Any Man’s Journey on America’s Great Loop- Inner Waterway Cruise
Cruising the Tennessee River’s waters of America’s Great Loop is a bucket list trip. Captain Bob named his cruise the Any Man’s Journey based on his vessel choice of a twenty one foot pontoon. An affordable boat for most families, this trip would highlight the Tennessee River as a “water” road trip that can be taken by anyone. Bob and crew completed this trip in seven days on a shoe string budget. Traveling an average of 100 miles per day at a speed of 15 mph, their average of 2 mpg exceeded the projected 1 mpg. The engine time on the motor was 55 hours.
Planning a journey on the Tennessee River begins with whether you are going upriver or downriver. There are nine locks and dams between Knoxville, TN and Kentucky Dam where the Tennessee River enters the Ohio River. If you are traveling downriver, each lock will act like a bathtub and lower you the next lake below the dam. Conversely, going upriver means your vessel will rise up to the next lake.
This trip plan includes their choices for stops for overnight lodging and for sightseeing along the way, but we have added some ideas for other stops when in port. Along the way, you will discover river cities, historic sites, friendly marinas, and southern cuisine in a four state region.
“Any Man’s Journey” on the Tennessee River can be a fun, inexpensive way to travel for families, friends or solo adventurers Eat, play, shop and relax on this bucket list trip.
Day 1: Knoxville mm 647 to Terrace View Marina mm 544.8: Your trip begins the night before you launch with an overnight stay in Knoxville, TN and then the morning launch from Volunteer Landing. Bob had arranged for a local hotel room and finished his packing of supplies for the boat. Today’s travel will include two lakes and one lock.
Day 2: Spring City, TN mm 544.8 to Island Cove Marina mm 477.5: Day two is a ride on Watts Bar Lake, a large lake with many large coves. Keep an eye on navigational buoys to stay on route. The day’s ride will take you through Watts Bar lock into Chickamauga Lake. Your options for overnight lodging or dining could include the riverfront area of Chattanooga or lodging at a marina.
Day 3- Chattanooga, TN mm 477.5 to Guntersville, AL mm 358.5: Today’s journey will take you on a history tour beginning with Chickamauga Lock and the Trail of Tears, through the Tennessee River Gorge and past the old historic Hales Bar Dam. Locking through Nickajack Dam lowers you to Guntersville Lake which is one of the top bass lakes in the United States. Be watching for some of the colorful names for the river hazards as you travel the Gorge. These names depict how difficult and dangerous a cruise on the river could be prior to the locks and dam systems being built.
Day 4- Guntersville mm 358.5 to Joe Wheeler State Park mm 277.0: Guntersville Dam and Wheeler Dam are on the agenda today as you head towards Joe Wheeler State Park. This stretch of the river pulses with the economic potential that a river can provide to a community commerce. Prior to Wheeler Dam, the infamous shallow, rocky shoals became a barrier to shipping goods to the larger ports in New Orleans and Paducah, KY. This area is home to the famous Muscle Shoals Sound and is well worth an overnight stay to explore the museums and to hike the Muscle Shoals Reservation Trails.
Day 5- Joe Wheeler mm 227 to Pickwick Dam State Park 207.6 mm: The serenity of Joe Wheeler State Park is a welcome oasis for boaters on the Great Inner Loop. Today’s journey will take you through the historic Wilson Dam, which was almost acquired by Henry Ford in the late 1920’s. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford visualized a planned model city along the river that would be built to accommodate workers at their automobile factory. This never moved from a vision, and President Roosevelt would make Wilson Dam the center of his vision for the TVA and a connected region.
Day 6 - Pickwick Dam State Park mm 207.6 to Clifton Marina mm 158.5: Pickwick Lake touches three states- Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The lake is also just above the 234 mile Tenn-Tom canal which links the Tennessee River to the Tombigbee down to the ports in the Gulf of Mexico. The river has now become flatter and wider and weather conditions can run from choppy water to water as smooth as glass. Historic houses along the bluffs stand as sentinels and reminders of life along the river. Eat at one of the many fish houses which are serving up locally caught catfish and hush puppies.
Day 7- Clifton Marina mm 158.5 to Pebble Isle mm 96.5: Today is a planned shore excursion day. Whether your interests lie in history or in music, this stop is a sure bet for a fun day of exploring. Captain Bob and crew traveled terra firma to visit Civil War sites and to visit the beautiful Loretta Lynn Ranch.
Day 8- Pebble Isle mm 96.5 to Paris Landing State Park mm 66.1: Today is another planned shore excursion day. Paris offers visitors opportunities to stroll an art district and eat at fun local cafes. Nearby is the 170,000 acre Land Between the Lakes where visitors can roam with buffalo or indulge in an afternoon of bird watching, biking, or hiking. Finish your day with dinner at the Breakers and relax to the sounds of a live band and beautiful sunset.
Day 9- Paris Landing State Park mm 66.1 to Paducah (Ohio River): Today’s journey will follow the Tennessee River as it enters the Ohio River. At the confluence of the Ohio at mm 934.5 are the Tennessee and the Cumberland Rivers. If you headed down the Cumberland River from the Tennessee River at this point, you would be recreating portions of John Donelson’s 1779 river voyage to establish the first western settlement which he named Nashborough and known today as Nashville, TN.
Read more from Captain Bob’s blog listings as recorded along the river during his journey. Learn more here to plan your trip.