Inland Rivers, Part II: Lake Barkley (Cumberland River) to Ft. Loudon & Tellico Lakes (Tennessee River) / September 2-October 13, 2002
September 2-4, 2002 / Eddy Creek Marina, Eddyville, KY to Kentucky Dam Marina, Gilbertsville, KY
Over Labor Day weekend (aka the last weekend for a long time when most places for boaters are open) we returned to Eddy Creek Marina, where we were joined by our buddy Martha from Little Rock. Martha was a good girl and brought beer! Beer is not sold in this part of Kentucky, nor are other tasty beverages containing alcohol.
Martha took a while to recover from the shock of seeing Coleen awake and talking at 6:30 a.m. On Monday morning, we took her out for a ride on Lake Barkley before her long drive back to Little Rock. We decided not to make her swim to shore, since she brought beer, so we took her back to the dock so she could pick up her car.
After saying goodbye to Martha, we headed down Lake Barkley and into the Land Between the Lakes canal, crossing back west into Kentucky Lake. Kentucky Dam Marina is on the western shore just above the last dam on the Tennessee River; in the distance we could see the big tows headed to and from the Ohio River, into which the Tennessee flows. This marina is affiliated with the state park, although privately operated; it bills itself as the biggest marina on Kentucky Lake, and that is probably no exaggeration. During the summer season, it is no doubt a hectic place, but on the first few days after Labor Day, it was almost too quiet.
We stayed three days at Kentucky Dam Marina. Maggie enjoyed long walks around the park with Gary, and she was able to chase a significant number of squirrels. She had easy access on and off the boat, too, and she got a cool swim at the nice beach area. For all these reasons, she gives Kentucky Dam Marina a three-squirrel rating. Human boaters will appreciate the convenient marina store, the laundromat at the top of the hill above the transient dock, a phone line for Internet access up in the marina business office (although no local AOL number to call), and the friendly residents of the covered docks.
September 5, 2002 / Kentucky Dam Marina, Gilbertsville, KY to Kenlake State Park, Aurora, KY
Today we took a short run up Kentucky Lake to Kenlake State Park, just 21.4 statute miles. This state park marina is much smaller than Kentucky Dam, with just a few docks; it had only one dock with bigger boats. There is no separate transient dock; we were tied up at the end of the big-boat dock, but it wasn't too far a walk to the marina office and restaurant (Cindy's on the Barge, which is open for breakfast and lunch, even though we were there!). Lots of squirrels here for Maggie, but nowhere to swim, and she didn't like breathing the diesel fumes from the generator running on the boat next to us. We were concerned that perhaps the boat owners had forgotten they left it running, but the harbormaster told us they needed to run the generator, along with shore power, to get enough electricity to cool the boat. She rates this marina two squirrels. Kenlake is a bargain, if you don't mind the fumes, at only $16.00/night.
September 7, 2002 / Kenlake State Park, Aurora, KY to Pebble Isle Marina, New Johnsonville, TN
Today we bid farewell to dry (literally and figuratively) Kentucky as we continued our cruise up Kentucky Lake back into the state of Tennessee. We did not see much traffic on the lake, which is now turning more into of a river as it heads south--just one tow, a couple of cruisers, and a few fishing boats. We made the 54.7 mile run to Pebble Isle Marina in about seven hours, cruising rather slowly in the morning (1600 rpm/7 mph) and picking it up a bit as the afternoon grew hot.
The transient dock at Pebble Isle Marina is new; we were one of three boats docked there, but the only true transients. The other two (a sailboat and a small houseboat) were not occupied, unless you count spiders. There's a small cafe on the premises, which is open on the weekends (lucky us--we arrived on Saturday) and which serves good burgers, tasty ribs, and very cold beer. Tomm the harbormaster lent us his truck to go into Waverly, TN to buy groceries. We were able to use a phone line in the marina office to call AOL's 800 number to check e-mail. We liked this marina and also appreciated getting the BoatU.S. discounts on both fuel and dockage. It gets three squirrels from Maggie.
