Chicago to Grand Rivers, Kentucky
With relatively narrow waterways, heavy commercial traffic, often restricted vistas, and a more industrial feel, cruising the inland rivers of the U.S. has been an interesting experience. This was particularly true for the 218 mile section we traveled on the Mississippi River. Highly influenced by human intervention through dams, locks and weirs to control the channel, home to many industrial sites such as quarries, loading terminals, barging depots, power plants, etc., and very busy with tows, this is the king of inland maritime highways. We’re glad we had the opportunity to do it, but for most this would not be a preferred cruising destination.
On the rivers our average daily distance turned out to be considerably longer than for other sections, partly because of our timetable, but also because good stops are not frequently available. Very hot weather also played a role – when the temperature and humidity are both approaching 100, plans to drop anchor at 2 pm are quickly overtaken by the desire to maintain a 14 knot breeze! On the hottest days we often cruised until late afternoon.
In contrast with the rivers, Barkley and Kentucky Lakes – formed by damming the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers – and the land between them are popular recreational areas for cruisers, fishers and campers. Green Turtle Bay Marina, located on Barkley Lake and our final destination for this year, was a perfect base to explore the area. And explore we did, first with a cruise up the lake and Cumberland River to Clarksville (as in the Monkees’ song ‘Last Train to Clarksville’), and then on to Nashville. Music City, as it is called, certainly lived up to its name. This was followed by a road trip through the backroads of Kentucky and Tennessee. While on the road we made stops in Bowling Green (for the Corvette Museum), Chattanooga (where we happened upon the 3 Sisters Bluegrass festival – live, free and the best bluegrass we’ve ever heard), and Memphis.
Cruising large, industrial rivers is quite different from the coastal cruising we are used to. We hope our pictures have captured the right flavour of this experience.
End of Season Statistics and Other Items of Interest
- Statute miles traveled (Kingston, Ont to Grand Rivers, KY) – 2285
- Hours of motoring – 231
- Diesel fuel used (not including generator) – 2633 litres (579 imperial gallons)
- Average MPG – 3.94
- Average fuel cost – $1.15/litre
- Average fuel cost per mile – $1.32
- Average daily moorage cost – $29.10 (over 119 days)
- Provinces & States visited – Ontario, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee.
Plans for Next Year
Our plan for cruising in 2014 is to head south on the Tennessee and Tombigbee waterways beginning in early March and reach the Gulf Coast at Mobile, Alabama about 3 weeks later. From there we will cruise the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway until we reach Ft. Myers on the west coast of Florida, and then traverse central Florida via the Okeechobee Waterway to Stuart. This will complete the Great Loop for us.
From Stuart we head for Miami to join a flotilla of PDQ’s departing in late April for the Exumas (Bahamas). We expect to cruise there during May and June before returning to Florida to store His Idea on the hard for hurricane season.
If you have been visiting our blog and wish to be notified when we start publishing again next year, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll then send you a short email in advance of our first post.
Thanks for following along. We hope you’ve enjoyed travelling with us aboard His Idea.
John & Ria
Our inland river trip has so far taken us 650 miles down the Illinois and Mississippi, and up the Ohio…..
…..and Cumberland Rivers to Grand Rivers, Kentucky.
The warning sign for the electrified ‘fish barrier’ designed to keep invasive Asian Carp from reaching Lake Michigan…..
…..fortunately, we had only a few encounters where these ugly, slimy fish whacked the underside of His Idea (borrowed photo).
Our first anchorage on the Illinois River, at Sheehan Island, just past the town of Ottawa…..
…..where we watched the ‘tows’ go past from a safe distance.
Passing a mid-sized tow along the Illinois; before overtaking – and sometimes when approaching head on where the river is narrow – it is common and wise practice to ask the tow captain ‘one whistle or two?’ (i.e. starboard vs. port) to determine the safest side to pass.
Approaching a lock and dam on the Illinois River: we transited a total of twelve from Chicago to our final destination at Grand Rivers.
Tied to a bollard awaiting a tow to clear a lock; sometimes waits were short (less than half an hour), sometimes much longer (up to 3 hours).
A view from the bluffs overlooking the Illinois River, just before it joins the Mississippi.
The entrance to Grafton Marina, our first stop on the Mississippi; Grafton is one of a number of river towns trying to prosper through tourism, and it was a very lively place during the weekend we were there, with plenty of boaters, bikers, beer and loud music.
The early sections of the Mississippi were very broad, however this didn’t last long.
Although much of the cruise through the inland rivers had an industrial feel, there were many pretty sections as well.
The Gateway Arch at St.Louis; it was very busy with river traffic along this section, with no place to stop.
Our berth at Hoppies Marina, downriver from St. Louis; this rustic stopping point has been serving mariners on the Mississippi since 1937.
A typical somewhat gritty scene during one of our grey days on the Mississippi, however…..
…..if we waited awhile there was always something interesting to see.
There are few decent places to stop on the Mississippi; the tie up to the Kaskaskia Lock was a quiet and welcome respite from the traffic on the river.
We shared a somewhat exposed anchorage at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers with Journey, one of our cruising companions along the way; this was the end to our longest daily run so far, 116 miles.
At Cumberland Island we enjoyed one of our nicest river anchorages, where the Cumberland and Ohio rivers meet.
Arrival at Green Turtle Bay Marina on Lake Barkley, His Idea’s home for the coming winter.
After seeing many tows, it was an interesting change to be passed by one of the paddle wheel cruise ships which ply these waters; this is the Queen of the Mississippi, heading up the Cumberland River towards Nashville.
The Nashville skyline from the Cumberland River.
A portion of the Nashville entertainment district, where a great selection of excellent live music can be found at cafes, pubs, theatres, and on street corners; our choice was BB King’s, where we had a fun time listening to the very good house band wind up the crowd with Motown, soul and R&B hits from our past.
Farewell from Nashville – see you again in 2014!