September 19-24, 2012
All told, we will spend over five weeks cruising the beautiful Tennessee River. The first part of that consisted of a leisurely trip down the 184 mile-long Kentucky Lake. Kentucky Lake is formed by the Kentucky Dam, which is located just 22 miles from the point where the Tennessee meets the Ohio River in Paducah, Kentucky. Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley on the Cumberland River run parallel to each other for about 40 miles. They are separated by the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area. If you have never been to this area, you are really missing one of the beautiful spots of this part of the country. We are already planning our return trip from Cincinnati after our Loop is over.
The first night we anchored out in Duncan Bay, one of the many quiet coves that line the shores of the lake. Duncan Bay is an eagle refuge, but we didn’t see a single eagle. We did see a handsome osprey and several herons, egrets and kingfishers, and enjoyed a very peaceful evening.
The next night we anchored in Clay Bay, and throughout the evening and next morning, watched an eagle who flew in and out of a tree right above our boat. Guess he lost his directions to the eagle sanctuary! We watched the sunset from our sundeck and later were amazed by the zillions of stars in the black sky.
The day before we left Green Turtle Bay, I took Joey to a vet to have some itchy, emerging hot spots looked at. He got a shot of something with prednisone in it, which made quick work of the itching, but as prednisone does, also resulted in increased drinking and frequent potty stops. This may not have been the best time for us to be anchoring out. Craig got lots of exercise taking the dogs to shore!
OK, we’ve had our walk. Where’s our driver to take us back to the boat?
After two nights anchoring out, our next stop was the marina at Paris Landing State Park (Tennessee), along with Loopers Cbay and Native Son – and hundreds of Boss Hoss motorcyclists gathered for their national rally. I had never heard of Boss Hoss bikes before, but boy are they monsters – expensive, too, and imaginatively designed and decorated.
My favorite was this Looney Tunes paint job – $40,000 worth, we were told!
More to my liking, there was a bird rescue group in the lobby of the park’s main lodge where we had dinner that night. We visited with well-behaved and very docile birds including a Barred Owl who had been hit by a car and now is devoted to his elderly handler, and an American Kestrel and two young Screech Owls, all of which had been found away from their nests as chicks and were raised by the rescue group.
The next day we continued through miles of beautiful scenery, much of it national wildlife refuges. We saw lots of cypress trees like these growing in the water. And more white pelicans.
This was a bridge to nowhere. It’s actually an abandoned railroad bridge.
Just beyond the bridge is a former grain storage facility dating back to the days before the Kentucky Dam. Our cruising guidebook says that the building was so sturdy that attempts to destroy it failed, so it was just left there.
The next night we stayed at Pebble Isle Marina in New Johnsonville, TN. The marina’s logo is a heron, so a couple of baseball caps were required purchases. This part of the river was the scene of a noteworthy battle in the Civil War, when Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest successfully ambushed and sank over 30 Union ships – the only time in history that cavalry troops defeated a naval force.
The next day the lake narrowed down to river proportions, but technically it is still a lake. Kentucky Lake is deemed to run from Kentucky Dam in the north, all the way south to the Pickwick Dam near the Alabama and Mississippi borders, making it one of the largest manmade lakes in the United States, and the largest east of the Mississippi River. But it sure looks like a river at its southern end. We also started seeing some of the limestone bluffs for which the Tennessee River is famous.
Here we are crossing under Interstate 40, which runs from North Carolina to California, through Knoxville, Memphis and Oklahoma City.
One reason this river is so pretty is that there is almost no industry, very few barges, and not even many residential areas. The houses we did see were all built on stilts if they were anywhere near water level. I guess despite the dams, this part of the Tennessee must flood from time to time.
Our last night on Kentucky Lake we stayed in Clifton, TN, where we reconnected with Cbay and Native Son. Rusty borrowed the marina courtesy car and the six of us went out to dinner. Afterwards, we drove into downtown Clifton to take a look. The town’s claim to fame is that in 1843, when it was still a busy port, it lost its bid to become the capital of Tennessee by only one vote. Today it has fewer than 1,000 residents, but is an attractive small town.
The next morning we woke to heavy fog, which delayed our planned early start. But it lifted by 9:00 a.m. and we headed off for another beautiful, warm, sunny day on the water. In Savannah, TN, we passed Cherry Mansion, the private home of a Union sympathizer that was used by Gen. Grant as his headquarters at the time of the battle of Shiloh. It was also used as a hospital during and after the battle, for both Union and Confederate troops.
Just a few miles upriver, we passed the Shiloh Battlefield, which we would visit in depth a few days later. This is Pittsburg Landing, where Union General Buell and his reinforcements arrived by paddlewheelers (!) and helped turn the tide of the battle.
By the end of the day, we had completed our travels on Kentucky Lake, gone through the Pickwick Lock and entered Pickwick Lake, at the juncture of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. We loved Kentucky Lake. It was beautiful, start to finish, and our weather was ideal all the way – a great leg of our trip.
Next, Pickwick and Shiloh.
(Real-time update: on October 12, we are at the Lake Guntersville Yacht Club, in Guntersville, AL.)