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Captain Bob Cruising Guntersville Lake to Kentucky Lake


Captain Bob's cruise on the Tennessee River is impacted by adverse weather conditions and commercial barge traffic. Planning for a trip of this length should include planning for weather and other delays.

Day Four and Five: Any Man’s Journey on the Tennessee River
Miles Traveled:
Locks: Guntersville, Wheeler, Wilson, and Pickwick
Miles Traveled: 218.5 miles

The marinas along the river are hubs of activities and hospitality. Fuel and shelter are the two of the necessary requirements to complete this journey. Other appreciated amenities are hot showers, covered slips to keep gear dry, nearby or onsite dining, laundry facilities, and courtesy vehicles made available to travelers who wish to drive into a town to pick up supplies, sightsee, or have dinner. Guntersville Marina provided all of these amenities and more. Bob and Sterling docked their boat and then borrowed the courtesy vehicle to drive in to the City of Guntersville. They enjoyed dinner at a local restaurant, The Brick and then picked up supplies at the grocery.

Marinas are always hubs of social activity, so this night’s story telling was shared with other boat owners at the dock. Guntersville Lake with its grassy coves is one of the top bass fisheries in the Tennessee River system, so fish stories were on tap. Did we tell you that Captain Bob was once a licensed fishing guide?

Tuesday morning dawned dreary and rain was forecasted all day. As Captain Bob navigated the boat into the Guntersville lock at 8:52 am, the rain had started coming down. The original plan was to head down river to Joe Wheeler State Park for the evening, but the rain combined with the barge traffic on the river, had the group reconsidering their travel plans for the day. The Wheeler Dam lock master alerted Captain Bob that the wait would be three hours before they could enter the lock. Commercial traffic is prioritized over pleasure craft. Waiting is difficult in both driving rain or in hot sunny conditions. At this point, the crew agreed that they would bypass an overnight stay at Joe Wheeler State park and continue their journey to make a run to lock through Wilson Dam. This lock is one of the biggest locks in the East, and the drop is over 90 plus feet. Captain Bob described the dam’s unique design and cavernous size of the lock. With their gear soaked and ready for a break from the rain,they steered their boat to a public launch slip in pretty Florence, Alabama for an evening of rest.

In the morning, the clouds still hung grey and heavy. A mizzling rain accompanied the travelers as they headed past the Tenn-Tom Canal towards Pickwick Lake. This area of the Tennessee River is normally a beautiful ride to sightsee. The shorelines of the river are a portrait of the region’s history. The river serves as a boundary between three states: Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Stately homes such as the historic Cherry Mansion and river access gates dot the bluffs and shorelines and speak to a time when sternwheelers traveled the river.

Normally on a beautiful day, Pickwick Lake would be a preferred stop for sightseeing at Pittsburg Landing and to sample fare from the catfish restaurants serving up golden fried fish and hushpuppies. Today was not a day to stop.

Priorities were fuel stops, locking through Pickwick Dam, and finding an overnight transient slip for the night to dry out for a bit. Captain Bob was highly complimentary of the dock staff at Grand Harbor and Clifton marinas. Hospitality is a southern tradition and on full display at these stops. Another delay at Pickwick Lock let them pause to absorb that this would be the eighth lock in five days that they had traveled through. Without a specific overnight location selected, they continued downriver until the elements and the evening darkness made them pull over for another night of damp camping on their pontoon.

Coming up- Civil War Stories and journey’s end.