It's a short walk from the marina to the site of Old Johnsonville, whose history is tied up with the Civil War. Union troops built a depot and a supply railroad line across the river and all the way to Nashville, fortifying it with strong redoubts and well-armed gunboats. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, however, attacked with cavalry and was victorious, destroying trains, gunboats, and supply warehouses, with very few losses on his side. The museum was unfortunately closed (they must have heard we were coming), but we walked a woodsy trail along the river front, wondering whether any of the huge old trees had been growing there in the 1860s.
September 10, 2002 / Pebble Isle Marina, New Johnsonville, TN to Mermaid Marina, Decaturville, TN
We had to wait for the fog to lift before heading out. It burned off about 0845, and we cast off the lines. Exiting the channel, we saw a tow headed upstream. We asked permission to scoot ahead (and received it), not fearing to scoot today because we were already familiar with this part of the river and knew we wouldn't have to slow for a lot of docks, houses, and fishing boats. Until today, we've had no phone signal from Sprint on this leg of the cruise. But we briefly had a signal as we crossed under the I-40 bridge, so we slowed down and made several phone calls.
The cruise to Mermaid Marina was 44.7 statute miles; we were there by 3 p.m., docking just behind Great Loop cruisers Chuck and Lynn on Mahana, now from Ft. Lauderdale, FL, but originally from Memphis (him) and North Dakota (her). They invited us to join them in the marina courtesy car for the eight-mile drive into town to a restaurant (the marina's restaurant, not surprisingly, being closed). We were so much into our conversation that we didn't realize we had turned the wrong way at the first turn. We had what might have been a most scenic tour of Decatur County, had it not been dark. Lynn got directions at a country store (could have gotten a dog, too, if she'd agreed to take it). We had driven eight miles the wrong way, but we turned around, and after only one other wrong turn, we were finally on the right road into Parsons, TN, where we found Tucker's Restaurant, still open (!!) at 8:15 p.m. and serving delicious country cooking.
On September 11, we met another couple cruising the Loop, Pearce and Kay Baker, on their boat Kibon, from Boynton Beach, FL; click the link to view their Great Loop Cruise website. Pearce told Coleen that a year ago, they were in New York, where they could see the burning World Trade Center from their boat. We kept the television off and counted our blessings that we were safe and healthy and aboard the Poet in Tennessee today.
September 12, 2002 / Mermaid Marina, Decaturville, TN to Pickwick Landing State Park Marina, Pickwick Dam, TN
Mermaid Marina is just off the channel, in a protected inlet, but that didn't allay our worries when we saw how much the water dropped each night--about a foot and a half. There were two good things about staying two days at this marina: First, we saw that the water would rise again (meaning we could leave later in the day if necessary), and second, we watched Mahana depart on the morning of the 11th without getting grounded or kicking up mud. Today we also got cleanly away, leaving at 0745 as the mists were rising from the river. P.S. Maggie rates Mermaid as a two-squirreler .
The cruise was uneventful, if relatively long, given our short mileage runs of the recent past. It's 67.9 miles between Mermaid Marina and Pickwick Landing State Park, with one big lock and dam. On our northbound leg, we waited three and a half hours to get through Pickwick Lock, so we were glad to hear from a towboat captain that there was only one tow behind him coming downstream. We passed no tows traveling upstream, so unless there was a big guy about to lock down when we arrived, we knew we wouldn't have too long a wait. Our luck held out; the lockmaster put us into the main chamber (we used the auxiliary last time), and we arrived at the state park marina a little after 1600.
In addition to being the closest marina to the lock, this place has another advantage--it's sheltered from the wakes and waves in the lake. We docked beside Mahana (Chuck and Lynn had gone to Memphis to see friends), and enjoyed our first no-rock night on Pickwick Lake. On Friday we cleaned the boat inside and out, looking forward to a weekend visit from our friends Mike and Marijean from Little Rock.
