Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Little Tennessee River and the Great Smoky Mountains

We have made it as far north as we are going on the Tennessee River, to Lenoir City about 50 miles south of Knoxville. I know we said we were headed to Knoxville, but Fall is really falling around here. We've gone from the high 70s and low 80s during the day to the mid to low 50s in little more than a week. Two days from now the low will be 27. I know to my family living in Salt Lake and our friends in Cleveland that doesn't sound so bad, but we are on a boat and boats are not known for their insulation. Its getting cold here.

We have been having a wonderful time since we left Chattanooga.  Most people doing the Great Loop cruise never even get to Chattanooga and even fewer head further north, but believe me, they miss the best part of the trip. The lakes north of Chattanooga are surrounded by hills with forest running all the way to the water line. The river twists and turns through canyons giving you great views around every corner. As you get further north the Great Smoky Mountains become the backdrop behind the Tennessee River hills. It is all just stunning to see.
Smokies in the distance
Our friend Ron Westbrook from Texas drove up to spend some time with us and we went cruising up the Little Tennessee River and Tellico Lake. Tellico Lake is the last lake formed by a TVA dam. The TVA decided it needed to dam the Little Tennessee River at the point it connects with the Tennessee for flood control purposes. They started building the dam in the 1960s and folks around here went nuts. The Little Tennessee was the last naturally flowing river in this area and there was tremendous opposition to damming it. The development was tied up in the courts for over 10 years and the lake wasn't created until 1979. I'm not sure that we would have been able to take a boat as big as Down Time into the Little Tennessee if the dam hadn't been built, so I'm grateful for the dam.

Because Tellico Lake is so new, some of the structures in the areas that were flooded are still standing. These three silos are poking out of the water marking the location of a farm that was flooded.

For so new a lake, there is a surprising amount of residential development around the northern end of Tellico Lake, the area around Knoxville. Lots of very expensive and reasonably ugly monster homes line the banks of the lake. But as you get further south, the housing thins out and by the time you get to to foot of the Smokies, you are back in nearly undeveloped land.

This is the area the Cherokees inhabited before they were driven out to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears. The Cherokees fought for the British/Americans in the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Before the men would head off to fight, they asked the British to build a fort to provide protection for their women and children. The fort site was thoroughly excavated during the time of the anti-Tellico Lake lawsuits and the point of land on which it had stood was built up to ensure that it wouldn't be covered by the new lake. Then the fort itself was recreated on the site. We anchored off the fort and took our dinghy in to walk around and learn more about the history of this area.

Fort Louden
While we were at the fort, the ranger (state park employee, not a furloughed federal worker thankfully), told us about the Sequoyah Birthplace museum just a mile up the river. Like probably most of you, I had heard the name Sequoyah but couldn't have told you more than he was a 19th century Native American. Turns out he was the man who single-handedly developed the Cherokee alphabet, the only known instance in history of an alphabet being developed by a single person. Even more amazing, once the Cherokees understood what he had done, the entire tribe (approximately 30,000 people) were able to read and write within a year.

From Fort Louden we continued south to the end of the marked channel on the Little Tennessee River, as far a you can safely take a boat as big as ours. We anchored at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Foot of the Smokies
As the days have cooled down, we are also getting mist rising up from the river in the morning.

Some days the "mist" is a thick fog. Yesterday, the boat next to us in the marina had to wait until 11:00 AM for the fog to burn off enough to move, another indication that it is time to head south.

One other stop we made on the way up the Tennessee was Dayton, TN, site of the Scopes Monkey trial in 1925. You may remember (or you may have seen the Spencer Tracy movie Inherit the Wind) that the Scopes trial was about teaching evolution in the schools. The courthouse in which the trail was held is still in use today. In fact the same spectator chairs, judge's bench and jury chairs that were there in 1925 are still there today. Many of the same businesses are still operating. Dayton is a small town that hasn't changed much at all. They do have a nice little museum about the trail in the basement of the courthouse.

Jim at the Clarence Darrow/Spencer Tracy podium

Original spectator chairs
On the way up the river the trees were still mostly green with just a hint that fall colors were to come. I suspect that we will see some beautiful colors on our way south. We will try to capture some of the best views to share with you. Think positive thoughts about us getting out of here without freezing to death.

No comments:

Post a Comment