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Captain Bob Cruising Watts Bar to Guntersville Lake


Captain Bob continues his 652 mile cruise journey on the Tennessee River. Days two and three will take him through three locks- Watts Bar, Chickamauga, and Nickajack.

Day Two and Three: Any Man’s Journey on the Tennessee River
Miles Traveled: 186.3 m
Locks: Watts Bar, Chickamauga, Nickajack

Both days’ journey began with partially cloudy skies which then turned to brilliant blue skies with puffy clouds by mid-morning. The travel schedule for day two was to travel 67.8 miles and stay overnight at Island Cove Marina (mm 477) near Chattanooga. Captain Bob reported that the significant widening of the river on Watts Bar Lake could be disorientating to novice boaters. Following the green and red buoys navigation makers is critical for staying on the river line and avoiding getting lost in one of the many of deep coves. The holiday weekend meant there was little commercial traffic on the river, so there were no delays in navigating the Watts Bar lock. The group pulled into port at 2 pm on Saturday afternoon. They were ready for a good meal at the nearby City Cafe Diner in Chattanooga and an evening of story- telling.

Captain Bob shared a story about Watts Bar Lake. While traveling on the interstate in Tennessee, a friend’s young son asked his dad about the plumes of steam coming from the TVA Watts Bar Nuclear Plant. His son thought the business was a “cloud” factory that needed water from the river to make the clouds. TVA’s role is to provide inexpensive power to the people and businesses in the Tennessee River Valley. The future of clean energy is represented in the types of facilities they have constructed. Each of the nine dams on the “any man’s” journey generates hydro-electricity. On day three, the travelers will pass by TVA’s Raccoon Mountain Pump Station, which is unique in its design for generating hydro-electricity.

Day three demanded an early start as the day’s trip would include navigating two locks and a planned 118.5 mile journey. Today, this author and a photographer would be joining Captain Bob and crew on their travels through the Chickamauga Lock and downriver through the Tennessee River Gorge to the site of Hales Bar dam which was replaced by Nickajack Dam. As the boat left Island Cove, the sun was just starting to break through the cloud cover.

The first lock for the day was Chickamauga. Chattanooga is a large inland port, and we had learned that this lock can be delay passage due to barge traffic. As we approached, Captain Bob radioed the lock master to let him know of our approach. The lock must fill with water prior to entry to the lock. Our boat was the only boat waiting to lock through. Captain Bob instructed that when entering the lock, all passengers needed to be wearing their life jackets. Upon entering, we tied up to one the bollards or “pins” inside each lock. These bollards will lower as the water lowers in the lock. Lock master, Faust briefly visited with us during the water lowering to learn about this trip. He answered questions about other groups who have traveled the river, including the annual Tennessee River 600. Once the water was lowered in the lock, the gates opened. Experienced boaters understand that the safest way to the exit the lock is to allow the water to steer the boat. Bob also explained that the water release will cause the river below the dam to “boil,” so prepare for rough water and a stronger current when exiting the lock.

Next up was the city line of Chattanooga. We passed under bridges and past Ross Landing, a site marker for the “Trail of Tears.” The river flowed past the city into the Tennessee River Gorge. Here the river current picked up significantly through the bends of the gorge. In spite of the depth of water, there were areas of marked churning river which could poise hazards for novice boaters. The beauty of the river and gorge was breathtaking. Sterling Edwards, crewmate, remarked that it reminded him of his time traveling on the Rhine River in France.

Too fast, we arrived at Hales Bar Marina and disembarked. Captain Bob and Sterling refueled the pontoon and headed to the Guntersville Marina (mm 358.5) to stop for the night.

Coming up- A fisherman’s paradise to Inland Ports- Guntersville to Wheeler Dam