Fascinating Rivers from Missouri to Nashville: October 8 2022

Our next day on the mighty Mississippi River was a bit more mellow than yesterday as we sped along at a smooth 9-10 knots, eagles dotted the river banks and we moved along from Hoppies to Kaskaskia Lock, MO (9/25).  Nope, we don’t pass through this lock; rather, it is a wide spot in the road to stop for the night.  The Mississippi River is mostly commercial so “pulling off to the side of the road” means you have to pick your spot carefully so that the BIG barges don’t run you over in the middle of the night (the barges run 24/7).  The lock wall is temporarily dismantled so that the area can be dredged but the Lock crew is happy for us PCs (pleasure crafts) to anchor between the dam and the dredging equipment.  Sounds good but gulp – that is tricky maneuvering and kinda makes Hoppies look plush.  That said, ten boats squeezed into the anchorage for the night.  Aboard Barefeet we had steaks on the grill, mashed potatoes and peas after catching some NFL games…and Jana introduced me to the triple barrel curling iron.  Oh, we’re sooo fancy! 


We made the most of the construction site accommodations at Kaskaskia but make no mistake - the dredger is LOUD and worked throughout the night which made it easy to pull the anchor up early and get back onto the Mississippi.  Poet T.S. Eliot was born in St. Louis, and he knew the power of the Mississippi River.  Brother-in-law, Hugh, passed along Eliot’s 1941 poem, "The Dry Salvages," which begins this way:

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river

Is a strong brown god - sullen, untamed and intractable,

Patient to some degree, at first recognized as a frontier,

Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce,

Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.

The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten

By the dwellers of cities - ever, however, implacable,

Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder

Of what men choose to forget.

Thanks Hugh – perfectly on point.  Our travels ended for the day anchored well outside of BIG barge traffic between a cement bridge abutment and river wing dams off of Cape Girardeau, MO (pronounced jur-ar-doe).  Shore landing was scarce so Chris did a touch and go for me and Jana to explore the town (9/26).  The town is charming brick buildings, sleek Spanish Colonial Marquette Tower (built in 1928), murals of town history covering the river barrier wall and countless antique stores.  Our favorite shop was the eclectic Annie Lauries.  At more than 5,000 square feet of shopping bliss there is a lot to see and it was a lot of fun.  Back aboard Barefeet dinner was brat sandwiches from the grill and roasted broccoli below the illuminated, spiderweb looking bridge where tugs made no more than a small ripple as they passed.


Morning dawned chilly but with clear skies.  We carefully rounded the corner from the Mississippi River to the Ohio River at Cairo, IL, with bridges criss-crossing the rivers (9/27).  “Carefully,” because the VHF radio was exploding with chatter about barges going aground due to low water levels with additional tugs being called in to get them off.  There was A LOT going on.  We passed on our first two anchor ideas because water levels simply looked too low (later learned that fellow boaters had gone aground in 3 feet of water damaging props – yikes).  Third time was the charm at mile marker 971 in 9 feet of water outside the shipping channel.  The upside of low water levels meant discoveries of shore treasures…river mussels and iron railroad spikes.  Chris was giddy!  These iron trinkets are his kind of sea shells.  And the mussels?!  Well, they create South Pacific black pearls.  We came across this crazy fact on a different boating trip in the Tuamotus.  It goes like this - a piece of Mississippi freshwater clam shell is used as a nucleus along with a bit of flesh from the oyster to serve as a mantle. Over approximately the next two years, the oyster places thousands of layers of nacre and ultimately creates a pearl.  What a planet!  Our day ended with homemade pizza and a stunning sunset with a sliver moon.


According to the depth gauge we awoke to two more feet of water under the keel.  The dam must have released water overnight – hopefully, it helps the barges back at Cairo.  Up came the anchor and we were off to the Olmstead Lock.  The floating bollard stuck for a minute but then came free - phew.  Motoring against the current of the Ohio River made for slow progress to Paducah, KY, where we tied up at the transient dock (9/28).  Lots of familiar faces on the dock – hi guys.  Arrival before 5pm meant there was time to visit the National Quilt Museum before it closed.  I have wanted to visit this place since the early plannings of this trip.  Wow!  People are sooo talented and creative.  Locally owned Over/Under was the site of our farewell dinner with Jana.  We told tales of our river adventures and feel so lucky to have had this week together.


Fueled up by Kirchhoff’s Bakery for breakfast had us off to drop Jana at the train station in St Louis (9/29).  We are in a new part of the country…tornado country.  Not to mention, did you know Superman grew up here?!  Metropolis…get it…tee, hee, hee.  Back to a boat of two we tossed the lines from Paducah and moved along the Ohio River (9/30).  The Cumberland River Cruising Guide by Fred Myers added nice texture to the navigational charts from Paducah to Nashville (thanks Karla).  For example, Smithland, KY, (population 600) is the oldest town on the Ohio River.  A small brown gazebo on the riverbank marks the site of a huge cottonwood tree that was lost in a storm.  As a favorite gathering place for local residents to visit and watch the river the community donated time, money, materials and labor to build the gazebo and continue the gathering place.  Additionally, the Gower House can be seen on a hill above the river.  Built in 1780 it was a luxury inn for travelers on the Ohio River with guests that included US Presidents James Polk and Zachary Taylor, Red Cross founder Clara Barton, authors Charles Dickens and Lew Wallace and French soldier/statesman Marquis de Lafayette.  Oh, and a brush with Hollywood as the backdrop in MGM’s epic, “How the West Was Won.” 


