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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nickajack Dam to Chattanooga with Nathan and Dallas - Day 3

April 10, 2013

I woke up before daylight and put water on the stove for hot chocolate (for me and Dallas) and for coffee (for Nathan). We untied and idled out of Chickamauga Marina about 6:35 am, hoping that we would be first in line when the lock started it's daily schedule at 7:00.  We arrived at the gate about 7:45, with no other boats in sight. My radio calls to the lock went unanswered, but about 7:05 the enter light turned to green and the gates opened for us. By 7:10 we were secured to the bollard and ready for the trip back down to Nickajack Lake level. The trip down was fast and at 7:23 we were exiting the lock!
Dallas had a lot of "Captain" time on the trip, and handled the boat very well!
The scenery changes back and forth from developed property to very rural.

The discharge location for the Raccoon Mt. Reservoir. Just below this spot was the deepest water of our trip - 112' !!

The Ospreys were nesting all along our route, and are amazing in their ability to catch fish!
I still don't know the story behind this Native American Statue, but it always catches my attention.

We passed through Chattanooga and enjoyed the view of the Gorge from the opposite direction as we made our way back to Nickajack Dam. It always amazes me how different everything looks, depending  on the direction you are headed.
There were several of these birds, apparently drying their  wings. They looked like statutes!

Just downstream from Chattanooga, Dallas spotted bald eagle #4 of the trip, as he flew across the river just behind our boat.

The grin on Dallas' face tells how much he enjoyed the trip. Nathan and I did too!

At Oates Island, we saw the female adult eagle, again just a few feet from her nest, but this time we saw that there were three juveniles eagles in the nest. This made a total of 8 eagle sightings for the trip!
Here you can see the adult female, and three juvenile eagles on the nest at Oates Island.

Arriving at the Dam's boat ramp at 2:00 pm, I noted a total distance for the trip of 102 miles. We had stopped at Hales Bar Marina for gas, but they were out, so I don't have a MPG figure, but the Knot-So-Fast has been pretty consistent at about 12 MPG on these "up and back" trips.

We pulled the boat onto its trailer and headed home, tired but with a feeling of contentment. I feel very blessed to have been able to spend the last 3 days in the middle of God's creation with Nathan and Dallas. The eagles are always the high point of these trips for me, and this one was especially great as it was the first eagle sighting for both Nathan and Dallas.
The Knot-So-Fast is loaded on the trailer for the trip home. 

Nickajack Dam to Chattanooga with Nathan and Dallas - Day 2

April 9, 2013

Last night was cool, and I got up about 4:00 am to shut the windows on the boat. After breakfast, we explored the downtown area again, then from the boat we cruised around the waterfront and stopped at MacLellan Island, which is a nature preserve with primitive camping facilities.
Blue Heron nests on MacLellan Island.
Access to MacLellan Island was more suited to canoes and kayaks, but we managed to find a spot where we could get off the boat.

MacLellan Island has great hiking trails.

Proud parents along the Chattanooga Riverfront.

After lunch at Five Guys, we left Chattanooga about noon, headed upstream for Chickamauga Lock and Dam, stopping along the way to cruise up Chickamauga Creek, where a large cottonmouth water moccasin crossed in front of us.
Water Moccasin crossing Chickamauga Creek.

When we were about 10 minutes from the lock, I radioed them to request an upstream lock, and was told we would have a wait of approximately 2 hours while a tow made two trips through the lock to get all his barges through. We'd had to wait  on 2 other occasions at the Chickamauga Lock, and I thought we'd just had a run of poor timing. A check of the lock information revealed the problem. This lock is much smaller than most others on the river systems, so many of the towboats pushing multiple barges have to break them down and take their barges through in smaller groups. The lockmaster was very helpful and instructed us to a spot where the water was calm for us to wait. The towboat had brought 2 barges down, and was entering the lock to go back up and retrieve his last 2 barges. We waited, talking to fishermen in the area and relaxing.
As we entered the lock, the upstream gate is holding back a 44' tall wall of water!

