Cruising up river (south) from Grand Rivers, Kentucky, where a canal joins the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers, to Iuka, Mississippi, makes a connecting link for the Great Loop. One can also continue up river all the way to Knoxville, but this is another side trip, requiring a doubling back to Iuka to join the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway. The term "up river" is important here as cruising speed, already at a snail's pace, is lowered by having to run against the current.
A large area between the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers was designated as a park by President Kennedy. The Land Between the Lakes has many coves and creeks along the Tennessee River, where the dam-created pool is also known as Kentucky Lake. Last Dance and crew were back in normal cruising mode with the many anchorages possible in these forested settings.
Natural surroundings with no structures or population made for a light-pollution-free environment allowing the stars to appear in their Carl Sagan's promised "billions and billions."
The natural setting attracts wildlife and is a great opportunity to unload the kayaks and explore.
A small cove in the back of Sugar Bay made a cozy anchorage for Last Dance, surrounded by colorful trees and giving access to hiking and biking trails.
Leatherwood Creek had a moon set closely following a sunset and the cool night air triggering a foggy and delayed morning. Once the fog lifted, the skies were blue and the colors along the river vibrant.
After a night tucked behind Kelley Island, the relatively warm waters of the Tennessee interacted with the cooler night air to produce fog over the river. It is always quiet when there is fog and it seems magical. The trip up river from Kelley Island had the Tennessee displaying interesting and changing river banks.
A late arrival at first creek was greeted with a rising moon. As the trip up the river continued, the foothills of the Appalachian mountains added to the variety of scenery. The sheer bluff is known as the Painted Bluff as the coloring appears like an artist's canvas.
Travel up river ended at an anchorage behind Goat Island, the low, green area to the right in the image above. The Island created a cove off the river surrounded by tree covered hills. Though the navigable portion of the river continues past Knoxville, time factors dictated the need to head downstream to the junction of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. Backtracking was interesting since there were anchorages missed on the cruise up river.
Another sunset (Goat Island on the left) was notable not only for its beauty, but more so for its time. This photo was taken at 4:30 pm. The sun should not set at 4:30. Being in the eastern end of the Central Time Zone when changing back to Standard Time created extremely early ends to the days.
The tranquil beauty of this cove kept the crew at anchor for multiple days. As the sun and moon moved across the sky, hills changed hues and seemed to almost glow at times.
This little piece of water off the river did not have a name on the chart. It did, barely, have enough depth to allow Last Dance entry to anchor and just enough room to turn the boat around. The narrowness of the cove required two anchors, one at the bow, as normal, and one at the stern to keep the boat parallel to the shore. The charts on Last Dance are now annotated with a name for this cove - Skinny Cove.
The last anchorage experience on the Tennessee was unique in that a waterfall graces the end.
Waterfall cove is narrow and short, but has room for a few boats if they anchor by pushing their bows ashore on the sandy/gravel spit that closes off half of the mouth of the cove. Now, for a crew that studies and works diligently every day to keep the bottom of the boat off the bottom of the river, this concept was difficult to accept. And old friend encountered along the river, Terry Burns (DeFever 60, Sea Dog) confirmed that placing the bow ashore was the appropriate anchoring method. So, a stern anchor was deployed, and the boat moved forward until the bow crunched onto the beach. Since the stern anchor, holding the back of the boat from swinging also created a force to pull the boat off the beach, a bow anchor was walked across the beach.
Waterfall cove lies within a state park, providing trails for hiking and exploring. Hiking to the top of the waterfall revealed additional small waterfalls and an elevated perspective of Last Dance. Being late in the season, this purported most popular spot was enjoyed as if a private enclave.
Remember the White Pelicans on the Illinois River that had begun their migration south? They stopped along the Tennessee River to remind the crew of Last Dance that it was time to continue heading south.