Friday, November 15, 2013

Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway

We are half way through the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway, the Army Corps of Engineers created link between the Tennessee River and the Gulf of Mexico. The Tombigbee River was a commercial river as early as the 1830s, although river boats could only run on it during the rainy season, which ran from November to April. The rest of the year there wasn't enough water to support even the shallow draft paddle-wheelers. The locals started agitating to dam the river and connect it to the Tennessee as early as the 1870s, although Congress didn't approve the project until the late 1940s and didn't fund it until the 1970s. There is a 25 mile ditch dug between the Tennessee and the headwaters of the Tombigbee and a series of dams that ensure the river remains deep enough to support year round commercial tug/barge traffic.

Tenn Tom ditch
There are several large creeks in the area where the ditch was dug, but the ditch is too narrow to let those creeks flow directly into the ditch. The water flow would push traveling boats, especially small pleasure craft all over the narrow ditch. So the Corps of Engineers devised these special flow control areas to break up the creeks and feed the water gently into the Tenn Tom.


We had a first on the boat this week. It was actually too cold to move the boat.  In the three weeks since we left the Knoxville area, we have had 5-7 days of below 30 degree temperatures. Some boats are built with heaters that run off of propane or diesel fuel. As a Florida-built boat, Down Time has a heat pump that provides both heat and air conditioning, just like a home heat pump does. But the heat pump runs on 110 volt power which we can get either by plugging into a marina's power or by running our generator. If we are in a marina, no problem. But if we anchor out and the temperature drops below freezing, the only way to keep from freezing ourselves would be to run the generator all night. Not a good idea. So we ended up staying an extra day in the marina in Columbus, Mississippi because the forecast was for 25 degrees.

We have also discovered that in extremely cold temperatures, it rains inside the boat. The warm air inside the boat meets the cold temperature outside the boat at the plexiglas hatches, condenses on the inside of the hatches and then drops from the hatches (which are installed at an angle) onto the surface below. Unfortunately, one of the surfaces below two of the big hatches is our bed, specifically my side of our bed. Nothing like a good splash to wake you up in the middle of the night. We've owned the boat for ten years and are just discovering this "feature." I don't guess it will be a problem when we get back to Florida, but for now it is driving me crazy.

This part of the country, Alabama and Mississippi, is timber country. There are lots of tree farms and wood processing plants in this area and there are a reasonable number of logs and tree limbs floating in the water of the rivers. You pay attention and maneuver around them with your boat. Yesterday, Jim was driving and we both saw what we thought were partially submerged logs. But they were moving very strangely. I grabbed the binoculars to see what was going on and saw this -- two dogs swimming across the river.  They weren't this least bit panicked, clearly knew where they were going and had done this before. Gave us quite a start, though.

Dogs crossing the Tenn Tom
Today we passed the White Cliffs of Epes, Alabama. You've heard of the White Cliffs of Dover in England? Well, these are much smaller, but made from the same chalk-like substance as the bigger cliffs in England.



The rest of the area is trees to the waterline and then you come to this startling 1/8 to 1/4 mile long set of white walls on one side of the river. No where else on the river looks anything like this. Most of the shoreline is trees in various stages of Fall colors.

I'll close this post with some shots of the colors in the trees.






Next week we'll be in Mobile and the week after that we'll be home!

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