Finally, the tow emerged from the lock again, pushing his last 2 barges. The Lockmaster radioed us and said we were clear to enter the lock as soon as the towboat passed by us. We entered the lock and tied up to a bollard in the wall on the upstream end of the lock. The gates closed and we began the 44 foot rise up to Chickamauga Lake. Nathan had a concerned look on his face when the gates closed and he realized we were in in the chamber with a 44 foot tall wall of water just behind the upstream gate. He said it was"a little ominous" looking. Thirty minutes later we were motoring out onto Chickamauga Lake, were we turned to starboard and crossed to the far shoreline to Chickamauga Marina. We made arrangements to take a shower there, and possibly spending the night. An employee there, Mark, was extremely helpful, making sure we had everything we needed. After a hot shower, I radioed the lock again and asked about locking back downstream before sundown. The answer was that they could get us locked through, but it would be near dark or later, so we decided to stay at the marina and hope to get through the lock first when they open in the morning.
Dallas' cooking skills were impressive, and the pork chops were terrific!

We motored upstream a couple of miles and found a quiet slough at a state park, where we threw out the anchor and started the grill. Dallas took cooking duty, and grilled the pork chops to perfection! When supper was finished, we made the leisurely trip back to the marina and tied up at the fuel dock for the night.

Nickajack Dam to Chattanooga with Nathan and Dallas - Day 1

April 8, 2013.
This morning we began a trip that I'd been looking forward to for months. My eight year old grandson, Dallas, was out of school for Spring Break, and my son, Nathan, had a few days off from work, so we were headed to Nickajack Dam where we'd start our three day trip through the "Gorge" to Chattanooga and back.

Nathan had not been on an extended trip on the boat, and Dallas had only been on a one-nighter, and I was a little worried that the 6 mph speed of the tug might lead to boredom for them. As it turns out I had nothing to worry about.

We launched the boat just above the dam about 9:00 am and headed upstream. Almost every navigational marker on the river had a nesting osprey and other water birds were abundant, too. About 2 hours into our trip, as we approached Oats Island, we spotted a bald eagle on a branch near its nest. The water near the island was shallow, so we couldn't get as close as we wanted, but Nathan and Dallas both got a good look at the adult eagle and at least one juvenile eagle in the nest. This was the first wild bald eagle sighting for Nathan and for Dallas.

This was the first wild bald eagle that Nathan or Dallas had seen. 
As we entered the Gorge, we all took turns at the wheel. The weather was cool and a little cloudy. Occasionally the breeze would require us to shut the windows, but for the most part the trip was comfortable as we wound through the valleys of Signal, Raccoon and Lookout Mountains toward Chattanooga.

We saw another adult eagle, flying alongside what we thought was large hawk. As we watched the two, though, they looked more like an adult and a juvenile eagle, but we couldn't get a good enough look to be sure about the juvenile.

We arrived at Chattanooga about 4:00 pm and checked in at the Marine Max office to pay for our slip at Bluff Dock for the night. We were the only boat at the dock and I wondered if any others would join us  there for the night. After securing the boat and cleaning up a little, we headed up the steps which lead from the river to downtown Chattanooga. Just about 4 blocks away was Sugar's BBQ, where we ate some of the best pork BBQ in the world!
We were all alone on Bluff Dock in Chattanooga.

The famous "back scratching" dog of Chattanooga. Notice the finish rubbed off his paw from scratching visitor's backs.

We explored the downtown area a little, then headed back down the bluff to the river and our boat. Dallas was excited to see the fountains, water steps, and pools at the riverfront. Even though it was a little chilly, Dallas did get a chance to play in the water before the sun started to go down.

Walking through downtown Chattanooga reveals surprises at every turn, like this couch made of brick.
Nathan and Dallas on the pedestrian bridge across the Tennessee River. In the background is the famous Delta Queen riverboat, which is now a stationary hotel.