In a scenic little corner of the Tennessee River lies Ijams Nature Center. Just a mile downstream from the headwaters of the mighty river, Ijams is a lovely oasis in the urban setting of Knoxville, TN. For over 100 years, residents and visitors to the Scruffy City have found at Ijams a place to connect with nature.

Today, against the backdrop of natural beauty, a landmark venture began. On the heels of swimming the entire length of the Rhine River in Germany, endurance swimmer and chemist Andreas Fath launched his quest to swim all 652 historic, beautiful, powerful miles of the Tennessee River. Just 31 days from now, Dr. Fath is scheduled to land triumphantly (and likely tiredly) in Paducah, KY.

At 9:00 am, Dr. Fath boarded a boat to travel the short 0.9 miles upstream to the headwaters of the Tennessee River– the convergence of the Holston and French Broad Rivers. After taking some water samples for testing, the epic swam began.

The TenneSwim team appears in the sparkling waters of the Tennessee River.

Back at the Ijams Nature Center River Landing, partners, guests, and media anxiously awaited the first glimpses of Dr. Fath rounding the bend.

On this steamy summer morning, the human wildlife were treated to sightings of other wildlife such as otters, rough-winged swallows, and even a great blue heron. Some of the river’s most beautiful creatures, heralding the arrival of 2 chase boats, a canoe, and a lone yellow-capped, neoprene-clad endurance swimmer.

Dr. Fath arriving at the Ijams Nature Center River Landing… 1 mile down, 651 to go!

After climbing out of the water, Dr. Fath joined Amber Parker, Executive Director of Ijams Nature Center, and Christi Branscom, Deputy Mayor and COO of the City of Knoxville, for a brief presentation about the event. In addition to welcoming the partners and water quality enthusiasts, the crowd was reminded of Knoxville’s commitment to stewardship of the Tennessee River and the value of this water life line to the entire East Tennessee region.

Amber Parker, Dr. Andreas Fath, and Christi Branscom at the Ijams Nature Center River Landing.

The event concluded with the exciting kick-off of the TenneSwim as Dr. Fath “dove” back into the water (check out some scenes from today’s kick-off event, including the graceful entry), accompanied by a cadre of open water swimmers, including the son of Team Leader Dr. Martin Knoll.

Dr. Fath, accompanied by a team of yellow-capped swimmers.

With a 30-year legacy of water resources conservation, Ijams Nature Center is thrilled to be part of this historic feat. Helping residents and visitors gain a greater appreciation for East Tennessee’s waterways is an endeavor close to the heart of Ijams’ mission. The goal of the TenneSwim is to bring awareness to the cause of water quality, and Ijams is proud to wish Dr. Fath, and the rest of the TenneSwim team, the best of luck on their journey!

Tennessee’s own Loch Ness Monster? No, just a record-holding, German endurance swimmer.