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Old 08-15-2018, 07:11 PM   #1
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Reverse Great Loop?

Been reading up on the Great Loop adventures. Not planning to do the loop but like the Ala & Tenn River part. Question is, is it wise to go cruising up the route starting at Mobile? I only go 6 kts. So with the current “?”. Advice?

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Old 08-15-2018, 07:39 PM   #2
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Going against the flow all the way to the Great Lakes seems like a really long ride. Most do the loop counter-clockwise to get the current boost.
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Old 08-15-2018, 08:20 PM   #3
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Tenn-Tom should be fine as there are multiple locks slowing the current and the Tennessee river is easy to cruise either way
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Old 08-15-2018, 08:37 PM   #4
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Been reading up on the Great Loop adventures. Not planning to do the loop but like the Ala & Tenn River part. Question is, is it wise to go cruising up the route starting at Mobile? I only go 6 kts. So with the current “?”. Advice?

Thanks
I did the Great Loop last year. To answer your question, I plan to go up from Mobile to do the Tennessee river in a few years. The flow under normal and low water conditions is minimal. I travel 7 knots and most of the tugs and barges going up the Tombigbee are going below 7 knots also. The one caveat to this is times of high water levels. The Tombigbee isn't normally used to dump water from the Tennessee river into the Gulf. However under conditions of high water it can be used for that. Also, during periods of moderate to heavy rain, tributaries will be dumping water into the Tombigbee. The takeaway is, plan your trip based on traveling up the Tombigbee at times of low water or rain fall.

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Old 08-16-2018, 12:08 AM   #5
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Last year we went up the Tombigbee to Pickwick Lake, then to Old Hickory Lake above Nashville. This year we went up the Tennessee. We found very little current going up the Tombigbee, although we did keep a close eye on the lock water levels and avoided times of rising water. That usually followed periods of heavy rain in the watershed, and only lasted a few days. Going up the Cumberland and Tennessee we rarely encountered more than 1 to 1.5 mph of current, and then only for a few miles downstream of each dam.

We travel at 9 to 10 mph (use statute miles on the rivers) and overall have not found current to be an issue on these rivers.

Of course, past performance is no guarantee and your results may vary. The lawyers make me say that.
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Old 08-16-2018, 12:39 AM   #6
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I have only experience on the Tennessee from Paris Landing Marina north to the Ohio then to Cairo Illinois. I have not traveled from Pickwick Dam to Paris Landing but is all downhill from the Pickwick Dam to Cairo Ill. The Mississippi can be a nightmare if the water is high. The current can run 10 statute miles an hour for 218 miles to the Illinois River then against the current for about 330 miles, to Chicago. The current should be much slower than the Mississippi. The Mississppi is not friendly with boat service or towing service until you are north of St. Louis. by time you get Chicago there is no longer a current. Allow for extra time for a low water conditon on the Mississippi, or you might not make it cruising 6 mph.
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Old 08-16-2018, 09:26 AM   #7
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I work along the Illinois River just north of Peoria and in late summer there is almost zero current.
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Old 08-16-2018, 10:44 AM   #8
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You did not indicate what your time frame would be for going north. One item to consider is that beginning early September the TVA starts to draw down the reservoirs toward the winter pools. This may be as much as a 7 foot drop in water levels. Wheeler, where I am, drops 5 feet to low pool. The current through the reservoir system can increase dramatically during this time and can vary by the hour.
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Old 08-16-2018, 01:34 PM   #9
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Thanks all. Good advice. Our business is warm weather connected so we do all our off time from late fall to early spring. Thanks for all the info.
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Old 09-02-2018, 09:26 PM   #10
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I went UP the Tenn-Tom 4 times over the years all the way to the Ohio river one time when I locked into it and then down to the Ms. river to go west on the Ar. all the way to Tulsa.
Up the Cumberland and Little Tn. as well. This in the trawler that you see.
Go for it.
Went down the Ms. all the way to the Atchafalaya river and then it to the ICW and the Bayou Teche where we live.
The Ms. below Baton Rouge is nothing to see and not freindly to pleasure boaters as no services and few good anchorages. The Atchafalaya route is easy and a pleasure to run.
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Old 09-02-2018, 11:53 PM   #11
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Went down the Ms. all the way to the Atchafalaya river and then it to the ICW and the Bayou Teche where we live.
The Ms. below Baton Rouge is nothing to see and not freindly to pleasure boaters as no services and few good anchorages. The Atchafalaya route is easy and a pleasure to run.
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Thanks for that suggestion. I've been thinking of taking the Ms route south this fall and that sounds like an attractive option.
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Old 09-03-2018, 01:22 PM   #12
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Lower Ms. River and more

SOUTHERN CIRCLE CRUISE
(Includes Mississippi river Cairo to Atchafalaya River and the Arkansas River)

You’ve done the Great Circle Cruise around the eastern U. S. and the Down East Circle in New York and Canada. What’s next, you ask?
How about the Southern Circle?

