide and an estimated 27,300 miles of streams, the state offers something for everyone, including coastal and mountain rivers for bass, blue catfish and shad fishing, wild trout fishing in the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains, reservoirs renowned for largemouth bass, striped bass and crappie, and smaller family-owned lakes and ponds offering huge varieties of fish.
Unsurprisingly, fishing events set up shop in Botetourt frequently. For the second year in a row and the third time in the last four years, the Bassmaster Elite Series returned to Franklin County, Va.'s Smith Mountain Lake in 2010 for prime April bass fishing competition during the Blue Ridge Brawl. The Oakley Big Bass Tour also makes a stop at Smith Mountain Lake.
"We're excited about the Oakley Tour because it pits the average joe fisherman-and fisherwoman-against one another," says Costello. "It's a tournament for average people. It costs $100 to register and offers weigh offs every hour where you can win $1,000, and the grand prize winner gets a truck or boat."
The Fish Virginia First television show, which features local fishing experts and celebrities, can be seen on their website now, but the organization is working on a deal that could hook a cable series.For now, you can check it out at www.fishvirginiafirst.com.
Eau Claire, Wisconsin
According to legend, when French settlers arrived in this west central part of Wisconsin, they made an accidental detour form the muddy Chippewa River into the Eau Claire River and named the area "Eaux Claires," after the clear water they were so delighted to find there. Today that water is responsible for establishing Eau Claire as one of the Midwest's prime places to fish.
"We have an extremely enthusiastic fishing community in Eau Claire," says Michael Strubel, sports sales manager, Visit Eau Claire. "When we bring a tournament in, it's greeted with open arms."
The area's largest and highest-profile event, the 2005 ESPN Bass Elite 50, drew over 14,000 spectators for the two-day weigh-in and garnered major attention and praise for the area. According to Strubel, Eau Claire fishing tournaments saw a major uptick after the tournament aired on ESPN.
The venue for all these angling extravaganzas is Lake Wissota. Just shy of 6,100 acres and just north of Eau Claire, Lake Wissota's picturesque walleye and bass-filled waters got their fifteen minutes of fame in the movie Titanic, when the character Jack claimed to have a cabin on its shores. Unfortunately, the river that feeds Lake Wissota wasn't dammed until after the Titanic had its fateful voyage, so the comment that gave the lake its moment in the sun wasn't entirely accurate, but it's a favorite local story nonetheless.
Eau Claire has more than just a great lake, though. The Chippewa River hosted a new triathlon this August, the "Tri Eau Claire," which raised money to fund youth recreation scholarships. This unique run/row/ride triathlon includes a kayaking portion in place of the traditional swimming event, allowing participants to enjoy the beautiful Chippewa River Valley during the race.
If you've heard about fly fishing in Georgia, chances are, you've heard about angling opportunities in the north Georgia mountains. And if that's the case, you could be missing out on some of the best fly fishing the state has to offer.
Affectionately known as "The Hooch," the Chattahoochee River begins as just a bit more than a trickle of water at 3,200 feet. In its first 100 miles, the river falls almost 2,400 feet, forms a major body of water, Lake Lanier, and provides water for millions of Georgians. But it also provides some serious fly fishing minutes from a major metropolitan area.
Sandy Springs, a city just north of Atlanta, is home to 20 miles of Chattahoochee River shoreline and many of those opportunities.
"We're prepared to host any kind of fly fishing event, and we would be in full throttle mode if someone approached us. We're 5-10 minutes from Buckhead, so it's the perfect location for families who want to come to tournaments together. There's plenty of shopping and entertainment to keep everyone happy," says Kym Hughes, executive director, Sandy Springs Hospitality & Tourism. "We're all about events that bring our residents and visitors back to the water because we have such a fabulous shoreline."
Speaking of bringing folks back to the shoreline, Sandy Springs just hosted its third annual Summer Splash, which brings residents and visitors together for a6-mile cool-down trip down the Hooch. Each July, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, in partnership with Sandy Springs Hospitality and Tourism and Coca-Cola, hosts the event, which starts at Morgan Falls Dam and ends with food, activities and music at Powers Island.