September 16, 2002 / Pickwick Landing State Park Marina, Pickwick Dam, TN to Florence, AL
We enjoyed our quiet days at Pickwick. We told you this was a no-rock marina, but we didn't say anything about country. The state park hosted a country music festival on Saturday and even it was pretty laidback and calm--we could hear 'em pickin' and sangin' over on the peninsula across from the harbor, but it wasn't loud or raucous, and the music fans left without a fuss when the festivities ended. We had a windy, choppy boat ride on the lake Saturday with Mike and Marijean, and once again we were glad our marina was in a quiet, sheltered cove. For those considering a stay at the park marina (telephone (901) 689-5175), note that you won't have use of a courtesy car, but the laundromat is close to the transient dock and has two washers and dryers; you can use the marina office fax line to check your e-mail; the restaurant at the Lodge has good food and they'll pick you up from the marina area. We paid $24.00/night for our 40 feet and electricity. Not a lot of squirrels for Maggie--they must have better pickings deeper in the woods, but there were lots of good places for walkies, other dogs to meet, and easy on-off access from the boat to the concrete docks. She gives the park a three-squirrel ranking.
Clouds were heavy and the air very humid as we departed this morning at 0745, but it cleared a lot toward 1000, leaving a lingering haze but nothing more threatening. Today we passed through waters of three states: Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, all within the space of a couple of hours.
The cruise to Florence, Alabama was 48.9 miles, run at 1900 rpm. We were tied up by 1400 at the Florence Harbor Marina ((256) 768-1299). The marina restaurant caught fire in August; fortunately they caught it in time and most of the damage was restricted to smoke. Still the restaurant is closed (is anyone surprised?), as is the laundry. The good news is that the marina is close to downtown, and they are generous with the courtesy van. The couples on the three transient boats--John and Melody on their refurbished sailboat, Betty and C.C. on their big cruiser, and us--all piled into the van and went to dinner together. We enjoyed lively conversation and good Italian food.
We'll stay in Florence for three days, as we have some genealogical research to do and a cemetery to visit, containing the grave of Gary's great-great-great-grandfather, Tillman England (1817-1897). Maggie enjoys nearby MacFarland Park, which has lots of squirrels to chase. She charmed the harbormaster, who offered to let her stay. She decided to stay with us, but she will be glad to visit again when we return in October--three squirrels is her rating for Florence Harbor.
September 19, 2002 / Florence, AL to Joe Wheeler State Park, Rogersville, AL
A lot of people in this state have license plates that say, "Stars Fell on Alabama." They should change them to say, "Rain Fell on Alabama." Maybe it's just us, but it seems like it has rained almost every day we've been in this state. It rained most of the time we were in Florence, and more is on the way. We left Florence at 0950--had to wait for the marina to open up so we could buy gas. Fortunately, today's run was short (22 miles). At Wilson Lock we had to wait about 40 minutes for the tow ahead of us to clear the lock and the lockmaster to turn the chamber around (i.e., let the water back down so we could enter). At Wheeler Lock we were told the wait would be two hours, so we tied up to a mooring cell. After we'd waited an hour and fifteen minutes, the lockmaster told us they'd put us through the auxiliary lock. Even with our waits, we were able to tie up at Joe Wheeler State Park by mid-afternoon (telephone (256) 247-6971). Very attractive facilities at this state park marina; there is a transient dock right in front of the three-story rock-and-timber lodge. Not many on-site squirrels, but Maggie enjoyed trying to find them nonetheless--she'll rate this place with three long-tailed rodents.
The park's namesake was a general (West Point, Confederacy, Spanish-American War), a congressman, and a planter, whose 1500-acre estate was near here. General Joe Wheeler participated in more than 500 skirmishes and 127 battles; he is particularly noted for having had sixteen horses shot out from under him. He must have perched rather high in the saddle.
September 20, 2002, Joe Wheeler State Park, Rogersville, AL to Riverwalk Marina, Decatur, AL
More bad weather in the forecast, so we pulled out of the state park by 0830 and headed upriver to beat the storms. No locks today, but we did have to request that a railroad bridge at Decatur be raised. This stretch of the river is bordered by lots of industrial plants--good for the local economy, but not very scenic. Riverwalk Marina (telephone 256) 340-9170) is located on an island in the middle of the river, connected to both shores by a very busy highway bridge. You may need the phone number; they didn't monitor channel 16. We were pleased to find that the marina's restaurant--the Hard Dock Cafe--was open, even though we were in town. No courtesy car, no laundry, no stores nearby for restocking supplies, but they charge only $20 a night. Coleen called a taxi for a ride into town to the library; after waiting 45 minutes with no sign of taxi service, she called back and cancelled it. Maggie didn't have much territory for exploring or walking, so she rates Riverwalk with just one squirrel.
