Day 51: 55 Miles
We all slept good at the park and were able to start paddling by 7am. We saw Jerry again this morning…as we were paddling, he came by in his fishing boat. He is an avid fan of fishing for blue catfish and goes out pretty much everyday on the river. It was nice to see him again and thank him again for everything. The day was really nice with blue skies and mostly calm wind. There was quite a bit of barge traffic, but we were able to stay clear of them, so it wasn’t a problem. The river is usually really wide now, feeling often like a big lake. There are a lot of wingdams in the river, so we aren’t able to cut corners like we used to. The wingdams are usually on the inside of turns, sticking out really far, sometimes pretty close to the navigation channel. We’ve been trying to mostly stay in the navigation channel unless we need to move for barges…it just seems like the best current is in the channel. One new thing with the river in the last few days…the shore on the outside of turns is generally built up with fist-sized rocks, basically making it impossible to camp there, since we wouldn’t be able to park the canoes. So we generally only have one choice for camping and it is usually a big sand bar with trees. We have to pick places where the sand is not so far out, otherwise the distance between the water and the trees can be as much as half a mile. So far we’ve been able to find descent spots, but we have to accept that there will be poison ivy at each campsite. We had another nice sunset as we finished up dinner. We’re both pretty done for the day. SweetPea’s back has been bothering her and Beardoh was getting leg cramps throughout the day, so we were glad to be done paddling for the day. Today’s milestone…after less than 48 hours in KY, we now have Tennessee on our left.
Day 52: 57 Miles
We woke up to another beautiful and calm day on the river. There was steady barge traffic all day…definitely the most barge traffic we have seen on the river so far. It seemed like most of the day you could look around and see four different barges at once. We have noticed in the past four days or so, barges really creating choppy water once they have passed. We’ve always dealt with their wake, but this is different…once we pass a barge, the water can be a complete mess for a mile or so. It almost feels like going through a harbor with really big and erratic swells. We really don’t like paddling through it, even though in some ways it has started to feel routine. We had lunch on a nice sandy beach and the sun was out in full force. Luckily we got some cloud coverage in the afternoon so the sun wasn’t quite so intense. We saw our biggest barge yet at the end of the day…it was 6 containers wide and 7 containers long! A monster! Today’s milestone: we have left MO behind and now we have Arkansas on our right. We are looking forward to a shorter day tomorrow as we arrive in Memphis.
Day 53: 40 Miles
We decided to get an early start today since we are all excited to get to Memphis. We headed out at 6:30am, when it was still dark. Luckily there were no barges around us and we were able to just paddle in the navigation channel until it was light enough to see well. The wind today seemed very bipolar. Most of the time it was incredibly windy, with the river just a sea of white caps and big swells for us to navigate. Then, every once in awhile, we would have a short stint of calm waters. It made for a really hard day of paddling in choppy waters that made us all feel a bit nervous. The barge traffic continued to be pretty steady all day and we were also passed by a pleasure boat, whose captain told us we were all crazy…we certain agreed with him. We got to Memphis at 2:30pm and had time to clean up our canoe before River Angels, Mike and Virginia (and their son Charles), came to pick us up. They brought some local beer and Krystal burgers for us which was really nice. We headed back to their house and got cleaned up. We are pretty happy to be off the river for the next day and a half.