The Melton Lake Rowing Venue, located in Oak Ridge, Tennessee is one of the country’s most beloved rowing venues. Surrounded by the mountain ridges that give Oak Ridge her name, there are more than 30 miles of well-sheltered and calm water. There are multiple head race options, of both 4500m or 5000m, curving gently through the county, as well as fully buoyed 7-lane 1000 and 2000m race courses for the sprint race season. The sprint course provides consistent current flow across all lanes, resulting in fair and predictable results. The Melton Lake venue can easily support both small and large events, with a sheltered embayment with room for more than 60 team trailers, and six separate Launch and Recovery docks. The dedicated athlete area is immediately adjacent to the launch/recovery docks, and a large spectator area provides teams and supporters with a shady view of the head and sprint race finish areas.
The sprint race course is fully equipped for championship level regattas and includes:
- Referee/Starter Tower
- Referee/Aligner Platform
- Adjustable start docks in each lane
- Large markers at start, finish and each 500m point along race course
- Three story finish line Referee Tower
In the 1920's, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers identified several potential dam locations within the lower Clinch Valley. At the time, the Clinch river flowed freely more than 300 miles from Virginia to the Tennessee River, near Watts'Bar. The Tennessee Valley Authority first proposed the construction of the Melton Hill Lock and Dam in 1957, and its construction was funded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration in 1960.
Completed in 1963, the finished dam created a reservoir with nearly 193 miles of shoreline and 5,470 acres of water surface. Melton Hill is a 'run-of-river' reservoir, meaning that water is passed through the reservoir without being stored long-term. Melton Hill runs 57 miles to Norris Dam, above, with little variation in water elevation or pool.
The Oak Ridge Rowing venue, located 28 miles above the dam, is the beneficiary of this reservoir, using the straight and sheltered area at the northeast City limit for its sprint race course since 1978.
In October 2016, the State of Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) issued the City of Oak Ridge a §401 Water Quality Certification - Aquatic Resource Alteration Permit for the Clinch River's Melton Hill Reservoir. The scope of work described the excavation of 570 feet of shoreline and the construction of a revetment and retaining wall along that section of shoreline. The permit authorizes that activity pursuant to The Tennessee Water Quality Control Act of 1977 (T.C.A. §69-3-101 et seq.) and serves as §401 water quality certification pursuant to the Federal Clean Water Act 33 U.S.C. 1341.
The TDEC permit, in conjunction with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Section 26A and U.S. Corps of Engineers DA permit, completed the authority for widening of the 2000-meter sprint race course at the 0500-meter mark, significantly improving the venue, and allowing an additional racing lane.
Shoreline excavation began in November 2016, and the project was completed in February 2017. The retaining wall is integrated with the existing greenway, providing pedestrians and spectators a front-row view of the race course at the 0500-meter mark. Oak Ridge Rowing Association installed an additional 13.5-meter wide racing lane on the waterway in February and March 2017 as part of the official venue for larger regattas.