Sunday, October 30, 2016

Back in Tennessee

We are anchored in Kentucky Lake, on the Tennessee River behind Swallow Bluff Island (map). For the first time in many months, we have company in the anchorage, most likely a couple of loopers going the other direction.

Sunset, upriver from our anchorage. Two sailboats with their masts unstepped are rafted upriver of us.

This morning found us anchored in a bend of the river, across from Bear Creek (map), just at the Alabama/Mississippi state line. We anchored on the Alabama side, just inside the buoy line in about 16'; on our way upriver, with another four feet of water in the lake, we had cut this corner almost all the way to the inside shore.

And last night's sunset, over Mississippi.

Out in the middle of the river, it was calm, quiet, peaceful, and dark. We had a nice sunset dinner on the aft deck. A couple of hours later, we got a call on the radio from a towboat skipper asking if we were OK -- apparently, we are the only ones who ever do this. It was a busy night for tows; four or five passed while we were still up, and another couple at least overnight.

Approaching Pickwick Landing Dam and lock.

This morning we weighed anchor and retraced our steps to the mouth of Yellow Creek, the turn-off for the Tenn-Tom. We stayed much closer to the sailing line, though, as the corner-cutting we did at the higher level was not advisable now. Besides, on the way upriver, cutting the insides of the bends kept us out of the heaviest downstream current, whereas on the downbound trip we're happy to have it behind us.

Some 950' of lock chamber behind us.

We briefly passed through Mississippi today, and once past Iuka and the Tenn-Tom turnoff, we re-entered Tennessee. Right around mid-day we reached the Pickwick Landing Dam, where we locked down some 56' to Kentucky Lake. The Pickwick Landing lock, at 1,000' long, is considerably larger than any we've transited thus far. When we exited the lock, the lake was just a half foot above its minimum navigable level, also called winter pool, and a full five feet below the normal summer level.

This patio boat is high and dry, likely until next season.

That had our depth alarm screaming for the first few miles of river; we keep it set at 12' here in the lakes, and there were plenty of stretches with just ten feet of depth. One house had a patio boat that was high and dry on the sand, and many lots had docks and ladders that fell short of the lake.

Many docks looked just like this one, sitting on the bottom.

Things are much better now, a bit further downriver. Kentucky lake is the largest lake on the Tennessee system, and ultimately receives the entire drainage of the Tennessee Valley before releasing it to the Ohio.

We're now at an altitude of just 355' above sea level. Just a single lock and dam stands between us and the Ohio River now. That will be our final lockage on this leg, unless we decide to take a bit over a week to make a side trip up the Cumberland to Nashville. We won't make that decision until we reach the turnoff.

The view across the river from our anchorage. Tip of Swallow Bluff Island is at left. At sunset we saw goats on the island.

The scenery today has been quite different from what we've seen further upriver. Gone are the forested hillsides, replaced by alternating flood plain, where the houses all have soft stories on the first floor, or else are absent altogether in favor of an RV, and limestone cliffs and outcroppings. Just at the tail end of today's cruise, the forested hillsides have begun to return to the river's edge.

Tomorrow we will work our way further downriver, but will again end our day on Kentucky Lake. On Tuesday we plan to stop at Paris Landing State Park to take on fuel; we're almost out (not counting reserves), and we'll put a thousand gallons in to get us all the way to New Orleans and beyond.


  1. Check your Stanford email for pic passing mm177.
    Safe travels,
    Capt Kirk

  2. At paris Landing you will be about 45 mins from ourt new place in Huntingdon (by land) but I am in PA until Weds.


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