September 21, 2002, Riverwalk Marina, Decatur, AL to Ditto Landing, Whitesburg, AL (south of Huntsville, AL)
A pretty nasty thunderstorm moved through the area last night, but the heavy clouds have not moved on. Winds were calm, and the dark gray clouds hovering over the smooth river gave it the look of pewter. We were glad to find ourselves cruising through the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, leaving Decatur's industrial shores behind. Occasionally the clouds thinned enough to give us a glimpse of the mountains farther east. The temperature was in the upper eighties; the humidity in the upper nineties--we felt quite amphibious today. Green algae is appearing on the constantly wet carpet in the aft deck. If we ever see sun again, we've got to scrub and air it out.
Ditto Landing is operated by the City of Huntsville. In 1807 James Ditto operated a ferry across the Tennessee, and this spot later became an important river port. We'll stay at Ditto Landing for three days, to let the weather fronts pass, to do some laundry and some boat cleaning, and to join the numerous Huntsville bicyclists on the popular bike path through the park. Someone puts out corn for the squirrels, so they are plentiful. Maggie is taking long snoozes between her multiple squirrel chases--she considers this place to be a four-squirrel resort for dogs who like to hunt. This marina also charges just $20/night, and it's got the best gas prices we've seen in a long time--$1.69/gallon.
September 24, 2002 / Ditto Landing, Huntsville, AL to Guntersville Marina, Guntersville, AL
We dried out at Ditto, being particularly happy to get the green mold off the aft deck carpet. The dry weather won't last, though, as Hurricane Isidore is headed for the Gulf Coast, pushing lots of warm moist sea air up our way. We left Ditto Landing at 0800 and got up to Guntersville Lock and Dam about 1030. On our way to the lock, we were passed by a no-name Sea Ray cruiser up on plane. He made it to the lock well ahead of us, but his accelerated pace did him no good, as the lockmaster informed him he'd have a long wait. Sea Ray was nice enough to tell the lockmaster that we were behind him and that he could lock us up together. We finally made it through the lock at 1140. Sea Ray was headed that day all the way to Chattanooga (about a hundred miles upstream), so we wished him better luck at the next lock.
Guntersville Lake enters the mountains, but its beauty is spoiled by the heavy accumulations of the aquatic weeds hydrilla and milfoil growing on both sides of the channel. We've been warned to stay clear of the stuff, but sometimes that meant we steered like drunken sailors. (We try to avoid steering like drunken powerboaters, who can really get into trouble.) We got to Guntersville at 1320, under heavy gray clouds and a rising east wind. Of the three marinas in the area, we chose Guntersville Marina ((256) 582-6867) because of its proximity to town and its non-proximity to the water weeds. This friendly little marina is right at the base of the bridge across the lake. Unfortunately, by this time next year, it'll be closed, as its lease is not being renewed.
Guntersville turned out to be our "hurricane hole," as Isidore headed for New Orleans and then roared on north through Mississippi. The east winds were unrelenting, and to keep the boat off the sea wall, Gary had to devise some ingenious riggings. It was a lot like anchoring out--without the anchor--as we bounced up and down on the waves. We kept the blinds closed to keep from getting seasick. During breaks in the weather, we eased the boat over to the sea wall so we could take Maggie out.
