The Tennessee River and Tombigbee River Waterway

The Tennessee River is beautiful, and such a welcome change to what we have recently encountered coming down the Illinois and Mississippi River systems. Before descending the Tennessee, we spent four days at Green Turtle Bay Marina, an upscale marina at the north end of the Lake Tennessee Reservoir. Most Loopers use this marina to recharge their (personal) batteries after dealing with the more stressful rivers north of here. We renewed a number of acquaintances we met earlier on our journey and re-provisioned the boat. There a number of really good restaurants in the vicinity, which we thoroughly enjoyed, including one, Patti’s that served 2″ think pork chops, which were great! Again, it was BYOB.

Sunrise on the Tennessee River

Sunrise on the Tennessee River

After our rest, we continued upstream on the Tennessee River. The river was very pretty with mainly thick forests and rocky bluffs on the side and very little signs of human habitation. We spent five days on the Tennessee, stopping at small but interesting marinas each night. We have been traveling with the same three boats since meeting them on the Illinois River.

After 215 miles we turned off of the river into the Tenn-Tom Waterway. This is a man-made waterway that connects the Tennessee River with the Tombigbee River. This waterway and the lock system was completed in the mid-1980’s and we were once again descending the river, which makes locking through much easier.

At the start of the Tombigbee Waterway, we had planned to spend two nights at another upscale marina on Pickwick, Lake which a major tourist area. The marina is located where Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee intersect one another. Most of these upscale marinas have courtesy cars which transient boaters can use for shopping, restaurant going and limited sightseeing. The Civil War Shiloh Battlefield was about 20 miles from this marina, and another couple we have been traveling with, Woody and Lucy, spent four hours visiting the battlefield and visitor center. Over 23,000 Confederate and Union soldiers fell in this battle. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the park has a driving tour which allows you to visit all of the major sections of the battle. When you enter the park you feel a sense of haunting. But yet it is quite peaceful.

Beautiful statue in Shiloh

Beautiful statue in Shiloh

"I'm going to get one of those Confederate Soldiers!"

“I’m going to get one of those Confederate Soldiers!”

No wonder they lost - they don't know how to hold a rifle!

No wonder they lost – they don’t know how to hold a rifle!

This area is also the catfish capital of the United States. The three couples we had been traveling with were splitting up the next day, so we crammed ourselves into a van a drove to the Catfish Hotel, the oldest family owned restaurant for an all-you-can-eat catfish dinner. Woody and Dave had a little competition going on with who could eat the most catfish. I think it was a draw! It was a fun, but sad evening. We all had bonded after having traveled about 900 miles together.
Woody finishing another catfish!

Woody finishing another catfish!

Great presentation in serving mini-tacos - in lemon wedges!

Great presentation in serving mini-tacos – in lemon wedges!

Ed and EJ

Ed and EJ

Dave and Cheryl

Dave and Cheryl

Woody and Lucy

Woody and Lucy

Our traveling companions left early the next morning. A fond farewell. We hope to run into them again in Florida. We decided to stay another night because we had “time to kill” so to speak because our boat insurance policy does not allow us to be south of the 31st parallel before October 24. Since we were only four our five days away from that latitude, we just thought we would spend the time there. We made the right decision, for that night a major cold front swept through the entire middle and southern states, spawning 50-70 mile winds, tornadoes and torrential rain. We had a tornado touchdown about 60 miles NE of our marina, but all we encountered in our slip was 24 hours of heavy rain. Again we were blessed with river flooding and waited one more day for the debris to work its way down, and then departed south down the waterway.

This waterway is much narrower than the Tennessee River and very remote, with little commercial traffic. We anchored out that night in a beautiful lake connected to the waterway in a deep forest. It was so dark and creepy feeling that Pauline made sure our doors were locked after having visions of the movie “Deliverance” in our minds!!
The next two days we traveled with a convoy of 5-7 boats transiting the locks together and staying at a very rustic, but adequate marina the first night. We are now located in a more upscale Marina in Columbus Mississippi for three nights. Again, waiting out our insurance constraints. We are only 120 miles north of our southern limit of our policy and we have seven days before the deadline comes.

We are traveling with a new couple that have already completed the Great Loop 4 or 5 years ago and live on the Tennessee River, outside of Chattanooga. They are on their way to spending the winter in the Keys. It has been very helpful traveling with them as they know the river anchorages and their knowledge of the river, anchorages and marinas.

Columbus is a relatively large city with everything a way of shopping and restaurants. We will be here for two more nights before moving onto Demopolis, Alabama, which sits right on the 31st parallel. The weather has been very nice. Mid-70s, low humidity and once you get used to the southern drawl, the people we have met are very friendly. The ladies in particular are “sugary” sweet! You almost feel yourself wanting to begin talking like them. Everyone is so polite – “yes mam, no mam”, “welcome”, “can I help you mam/sir?”. We Northerner’s would do well to pick up on some of those manners!!

Here are a couple of cat photos. The girls are doing well. Pema still loves to jump ship when she can or cause some other sorts of anxt for us. Yesterday she crawled into a crawl space along the hull of the boat – cat treats to the rescue to get her out of there! Today she shot into the engine room – an off limits area for cats – cat treats to the rescue. Ming is an angel!

"Why are you on the dock?  I was getting ready to jump"  Meow….

“Why are you on the dock? I was getting ready to jump” Meow….

Ming getting some sunshine

Ming getting some sunshine

Pema - Packer Fan!

Pema – Packer Fan!

Pema exhausted after the Packer game!

Pema exhausted after the Packer game!

Until next time, hear the banjo strumming the “Deliverance” theme song and think of us here on the Tenn-Tomm Waterway. Next stop – Demopolis, Alabama! Florida is getting closer! Can’t wait! No more locks.


2 thoughts on “The Tennessee River and Tombigbee River Waterway

  1. Hi Pauline and Mark! I enjoy reading your blog. My folks did the Tenn-Tomm Waterway about 15 years ago and had a blast. They had similar stories about the locks, the friendly people and great food in the little towns. I am hear busy at work trying to get ready for the season and am doing double duty since Chris and Shane left and Sandi is going back to Patrol. Miss you and am gald you are safe and having a wonderful time!


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