The Tenn-Tom Waterway

This waterway running from Pickwick Lake to Demopolis, AL is divided into three distinct sections.  The first is called the “Divide Cut” and goes from Pickwick Lake to Yellow Creek.  The Divide Cut is 414 feet above sea level.  There is then the “Canal Section” which runs 52 miles, with 5 locks going down.  There is then the “River” which runs 149 miles and ends at the Black Warrior River, which we follow to Mobile, AL.  There are a total of 10 locks on the Tenn-Tom waterway, all with floating bollards, which make locking through much easier than other locks we have done.  Of course, there are times where the maintenance has not been up to par, and there is a bollard missing, which makes for an exciting minute or two!

We anchored out this week for the most part; there are some beautiful anchorages on this part of the waterway.  We travelled for a way with the catamaran “Arcadia”, dingied ashore, had dinner, and anchored within sight of each other (safety in numbers, remember ‘Deliverance’).  Bruce spends some time flying a kite from the boat while motoring.  We spent Halloween at an anchorage outside Smithville, MS, I wanted to get dressed and take our Dingy to go trick or treating, but we settled for cocktails instead.

This section of the waterway is by far the dirtiest we have yet seen.  Both with the color of the water, and the debris floating in it.  There was one area where MBA had to stand at the bow and direct the helm through the floating plants they were so thick (and some were attached to large logs) for about 10 miles.  Anchorages were thick with it, as were some areas in the channel.  The water color was a thick muddy brown.  There were pipes pumping something into the river every hundred feet for several miles.  Not sure what it is, but I wasn’t going swimming to find out!

The fall colors in this section are glorious!  It is still warm (in the 70’s during the day, and drops to the high 40’s at night.  (Keeps the bugs away.)

We anchored at the Bevill Lock for the night, and in the morning took our dingy to shore to visit the Bevill Visitor Center, and tour the last steam powered sternwheeler Snagboat (“Montgomery”).  These boats would cruise the inland waterways of the south removing stumps and trees in the navigable part of the waterways.

I learned a few facts about the Tenn-Tom waterway in the visitor center.  One barge (four by four) pushed by one tow carries the same amount of freight as 480 eighteen wheelers!  I wonder if the Pilot gets paid four hundred eighty times as much per mile?  One third more earth was moved for the Tenn-Tom than the Panama Canal.  This waterway was finally opened in 1985, although plans for it go back to the eighteen hundreds.

We have been on the water for a week, no marina’s, completely self sufficient.  Everything is working well!  We passed the white cliffs of Epes today (Tuesday) and they are spectacular!  I have no idea what they are, the guidebooks don’t say, and I haven’t had internet so I can’t find out.  I will when I get to Demopolis on Wednesday.

Tonight we are anchored at Rattlesnake Bend, Alabama (alone, we left Arcadia a couple days ago).  I wanted to take our dingy ashore and go hiking, to see why the place has its name, but I was outvoted.  We stay on the boat and close all the thru hulls.  Tomorrow, we will be at the Demopolis, Alabama marina for the day, we will provision, and get ready for our last leg, the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway which will take us to Mobile Bay, and our mast at Turner Marine.  That is the Gulf of Mexico, how exciting.  We are thinking about renting a car and driving to New Orleans for a couple days, see the French Quarter.  We’ll see when we get there.  For now, we are just happy to be as far as we are, and are looking forward to seeing blue water!

Love to all,
Joe and Mary Beth Amelia
S/V “Pot ‘O’ Gold”

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One Response to “The Tenn-Tom Waterway”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Glad to hear that your having a much better trip than earlier in the venture. I bet you can’t wait to get to the Gulf of Mexico!!!. Your boat will need a good scrubbing down after all the debree you’ve driven thru. Our weather is about mid 60’s and 70’s down to 50’s at night. Todd is layed off right now. Probably till Mar 09 That’s pretty bad with 22 years of seinority. They can’t get the old guy’s out that have 40 years and are turning 65 or so cause you can work till your 72. They have no respect for them and use to razz them alot. But now maybe they will retire sooner because their having to do all the heavy lifting steel jobs. Todd figured out they were making about $3.00/ hour after their full pension which is about $3200 per month and Old Age Security and Canada Pension. Oh well no use complaing, I put him to work gutting the boys bedroom and insulating. I have lots more projects I can find I’m sure. Lucas and Adam are fine Were busy selling Magazines and cookie dough for their end of the year school trips. Todd has being helping Uncle Roger pack his trailer for his move to Barrie Well just out side I guess. He hasn’t sold his house yet. So he says he’ll probably be here for the winter. They want $279.000 which is not near what they paid and put into it. You know Roger he’s a perfectionist. Well I’ll go for now I need to get to bed. Worked midnights last night. Hope everything continues well for you Thinking of you often. LOVE AMY LUCAS ADAM AND TODD.

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