Despite the bad weather at Guntersville, we met many nice people--Buddy, the harbormaster, who generously lent us his truck for our shopping trip and gave us a great restaurant tip (K.C.'s Coyote Cafe--pricey, but good); Sheila, whose green thumb makes the marina pepper plants and marigolds flourish; John and Willa, aboard their trawler Persistence, who keep busy with boat upholstery and canvas work, when Willa isn't doing her beautiful watercolors of the rivers they've traveled; Pete on Woodja, who kindly lent us a couple of ball-shaped fenders to help us fend off the seawall; and Chip, on Chip's Ahoy, who was still trying to get over the loss of his "eighteen-year-old black needle-freak girlfriend," a diabetic cat who passed away a couple of months ago. If you're going to be stuck somewhere for a few days, this is a great group to be stuck with. From a pup's point of view, however, Maggie rates this marina at one squirrel--not much for her to do, even when she was able to get off the boat.
September 27, 2002 / Guntersville, AL to Goose Pond Colony Marina, Scottsboro, AL
We were only heading upstream a little over twenty miles today, so we delayed departure until 1033, giving us time to say thanks and goodbye to the Guntersville group and letting the weather lighten up a little more. We had an uneventful cruise to Goose Pond Colony. Based on visual observation alone, we would have been afraid to try the channel into Goose Pond, lined as it was with the gunky grasses, had we not learned from Chip that the marina channel had recently been dredged and that it was safe to go in. We're glad we did. Fred Myers' Tennessee River CruiseGuide advises you to check your fuel supply before you leave here. We'll add another reason to stop at Goose Pond: This place is the best buy on the river. We bought gas at $1.589/gallon and paid $15.00 for full service dockage, including cable television (telephone (256) 259-3027). If they had a laundromat, they'd be perfect. We'll stop here again on the way back down. Maggie calls it a two-squirreler----easy on/off the boat and lots of terrain for walkies, just not enough fuzzy-tailed critters eating acorns.
September 28, 2002 / Goose Pond Colony Marina, Scottsboro, AL to Anchorage, Shellmound Recreation Area, Tennessee River Mile 425.5
The heavy rains of the last several days have run down the creeks and streams into the Tennessee River. The current pushed hard against us, and the northerly winds never stopped. We left Goose Pond at 0800, and it took us about seven and half hours to get into Nickajack Lake. The only wait at the Nickajack Lock was for the lockmaster to turn the chamber around. As we exited the lock, we could see our anchorage to port, a TVA park and campground called Shellmound Recreation Area. We anchored in twenty-two feet of water not too far out from the boat launch ramp and fishing docks. It was an easy dinghy ride to shore for Maggie, the famous squirrel hunter. Had Mom and Dad let her off the leash, she would probably have set new personal records for treeing, even catching, squirrels. She impressed the owners of a dachshund with her stock-still point and her stealthy approach to several munching squirrels, too busy with nuts to notice her. It may have helped that she was downwind of them . . . . She'd give this spot four squirrels if she had been at dockside, but as she needed a boat to get to shore, it gets just a three .
We spent a quiet night on the hook, but rotated enough (must have been "the Tide") that Gary had to keep resetting his satellite dish position so he could watch the Razorbacks get beat by Alabama.
September 29, 2002 / Shellmound Recreation Area to Chattanooga, TN
After the fog burned off, the day turned a gorgeous clear blue. The Tennessee River below the city of Chattanooga was treacherous in the old days before the dams were built. Rivermen must have been hungry as they named the boiling shoals and whirlpools--the Pot, the Pan, the Skillet, and most poetically, the Suck (but hey, back home we have Toad Suck on the Arkansas River, so we cast no aspersions). The mountains line the river, which twists its way past the culinary landmarks and finally smoothes out at Chattanooga, at the foot of Lookout Mountain.
Everybody who's offered advice on boating this section of the Tennessee has told us to stay at the free city dock at the site of historic Ross's Landing, that its "no overnight dockage" warning is not enforced. They were right, and this is a fine place for heading out on foot to explore downtown Chattanooga. The Tennessee Aquarium sits right above the old landing. Nearby are many restaurants, museums, galleries, a ballpark, a micro-brewery, and miles and miles of pedestrian walkways, including a pedestrian bridge over the river. Wonderful for people, but other signs that are enforced abruptly state, "No pets." Maggie was not allowed to cross the Walnut Street Bridge with us, nor was she able to enjoy the fountains at Coolidge Park. She did like the smell of the horses who draw the carriage tours through downtown on the weekend, and she may have been a little envious of those Dalmatian carriage dogs who got to ride. So even though Coleen and Gary liked staying in Chattanooga, after spending a good part of her two days here guarding the boat, Maggie rates the place with only one citified squirrel.
