---------------At Cooper Hollow, Again------------------(Photo by Wanderer)


Launch: Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park, Paducah, Kentucky.

Nearby campsites: At the State Resort.

Comments: This is one of America's pre-eminent cruising areas at one it's finest cruising times.



-----This spring of 2005 has been an exception. Below average rainfall and comfortable average temperatures for this heartland of America. Our cruising experience on one of America's great rivers has also been exceptional. It began with a Gathering of good cruising friends outside Nashville. After an evening at the Grand Ole Opry, and a weekend cruise together up in the headwaters of the Cumberland River on Lake Cordell Hull, a few intrepid cruisers began the 1,000 nautical mile journey down the Cumberland and up to the head of navigation of the Tennessee. The story of the Cumberland portion of the journey is written up as Spring on the Cumberland. This tale relates to a journey on the Tennessee.

-----Spring is a sensual season. The woods throb with the trill of tree frogs, birds chatter loudly from the forest, colors leap out from drab backgrounds and assault vision, strange odors float on warm zephyrs, and one is tempted to touch the gentle beauty of flowers. We are surrounded by continuous motion. Our boat rocks, responding to wave motion from the water surface on which we live. That shimmering surface reflects spears of light onto our faces, the boat interior, our surroundings. All the senses are awakened and aroused.

-----Along the borders, Spring is particularly evident -- the edge where meadow meets forest, or a stream slices a woodland. Where water meets land is especially lush. This, also, is where we live.




----Although our spring was unusually dry, there were spring rains. Shore folks may wonder what we do on a rainy day, confined as we are to a small boat. We relish the rain, the way working folks anticipate a weekend. It's our time out; opportunity to read, to write, to talk, to listen to music -- we swing on the hook, listening to the sounds of rain on the cabin roof and the swishhhh of water meeting water.


----- Sometimes, when an approaching frontal system is predicted to carry large hail, we tie in a marina, under a tin roof. For sheer cacophony, it is hard to beat a hailstorm on a tin roof, although an ordinary hard rain can certainly rise to the challenge.


Hunkered Under a Tin Roof on a Rainy Day

----Some frontal systems are violent, packing strong winds that veer sharply during passage. Large hail and frequent lightning can be fearsome. Water and electricity create a dangerous environment. Our radio antenna or radar dome may be the highest conductor for miles around if we are in the middle of a lake or river. Such storms rarely arrive without warning, either visual or from the marine radio.

----We have learned a few ways to (hopefully) avoid lightning. We anchor in a tight cove, with forested high hills around, if possible. Or, we anchor near sailboats with tall masts. Once, on the Gulf Coast, we spent an afternoon in a cinder block restroom building to avoid a tornado that touched down a few miles away. On the Tennessee, during one thunder storm, we hunkered under a bridge with the hope that a stroke would hit the bridge rather than us -- bits of flotsam under the girders.

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Under the Bridge


-----Every cruise has its unexpected and unusual. The Tennessee River seems to have more surprises per mile than the average river.


Outdoor Art in a Flooded Quarry

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Fancy Footwear (The Latest Cruising Fashions)


Fake Snake, Rana Verde and El, All Kicked Back


Diving for Mussels; Bat Sanctuary


Hairdresser, Cruising Style


Low Bridge, Everybody Down


-----Rivers scour the land, slicing downward through underlying sediment and rock. They are marvelous places to study geology, since rivers are often bounded by cliffs. The cruising experience is greatly enhanced with a touch of geologic understanding.

------Towering cliffs of bedded gray rock bound many stretches of the upper Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. These are the rocks of the mid-continent -- calcareous excess of ancient seas. Limestones and dolomite (limestone with a little magnesium added) precipitated either directly from the warm, shallow sea or through the biologic activity of micro- and macro-critters. Tiny plankton fixing lime through their life processes or sea animals covering their soft vulnerable parts with a cloak of limestone. Fossils are abundant in these rocks. Gray limestones blanket most of the interior of North America, laid down through hundreds of million of years.

-----Then, about 280 million years ago, continents floating atop a plastic sub-crust, wandered into each other and collided. The African continent crunched against North America uplifting both above the sea. In what are now Tennessee and Kentucky, the ocean withdrew and the seafloor remained above sea level for about 200 million years. These were the years when reptiles ruled the land -- eventually evovling into the Terrible Lizards, Dinosaurs. Little is preserved in this region from those days, since erosion scoured the land surface and washed bones and sediments to the Gulf.

-----About 80 million years ago, near the end of Dinosaur Time, the North American continent bent downward along the present course of the Mississippi River. The sea invaded up the resulting lowland, several times, as far north as southern Illinois.This trough, the Mississippi Embayment, slowly filled with mud, silt, and sand washed off the continent (the yellowish color on the geologic map below). The shallow water embayment remained until a few tens of millions of years ago. The downwarping tilted western Kentucky and Tennessee below sea level and fine sandy and muddy sediments lapped over the ancient limestones.

