Up the Cumberland to Greeen Turtle Bay on Barkley Lake

First of All –

  • First day cruising on the Cumberland River
  • First time seeing fireflies

Namely Speaking-

  • Clay Lick Creek
  • Paddy’s Creek
  • Harp Hollow Creek
  • Dooms Landing

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 34; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 821
  • Hours Underway: 6.75
  • Fuel: 32 gallons, $108
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.20
  • Wind Speed: 5; Wind Direction: S
  • Daily High Temperature: 80
  • Water Temperature: 79

DSCF7969We sleep in 45 minutes later than usual, probably reflecting the toll which long cruising days is taking on us. We’re off our anchor by 8am, about 20 minutes behind our sailboat friend, Talisker. The big motor cruiser Job Site II and the trawler Harmony are still rafted up and at anchor when we depart. I set the engine at 3000 rpm, which gives us around 6 mph of speed. This is enough to enable us to overtakeDSCF7979 Talisker after 8 or 10 miles. At the 15 mile mark, Harmony passes us by, and I can see Job Site II on my AIS, about 5 miles back but gaining on us fairly rapidly. Without discussing it in advance, it would appear that our departures were orchestrated perfectly, with the slowest boat leaving first, us next, and then the two faster boats similarly staggering their start. This allows all 4 boats to cruise at their most comfortable rate, and we should all arrive at the Barkley Lock close enough to all lock through together. I talk with the lockmaster and he encourages us to go through in a group.

The run up the Cumberland offers a mix of attractive forest, scattered farm fields, picturesque rock bluffs, sand and gravel miningDSCF7977 operations and small towns. The river is only 100 or so yards wide, sinuous, and more interesting to navigate than the broad, big rivers we’ve recently been on. We see many bald eagles, along with cormorants, black vultures, crows and the ever present great blue herons. Barge traffic is much lighter, and we only encounter two small tows along the way. On the twisty river, the AIS is a real help in knowing they’re coming.

DSCF7972 DSCF7982

At river mile 30 we round a bend and the Barkley Dam looms into view. It’s a substantial structure, probably 100 feet or so high, and the lock chamber will lift us around 60 feet above the outlet stream elevation. This dam impounds a very large reservoir, which is directly connected with the Tennessee River’s Kentucky Lake, which extends into Tennessee, and impounds the flow of the Tennessee River all the way up to and past the Alabama border. It’s hard to relate to the flatness of this country. Here we are, probably 800 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, and we’re only 300 feet above sea level. We’re pleased to see the green light at the lock, and we’re instructed to tie up on the starbard side. The 4 boats in our group will be 2 on each side of the lock. Because of the 60 foot lift, we’ll be securing to floating bollards, which we’ve had the most difficulty with in the past. Today, however, conditions favor us with little wind, and that on our nose. We have no trouble getting lines over the bollard, and the chamber fills slowly enough that current is negligable. Even so, the enormous chamber fills quickly, and soon the gates open and we’re motoring out onto Barkley Lake. It’s only a couple of miles around to Green Turtle Bay Resort Marina where we’ll spend the next several days.


DSCF7986I pull in at the fuel dock first, eager to fill my tanks and see how much gas I used on the 250 mile run from Hoppies. I end up taking 32.5 gallons of gas, which means I had a mere 6.5 gallons remaining. That’s cutting it a bit close, but really not that close. We end up getting 7.85 miles per gallon for the run, which includes the big current push of the Mississippi and the lesser opposing currents of the Ohio and Cumberland. I’m happy with the fuel economy, and it has worked out just about as I’d expected. We get our slip assignment, with is ideally located, close to office, restrooms and laundry, and in the afternoon shade of the yacht club restaurant. As we’re tying up Sandy is hailed by Cindy, our friend from the Illinois River. They got here yesterday. Also here are Firebird and Marquesa. It seems that Green Turtle is the place to reunite with cruising friends encountered on the loop.

We dine at the yacht club, taking advantage of the complimentary guest cards given to us when we checked in. Dinner is good, and afterwards we go for an evening walk, up towards town. In the deep shadows below the road I spot an intense flash of light, and immediately recognize it as a firefly. Commonplace enough to folks from these parts, I’m sure, however for us Northwesterners, they’re quite a novelty. We pause on our walk to watch the show. They’re truly amazing little insects.

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