Commencing at the confluence of Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, proceed up the Tenn-Tom Waterway to the Tennessee River. Hook a left on the Tennessee River through the Kentucky Lakes Region to the Cumberland River to the Ohio River. Down the Ohio to the Lower Mississippi River @ Cairo, Illinois. Continue down the Mississippi to the Arkansas River. This is where we took a big detour, actually the reason for the Southern Circle Cruise in the first place. We headed West up the Arkansas to Tulsa. Yes, Tulsa, the one in Oklahoma. (The Arkansas River leg is the subject of an upcoming article.) Back to the Mississippi and South to the Atchafalaya River. Down to the Gulf of Mexico ICW and turn East to the point of beginning, as a land surveyor would say.

The first consideration in making this trip are the river levels. It should be commenced after the spring rise has subsided.

You still have a choice--be an early bird and head North in April – June with all of the snowbirds, thus availing yourself of the Southern heat and humidity or do as we did.
THE WIFE, (I promise Ladies, this is a term of endearment, in fact, it is my wife’s nom de plume), and I decided to wait for early fall. This accomplished two things, miss the heat and as luck would have it, two big hurricanes in the Gulf. Actually we do most of our cruising October through December and then start again in early March till June 1, thereby minimizing the heat problem. When I say this, people often mention that I have A/C on board. True, but if I wanted to stay inside with the A/C on I could do it a lot cheaper at home!

Unfortunately, in 2004, the Corps closed a number of Locks on the Tenn-Tom for the last 15 days of September so that compelled a later starting date than we would have liked. Since the duration of the trip was planned to be 2.5 months we were sure to get into COLD weather and we certainly did!

We started the trip from our home on famous Bayou Teche of the poem “Evangeline” fame. We are located at the lower end of the Atchafalaya River. All of you astute readers are now wondering why one would go east on the ICW all the way to Mobile Bay to start the trip when we could just go up the Atchafalaya River a short way and get in the Mississippi River to go to Tulsa. Can you spell current? The Mississippi River current, even at low water is about 4 mph, in an 8.4 mph boat for 300 miles, plus 130 up the Atchafalaya---do the math!

The trip along the Gulf ICW is an easy one and is really a destination unto itself. After all, it takes in heavy duty Cajun Country, (Heartland Boating; The Great Circle Cajun Style; July, 2003), New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, all on a protected waterway.

The Tenn-Tom system is very well developed, as is the Cumberland River. We decided to take the detour past Nashville to Old Hickory Lake on which are many Country and Western stars homes, and then we turned around. Nashville is a fantastic stop. The very reasonably priced city dock is in the heart of Music Row with all of the attractions except Opry Land, which is easily accessed by downtown shuttle. Public transportation is also first rate. There were a number of cruising boats at the dock and as we were connecting to shore power one recognized “CC Rider” from prior articles in this august publication. It’s a small world out there! Retracing our steps on the Cumberland to the Ohio River for a short, 58 mile jaunt downstream. This is a one day affair as there aren’t any good anchorages between Smithville, at the entrance to the Ohio, where we anchored and Cairo, Illinois again where we anchored. The marina at Paducah is closed and the day we got there it was raining so we elected to push on rather than dinghy ashore in the wet and cold. Cairo is at the confluence of the Upper Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers. These two form the Lower Mississippi.

A word about the Lower Mississippi


The Corp of Engineers defines the Lower Mississippi River as commencing with Cairo, Illinois (Mississippi River mile 954) down to the Gulf. This river has gotten a bad rap over the years. Due mostly, to the lower, lower Mississippi. This is the reach between Baton Rouge and New Orleans on to the Gulf. This portion is not hospitable to cruising pleasure boats. I have been there a number of times and speak from experience. There are no services, docks, fuel and darn few anchorages, at least none that you would really want to use. It does have heavy current, levees so high that you can’t see over and huge tows.