-----The Land Between the Lakes is a marvelous wild area protected and preserved by the federal government as a National Recreation Area. The lakes are the lower Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, connected by a canal, impounded only a short distance above their respective confluences with the Ohio River. Here, exposed by the slicing power of the rivers, one can see the sediments of the Mississippi Embayment. Some of the outcrops show warping and faults from later earth movement.


-----Light-colored Sandstones and Shales Deposited During the Past 80 Million Years


-----Familiarity with our neighbors makes us feel at home. For us, living closer to nature than humans, it means knowing the names of birds, reptiles, trees and animals. We love to sit in the cockpit at dawn or dusk, listening to the calls of birds. We know most of them by voice, the way you do with your neighbors. We are at home.


--Rough-winged and Barn Swallows, and Great Blue


--Beaver Sign


-----Sometimes, neighbors need a helping hand. We were waiting below a lock for the tender to ready it for our passage up, when we spotted movement in the water. We motored over to see what it was, and, to our dismay saw that it was a Great Blue Heron, waterlogged and drowning. He would lift his beak above the water for a breath, then collapse, bill under, in exhaustion from his attempts to get airborne. We carefully lifted him out of the water on the end of our paddle and ferried him to shore. There we gently lay the bundle of bedraggled water-soaked feathers, with a heart beating inside, on the beach. We had no sooner put him on land when the lock tender blew the horn requesting our entrance to the lock. We'll never know if he survived, but we helped our neighbor when he most needed us. And partially repaid the hours of enjoyment we have had with the company of his family.



-----A great joy of the cruising life, is traveling with kindred souls. We have enjoyed the good fellowship of folks from Alaska to Florida. We have found that long-distance hikers and boat cruisers often have similar traits -- they accept and are accepted for who they are and we are. There are few pretensions or affectations. The traits that best serve those hiking or cruising are not measured by clothes worn, size of bank account, or who you know -- a storm doesn't care, nor does a quiet anchorage.


Chris, El, Bill; Tom, Marge; Bill, Penny, El, Chris, and George


--My Best Friend


-----Folks who aren't familiar with the cruising lifestyle, sometimes express sympathy for us -- deprived of good meals, either fixed 'at home' or eating out. Well, you needn't be concerned, friends.


A Rana Verde Barbeque Steak


-----We have no home port, being nomads. So, every marina is a port for us. Here is fuel, water, shower, and often a good restaurant. With companion boats, marinas are a chance to get ashore together, have walks, or just visit.



-----There are those who make a living on the river. Commercial fishermen, locktenders, bridge tenders, mussel gatherers, and barge workers all share the river.



-----There are 652 navigable miles of water on the Tennessee, and in streamflow, is the seventh largest river in the US. From headwaters in the Great Smoky Mountains, it flows southwesterly through Tennessee into Alabama, then westerly into Mississippi, where it turns almost due north and heads back across Tennessee. It finally ends with a confluence into the Ohio River in Kentucky. Hernan deSoto, in 1540, was the first European known to have seen its waters. Early commerce on the river was interrupted by shallow water at Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Until the rapids were bypassed by a canal with locks, in 1890, all produce was hauled around the shoals by trucks or by hand.

-----In 1933, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) as part of his New Deal. Nine dams were constructed, each with a set of locks to enable river transport and each capable of producing hydroelectric power. Since then, nuclear power plants have been built by TVA using cooling water from the river. A secondary benefit has been the recreational opportunity afforded by 11,000 miles of shoreline -- about as much coastline as the West, Gulf, and East coasts of the continental US. Kentucky Lake alone, has more shoreline than the entire continental West Coast of the US.

-----Many supply lines for Civil War armies were along rivers. Their control became essential to military operations. Johnsonville, TN was a major supply depot for Gen. Sherman's march through Georgia. Johnsonville was supplied by barge and steamboat, and supplies were off-loaded from the river onto a railroad line that carried the supplies to the Union army. Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest raided the depot and in the process, his cavalry captured a Union gunboat on the river. Manned by cavalry, the gunboat was used against Union shipping until finally destroyed by a Union flotilla.

-----On the morning of April 6, 1862, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was eating breakfast at Cherry Mansion, a fine southern plantation house built almost thirty years earlier on the site of Indian mounds. Suddenly, Grant put down his fork. The distant rumble of cannon fire startled him into the reality that Confederate forces were attacking his army near Shiloh church, a few miles distant. Within two days, 23,000 men were dead and dying from the battle, almost a quarter of the total forces involved from both sides. The battle of Shiloh was a significant turning point early in the Civil War.


----Union Troops at Johnsonville, The Railroad Grade to the Depot, and Cherry Mansion (seen from the river)


-----There are nine locks on the Tennessee River. From our access on the Cumberland, we had to lift through eight. They range in height from 93 feet to 39. All present a challenge, when moving upstream, since filling a lock chamber involves more swirling currents than emptying.


-----The month-long cruise on the Cumberland - Tennessee System was a wonderful experience. Charts from the Corps, navigation chips for the chartplotter, and excellent guidebooks by Fred Myers help to make it a safe and informative journey. These are some of the finest cruising waters anywhere, especially in spring and fall.


(Photos of Halycon by Wanderer)--------------- (Photo of Wanderer by Halcyon)


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