The Ohio River became the Cumberland River and we passed through the Barkley Lock.  From here we make a detour to Nashville on the Cumberland River then turn around and retrace our steps back here to Grand Rivers, KY.  Our stop for the night was nine miles further from Grand Rivers to anchor in serene Kuttawa Harbor.  Dinner was a satisfying tenderloin beef stroganoff with Amish egg noodles from Indiana (recipe below).  This perfect anchorage is completely protected from river wakes and has a soft mud bottom.  We are lucky.


Up at first light for our ten hour run to Clarksville, TN (10/1).  Ha – we cannot say Clarksville without humming the song by the Monkees, “Take the last train to Clarksville.”  Along the river we passed a penitentiary that looks like a castle and a Civil War battle site.  No kidding, The Castle on the Cumberland is a maximum security prison which holds the record for most inmates legally executed in one day – seven in 1928.  The Civil War site is where Confederates, perched on the earthen gun emplacements, leveled fire at Union troops on the water.  Okay, back to the pristine nature with beginning touches of Fall.  For the night we tied up to the Clarksville Municipal Dock ($21/night) and strolled around the town.  Cheers to us for one year on the water!  We chatted with a bar mate from the area loaded with Nashville ideas and college football opinions.  The bar mate was female – it’s nice to be in the football south. 


Again up at first light we joined the conga line of three boats headed to Nashville (10/2).  Locks were feeling like old hat until today.  As we passed through the Cheatham Lock a fellow boater played a trumpet solo.  Wow – the acoustics in the 47 foot high cement lock “box” were incredible.  Thank you m/v Calypso.  Our gentle ride morphed into a shit show as we docked in Nashville: avoid the submerged cement pipe (marked by a bit of red paint on the dock), back into a parallel parking spot, keep track of the current, watch out for passing barges and hope the water level doesn’t keep falling (7.5ft at the time of our tie up).  Done.  Okay, now we are smack in the middle of downtown Nashville just steps from Broadway and directly under the pedestrian bridge.  We popped into familiar Robert’s Western World for some live music and heard Elton John in concert next to the dock at the stadium.  Well, until, that is, the next door wedding event DJ began to play.  What a crazy place!


It is our first day not moving the boat in awhile so we took the day slow and easy (10/3).  Breakfast at 417 Union was the treat that we remember followed by lazing on the boat.  Our idea for the evening was to walk to the Patterson House for decadent craft cocktails.  What?!  They’re closed for the night for staff training…ggggrrrr.  So it goes…pivot.  We regrouped at nearby Red Door Saloon for a drink (no dinner because the kitchen is under construction) then dinner at Broadway Brewhouse and Mojo Grill.  All good for a great night meeting Nashville locals…chafing at the massive growth of the town (like the rest of us) and learned about the “police state” vibe as establishments card everyone who walks in a place that sells booze.  It seems that the Alcohol Beverage Commission, ABC, is no longer state funded but, rather, fine funded.  Oh – got it.  We rounded out our stay with a visit with my sister, Lindy – great to see her new digs and great to catch up.  And a final bit of music at Kid Rock’s Honky Tonk (10/4).  Nashville is certainly packed with musical talent around every corner.


Back we went along the Cumberland River after tossing our lines from the Nashville dock (10/5).  It was a stunner of an autumn day and a gentle ride to anchor at the mouth of the Harpeth River.


The fall colors are joined by chilly, smoke on the water morning temperatures that are as tranquil as can be imagined.  Retracing our Cumberland River steps is at a slower pace and at different stops.  Tonight, we anchored behind Dover Island feasting on homemade lamb Penang curry (10/6).  Yum!  The tug and tow barges remain a spectacular sight at night as they slice through the quiet darkness.


Up anchor from peaceful Dover Island as we wound our way back to Kattawa Harbor, KY (10/7).  TGIF!  We are ready to go out so we showered, put on our going-out clothes and hopped in the dinghy headed for Hu-B’s for dinner on the deck with live music.  Palm trees remain on the docks but the docks are looking a bit empty…hhhmmm.  Drat – they’re closed for the season.  So it goes…pivot.  We walked the town’s shoreline and returned to Barefeet for a bit of how’s-your-father for dinner on the top deck.  And for the evening’s entertainment we were treated to deer grazing on the shore, a setting sun and a rising moon...just as beautiful as when we were here several days ago.  Not too shabby at all.


A short 1.5 hour motor had us at Grand Rivers, KY, and tied up at Green Turtle Marina (10/8).  This is a boater favorite and we are glad to be here.  A walk into town had us exploring the 46th Annual Hunter’s Moon Festival filled with carnival food, crafts and games for the kids.  This is a cute town…with Monterey Jack cheese at the supermarket?!  We have not seen that in months - it’s the little things.  The gorgeous day ended with a bike to the Thirsty Turtle for pub grub, live music and a charming couple spinning on the dance floor.  We’ll stay here a couple of days then move along to the Tennessee River.    



Tenderloin Beef Stroganoff (Winterlake Lodge, Alaske) serves 4
Egg noodles for 4 (boil and drain per package instructions)
1.5lbs beef tenderloin, cut into thin strips
2T unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1T flour
1lb mixed mushrooms, sliced
1 cup beef broth
12 pearl onions
cup heavy cream
cup sour cream
2t Dijon mustard
cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper 

1)     In a large saute pan over medium heat sear beef.  Remove from pan and set aside

2)     Melt butter in saute pan and add garlic.  Saute 1 minute.  Add flour and stir with wooden spoon.  Cook until light brown (2-3 minutes).  Add mushrooms and cup stock.  Turn to low and simmer 15 minutes.

3)     Meanwhile, cut X into bottom of each onion.  Drop into boiling water and boil 5 minutes.  Drain and slip off skins.

4)     Back to the mushrooms – add cup broth, cream, sour cream and mustard.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Add seared beef, onions and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve with buttery egg noodles.

Note: I like it extra saucy so feel free to double the sauce elements.