The Mississippi River from Cairo to the Atchafalaya River in Louisiana (650 miles) is actually an easy transit. We have certainly traveled more difficult rivers. It is wide and the Coast Guard does a bang up job of maintaining the ATONS—that’s Cost Guard speak for aides to navigation. There are rock dikes all along the river that are often over-topped at high water. There are two things to keep in mind. 1. You will be staying between the Red & Greens where there are no dikes and 2. You are going at low water when most all are above the surface. (The Corps publishes a yearly dike list that is free.) Besides, behind many of them are very good anchorages. That brings up another topic of where to spend the night(s). There are a number of towns along the river but ONLY Memphis, Tennessee and Greenville, Mississippi have docks for pleasure craft. This is, as my Mama would say, “A crying shame”. Nonetheless anchorages are plentiful with many just off the towns so that you may dinghy ashore in such places as Helena, Arkansas; New Madrid, Missouri; Lake Providence, Louisiana; Vicksburg and Natchez, Mississippi. In my trip planning I simply looked at the Mississippi River Chart book- a really big one- and listed possible anchorages that “looked good” to me. Good ones are generally found at the base of a towhead island. In fact the 2 very best anchorages on the Mississippi were at Helena, Arkansas and New Madrid, Missouri below towheads.

The only marinas and fuel on the Mississippi are at Memphis and Greenville so tank up on the Cumberland before you enter the Ohio. For fuel planning Cairo is at river mile 954, Memphis is at river mile 734, Greenville is river mile 537. Downstream from there you will enter the Atchafalaya River at river mile 304 for a 130 mile slide down to Morgan City, Louisiana at the intersection of the ICW. Fuel is available at Morgan City and all along the ICW.

On the Mississippi, you will be regaled by the huge tows-don’t despair-we much prefer cruising among them than some of the pleasure boaters we encounter. There is always a bit of uncertainty as to what maneuvers a yacht will attempt as opposed to the professionalism of tow boaters. Some tows had 49 barges and the boat pushing them 10,000 horsepower. Each barge, on average, accounts for fiftyeight, 18 wheelers not being on the highway. In most places the river is so wide that there is no problem meeting these tows. But, nonetheless, I always announce my presence and intention, requesting the oncoming tow to advise me if that is OK and offering to change course or stop if needed. After you say all that on the radio even the grouchiest captain has a hard time ignoring you. Works for me. By the way you do not want to be on the OUTSIDE of a turn in the river when meeting or overtaking a tow.

I strongly recommend that you exit the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya, for the reasons cited, and completely avoid the lower, lower Mississippi.

The Atchafalaya reach is another “destination river”. You will pass through a vast cypress swamp with a number of places to anchor. Again, no towns, docks, nor services, but lots of opportunities to commune with nature. See the article in Heartland Boating by yours truly, for all that you need to know about this area.

Upon your arrival at the ICW, (Morgan City, Louisiana) there is fuel, restaurants, (Don’t miss the Latin Quarter (Cuban sandwich shop) and a great commercial marine hardware store within walking distance. This is a working port and area not to be confused with a hotbed of yachting but there is a municipal pleasure boat dock with 50amp power etc. for $20/night. This section of the ICW, Galveston, Texas to New Orleans is the “Interstate Highway” of the entire system. Towboats and commercial craft of every description abound. Heading East or West you “may” encounter one pleasure boat every 3-4 days of travel. New Orleans is 95 miles to the East and Galveston is 260 miles to the West.

For those completing the Great Circle Cruise who’ve done the Tenn-Tom reach this is a grand alternative route. Look at what is open to you: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Western Mississippi, swamp in Louisiana that very darn few tourists ever see plus the ICW in Louisiana and Texas down to the Mexican border. ----You are waiting for what?

Now, for a little local color. On the entire Mississippi we only saw two pleasure boats. One, a 57 ft. Hatteras convertible that the owner said was burning $900 per day in fuel and a gasoline powered houseboat that we assisted in getting off of a sandbar. He said he was getting coffee and did not see the buoy!

We did see a nice wood TROJAN yacht up on the bank and abandoned. I commented that that must have ruined the whole day. Weeks later at Little Rock, Arkansas we found out the rest of the story. The owner had just purchased the boat and was going home with it when he struck something and deliberately ran it aground to avoid sinking. Ok, but he took too long to get back and it went down. Did I mention that there was a problem with the insurance coverage!!!!! We saw another TROJAN very similar to it in Mississippi on an earlier trip and its name was “Safe Sex”.
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Old 09-05-2018, 08:31 PM   #13
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Wow, thanks for the detailed writeup. I'm getting keen on that route. Sounds like my kind of travelling. Will let y'all know if I stay on the Ms at Cairo :-)

I'm guessing that Nov and Dec should be a pretty good time of year for cruising the gulf ICW. Would love to head west for a while anyway.

