If you’ve never taken the time to explore Reflection Riding, you’ve definitely missed out on one of Chattanooga’s natural gems. Nestled at the base of Lookout Mountain on Lookout Creek, Reflection Riding could be considered Chattanooga’s version of Cades Cove. Wether you’re a seasoned visitor, or keep meaning to check it out, the Floatila is the perfect opportunity to bring your friends and family to experience Reflection Riding in a unique way!
What is the Floatila?
The Floatila is a family friendly event for paddling enthusiasts of all ages and abilities. Participants can grab their paddle boards, kayaks, canoes, or rent a raft from OAR and enjoy the 6.5 mile downstream paddle from Coolidge Park to Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center boat launch on Lookout Creek.
At the end they will be rewarded with a late afternoon – early evening music festival featuring Slim Pickens Bluegrass and Shabti. There will also be kids games and carriage rides for those who would like to explore the property.
For those who aren’t sure about the paddling component, they can skip the paddle and join their friends at 4.30pm when the festival starts.
Registration information can be found here.
How will the proceeds be used?
The Floatila benefits Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center. The proceeds will be used to support the organization’s nature education program which reaches over 10,000 children each year, our native animal ambassadors who are permanently injured and cannot be released into their native habitats, and our native plant propagation program. In addition, funds will be used to maintain the 15 miles of trails which traverse Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center’s 317 acres.
Reflection Riding’s History:
Between 1926 and 1941, John and Margaret Chambliss acquired various tracts of land in the Lookout Valley area between Lookout Mountain and Lookout Creek. John’s initial idea was to create a farm from the overgrown forested land, but he found the land too steep and difficult to farm.
Starting in the 1940s, inspired by English ideas of pastoral landscapes known as “ridings,” Chambliss decided to turn the land into a series of vistas. To create the riding, Chambliss carefully sculpted roads through the land; he wanted to create paths that followed the slopes of the property. These roads emulated English carriage paths that opened onto a successive series of sweeping views and pocket gardens of native plants. The Chamblisses named the property Reflection Riding to signal its function as a place for the contemplation of nature (“Riding” as a place through which to walk, ride a horse, or drive a car; “Reflection” to signify thoughtful contemplation). The property would have fields, forests, and window gardens of wildflowers.
Margaret Chambliss and Marie Humphreys (their close friend, who eventually lived on the property) collected wildflowers and native species of plants, flowers, and trees from the surrounding area, including Lookout and Signal Mountains.
In the 1950s, the Chamblisses opened the property as a large drive-through garden or arboretum, full of unusual and native plants, where people could come to appreciate the natural beauty of the land and plant life. For a $1 donation, members of the public could retreat from the city and explore the riding.
In 1956, Reflection Riding officially became a corporation, and in 1967 the Garden Club of America awarded John and Margaret Chambliss the Margaret Douglas Medal for their efforts in conservation and education.
Following John Chambliss’s death in 1972, Reflection Riding adopted a master plan to guide its future under his daughter Susan Irvine’s supervision.
In 1978, the Chattanooga Nature Center established its headquarters adjacent to Reflection Riding. The Nature Center, which has since merged with Reflection Riding, quickly became a place for environmental education and wildlife rehabilitation.
1982, landscape designer Thomas Kane developed a plan for Reflection Riding’s preservation and development, recognizing the importance of maintaining and enhancing the riding’s various features: bucolic farmland, woodlands, and landscape park.
Today, Reflection Riding is an arboretum dedicated to the study, propagation, and conservation of native plants and ecosystems. The property houses thousands of native plant species, and the greenhouse specializes in native plant cultivation. As we look to the future, Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center aspires to become the region’s premier botanical garden and nature park.
What else is new and exciting at Reflection Riding?
The fall event schedule at Reflection Riding is packed — there’s always something for the whole family to enjoy. Be sure to check out the list of events here.