October 1, 2002 / Chattanooga City Dock to Island Harbor Marina, Harrison, TN
After an early morning stroll to the Panera Cafe for cinnamon bagels (city boating does have its advantages), we pulled away from the city dock a little before 0830, Central Daylight Time. We are technically in the Eastern Time Zone right now, but as we won't be here long, we've decided to stay on Central Time. Otherwise we'd be getting up much too late for sunrise dog walks and early morning cruising. We called the Chickamauga lockmaster to inquire about tow traffic on the river. He knew of none, and he had the lock ready for us as we approached it. This and the next few locks will be the smallest locks we've yet encountered, just 60 feet wide and 360 feet long. If a multi-barge tow came through, it would take hours to clear this lock. We were glad to have the river to ourselves today.
We made an early stop at Island Harbor Marina, up a channel by river mile marker 477.5 (telephone (423) 344-8331). We were glad to see two washers and dryers for our several days' worth of laundry. The ship's store was open, the restaurant was closed (of course), and the docks were all locked. Maggie saw no squirrels here, but did find a few interesting cats to spook. They put us in a covered slip on the fenced-off sales dock, which meant that Maggie could just hang out on the dock while Mom and Dad washed the boat. They got a little carried away with the washing, as she was their next target. The very best part of the day, however, was getting a phone call from Jon telling us that both he and Katarzyna passed the Illinois bar exam. No more worry--be happy! Yippee!
October 2, 2002 / Island Harbor Marina, Harrison, TN to Euchee Marina, Ten Mile, TN
Cooler temperatures plus high humidity create FOG in the mornings. We were ready to leave long before the weather wanted to cooperate, but it finally cleared enough for safe cruising, even though some haze lingered most of the morning. Today's cruise was a long one, considering how much shorter our daylight hours are getting--64.2 miles over eight and a half hours. We passed through Watts Bar Lock with only a minimal wait for a TVA towboat (no barges) that was locking down. Our Tennessee CruiseGuide had praised the restaurant at Euchee Marina. Our customary bad luck with restaurants reached a new level--not only was the restaurant closed, but even the marina was closed. They let us stay anyway, or should we say, they took our money the next morning. This place might be lively in the summer, but we won't stop again as we head back downriver in a couple of weeks. Maggie had no good places for walking, either, and no squirrels in evidence, even though there were lots and lots of acorns. One measly squirrel is all she'll give this place.
October 3, 2002 / Euchee Marina, Ten Mile, TN to Ft. Loudoun Marina, Lenoir City, TN
Heavy fog this morning, even heavier than yesterday's, delayed our departure until 1000 Eastern Time (we continue to resist resetting our clocks and watches). Watching the progress of Hurricane Lili on the Weather Channel persuaded us that we should push a little farther today, to get to a full-service marina in case we'll be rained in for several days. Fort Loudon, here we come.
The lower end of Watts Bar Lake was very pretty, with lots of small hilly islands (mountain tops, no doubt, from the days before the Tennessee River was dammed). We entered Fort Loudon lock at 1555 Central Time, and as we were rising in the lock, thought we'd better check to see what time the marina closed. Eek--the marina closed at 1700 Eastern, and by the time we were getting out of the lock, it was 1610 Central, and doing the time conversion, we realized that we were late. It was past closing time.