"The Summer Splash is just so successful. It grows and grows every year," says Hughes. "We've had people from 18 months to 80 years old on the river, all at the same time."
The Hooch has seen its fair share of elite athletics as well, serving as training grounds for a number of Olympic athletes during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Sandy Springs is also just weeks away, as of this writing, from opening a new, more than 30-acre park at Morgan Falls.
Sandy Springs has spent almost $3.4 million over the last two years creating Overlook Park at Morgan Falls. The park will feature hiking trails that scale a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River; a large playground; a 300-person, 3,200-square-foot open-air pavilion; a floating dock that provides kayak and canoe access to the river; and two boathouses.
A few hours north of Atlanta is a city centered around another one of the Southeast's famous rivers. The city is Knoxville, and the river, which forms when the Holston and French Broad Rivers join in the city, is the Tennessee.
From dragonboat to speed boat racing and rowing to wakeboard events, downtown Knoxville's stretch of the Tennessee River is busy year-round with freshwater sports events of nearly every kind.
"We've had a lot of success showcasing a variety of events downtown on the River, and we're looking at a lot of new options, as well," says Jennifer Morris, senior sales manager, Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corporation. "Downtown has seen a lot of revitalization, and people really enjoy the combination of southern hospitality with the progressive, college town feel."
In 2011, the city will host the Revolution3 Triathlon, a series of races that aims to change the way athletes, family members, and spectators view and participate in triathlons of all distances by creating more interactive, enjoyable race experiences including fun activities for children and family members during the race. Downtown Knoxville makes the ideal venue for this style event, since the proximity of the river to downtown makes it possible for spectators to watch the start of the race easily.
With seven lakes surrounding the Knox County area, Knoxville also offers exceptional bass and trout fishing just minutes from the city. And with the Great Smoky Mountains nearby, picturesque fly fishing opportunities are never more than a short drive away.
Rowing has an awe-inspiring home in west Oregon at Dexter Lake. Established by the Oregon Association of Rowers (OAR), which presents an annual regatta and offers ongoing learn-to-row classes for all skill levels, this rowing haven was created through a monumental volunteer effort led by the organization's president Dave Lingenfelder. Thanks to the dedication of a few committed rowers, Eugene, Ore., now has its own 2,000 meter buoyed race course.
The only site between Sacramento and Seattle that offers permanent marked lanes, OAR's course received an upgrade in the past year, with two additional lanes added, giving the course a total of eight.
Buoyed race courses allow rowing teams to focus on rowing rather than steering and the ample size of Dexter Lake enables race organizers to create regattas of any length. All this combined with the dedication of the OAR members and volunteers who maintain the course have made Dexter Lake a sought-after rowing destination.
"We've always had a number of people who want to come here, but now that we have one of the few buoyed race courses in the Northwest, word is really getting out," says Anita Larson, director, Covered Bridge Regatta, OAR. "These courses are rare because it's very expensive and time consuming to put them in. But we all work together. I've been regatta director for three years, and I've definitely put in some time out on the boat hooking buoys."
OAR's signature event is the Covered Bridge Regatta, celebrating its 16th year this April. Hosted by the Oregon Association of Rowers (OAR) and the University of Oregon crew team, the event is Oregon's first major rowing competition of the season, attracting more than 500 Masters, Junior, Collegiate and Open Division rowers each year. For the past three years, proceeds from regatta have been invested back into the race course as OAR prepares to meet the growing demand for competitive time at its exceptional rowing retreat.
From lakes to rivers to reservoirs, America's freshwater destinations are so plentiful and so remarkable that they might be impossible to measure or compare. But one thing's for certain: whatever your sport, whatever your event, the perfect freshwater home is out there waiting to help make it a success. Use the U.S. National Atlas to find the ideal body of water in your area: http://www.nationalatlas.gov.