For once, we got lucky, as someone was still in the marina office to answer our call and to tell us where to tie up. Even better, she'd leave a key outside the office door. Equally lucky was the fact that Calhoun's restaurant (try the ribs) was very much open. In fact, there were two open restaurants here--the second is the Key Largo Grille, a beer-and-burger joint. There's a jewel of a little park just down the road from the marina, plus a courtesy van to take into town. Other nice things are the laundromat, the phone line for Internet & e-mail up in the marina office (but closed on weekends, unfortunately), open docks to stroll, and other itinerant cruisers to trade advice and stories with. We enjoyed meeting Frank and Elsie, from Lexington, Kentucky, on their sturdy little trawler Sea Song. They plan to see us again at the Fairhope rendezvous of Great Loop cruisers in November. We also made the re-acquaintance of a Houston couple we were docked beside in Gulfport--John and Laurie, aboard Huckleberry. Maggie and her traveling companions are happy with Fort Loudoun Marina (telephone (865)986-5536); website http://www.fortloudonmarina.com). We all three join in giving it three squirrels.
Many of the boats docked here are part of the "Volunteer Navy," boaters who are avid fans of the University of Tennessee and who take their vessels up to Knoxville for all the home games. Tennessee played Arkansas on Saturday, and the Vol Navy boats, decked in bright orange, headed upriver for the game. We met a few Arkansas fans who were also making the trip, on their houseboat dubbed the "Hog Navy." We opted to stay at the marina and watch the game on television. It should be safe to travel to Knoxville on Monday!
October 7, 2002 / Ft. Loudoun Marina, Lenoir City, TN to Knoxville, TN
The day started rainy, so we delayed departure until it cleared, about 1000 CDT, heading up the Tennessee toward one of its oldest cities, Knoxville. The river is lined for much of this route with huge homes, many with matching boat docks. We wonder how many of these mansions are inhabited by only two people. The 43-mile cruise was uneventful, and we pulled up to the gas dock at Volunteer Landing Marina about 1530.
When the University of Tennessee plays football at home, fans with boats converge on Knoxville. There won't be another home game for three weeks, but many members of the Vol Navy have remained docked along the waterfront, where there are three good places to tie up--the city dock, Calhoun's on the River, and the marina. Knoxville's riverwalk extends from just west of the marina all the way to the University, where a tunnel takes you under busy Neyland Drive from the river to the parking lots outside the stadium.
Volunteer Landing Marina (telephone ((865) 633-5004) is close to the Gateway Regional Visitor Center, where an elevator whisks you three floors up to the bluff above the river, and where you can catch a free trolley into downtown from across the street, just beside the frontier-era James White Fort and across the street from the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.
We were not the only visitors to Knoxville, but we were definitely outranked by one of them. President Bush came to Knoxville for a fundraiser, and while we were out walking, we saw his motorcade both en route to the luncheon where he would speak, and later, as it was leaving the city (the second time we were close enough to see his profile through the limo's tinted windows).
The only bushes Maggie saw were those lining the riverwalk. Left to guard the boat while Mom and Dad explored Knoxville, and with no squirrels in town except on the UT campus, Maggie's best entertainment was watching the ducks and carp fight for bread crumbs underneath the riverside restaurant decks. Even though the most interesting critters were those big fish, Maggie votes two squirrels to this place.
October 10-13, 2002 / Knoxville, TN to Fort Loudoun Marina to Tellico Lake to Fort Loudoun
Rain accompanied us all the way from Knoxville back to Fort Loudoun, where we'll spend the night, do laundry and a little grocery shopping before heading up the Little Tennessee River into Tellico Lake. Not long after leaving more of the big houses behind, boaters can see the Great Smoky Mountains looming ahead, where the Little Tennessee has its source.
Much history lives in these hills--the Cherokees met first the explorers, Spanish, then French, and later the soldiers, and still later the settlers, all of whom wanted this land more than they wanted to live up to the treaties they drafted for the Cherokees' agreement. Fort Loudoun was built in 1756, the Tellico Blockhouse in 1796--these and the archeological remains of several Cherokee villages, including Tanasi, which gave its name to a river and a state--all were carefully excavated before the completion of Tellico Dam flooded the river valley.
We'll spend the last couple of warm days of fall in this river valley, leaving as true cold weather arrives in the region. Chilly nights will speed the turning of the leaves, the progression of which we'll follow as we make our way back south. Monday we'll begin our Sixth Leg, which will take us back down the Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers, down to Mobile Bay.
Click the arrow to go to Leg 6