What issue is your article in?
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Old 09-05-2018, 08:56 PM   #14
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Jeff,

Nov and Dec, is good for the Gulf ICW, our "winter" is usually Jan and Feb.
That is the full article. I assume that you will start in Canada and come down the Ohio. Actually a better route to the Gulf is down the Tenn-tom than the Ms. we did the Ms. to get to the Arkansas R. and continued on down the Ms.


Much more to see on the Tenn-Tom system including Nashville and Chattanooga and such.
West bound on the ICW to Texas is a good trip, again, we did that several times.



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Old 09-05-2018, 09:51 PM   #15
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Jeff,

Nov and Dec, is good for the Gulf ICW, our "winter" is usually Jan and Feb.
That is the full article. I assume that you will start in Canada and come down the Ohio. Actually a better route to the Gulf is down the Tenn-tom than the Ms. we did the Ms. to get to the Arkansas R. and continued on down the Ms.

Much more to see on the Tenn-Tom system including Nashville and Chattanooga and such.
West bound on the ICW to Texas is a good trip, again, we did that several times.

CCC
Entering the Ms at Grafton. At the rate I'm going I'll have winter close behind :-). I know almost everyone takes the Tenn-Tom but I'm thinking of heading back that way next spring to explore the Tennessee and Ohio end to end. This route looks like a good loop to do that. And I kind of like getting off the well worn path.
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Old 09-06-2018, 06:23 PM   #16
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Been reading up on the Great Loop adventures. Not planning to do the loop but like the Ala & Tenn River part. Question is, is it wise to go cruising up the route starting at Mobile? I only go 6 kts. So with the current “?”. Advice?

Thanks

We are on the TN in Chattanoogo. Leaving 9/23 for Fl and the Bahamas. We have had a lot of rain and the locks are letting our some flow creating current. At trawler speed, it will be work going up river but in my opinion worth it. Maybe we will pass you along the route. Safe cruising.
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Old 10-23-2018, 05:16 PM   #17
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Jeff,

Nov and Dec, is good for the Gulf ICW, our "winter" is usually Jan and Feb.
That is the full article. I assume that you will start in Canada and come down the Ohio. Actually a better route to the Gulf is down the Tenn-tom than the Ms. we did the Ms. to get to the Arkansas R. and continued on down the Ms.


Much more to see on the Tenn-Tom system including Nashville and Chattanooga and such.
West bound on the ICW to Texas is a good trip, again, we did that several times.
CCC
Having done the routes you describe several times, I fully concur that the Mississippi/Atchafalaya route is the deal. The Mississippi is an awesome river but you get a bit tired of it after the 650 miles between Cairo and Old River Lock. In fact, I just passed thru your neck of the woods last week on a delivery from Little Rock, AR (my home port) to Biloxi. If I had seen this thread sooner, I would have contacted you. Anyway, it was a great trip until we got to the Bayou Boeuf lock, which we discovered was closed until mid-Nov. However, the Bayou Shaffer/Chene detour was interesting and not too far out of the way, so nothing lost.

I too think its a crying shame that, on my three trips down the Ohio, Miss., etc. to the Gulf (over 2000 miles total) I have only encountered 4 - yes four - pleasure boats! wave at me if you ever go up the Arkansas past L.R. again.

Keep up the good work
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Old 10-24-2018, 10:01 AM   #18
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Jeff,

Nov and Dec, is good for the Gulf ICW, our "winter" is usually Jan and Feb.
That is the full article. I assume that you will start in Canada and come down the Ohio. Actually a better route to the Gulf is down the Tenn-tom than the Ms. we did the Ms. to get to the Arkansas R. and continued on down the Ms.


Much more to see on the Tenn-Tom system including Nashville and Chattanooga and such.
West bound on the ICW to Texas is a good trip, again, we did that several times.



CCC
I have always wondered why you do not see more cruisers come through our area. I see very few cruisers use the public docks in Morgan City. The ones I have talked with are either heading to or from Texas.
The first trip I want to do when I purchase my boat is up the Tenn-Tom down the Miss to the Atchafalaya through the Buff locks and to the Spunkey Monkey.

BTW Latin Corner closed a few months ago. I need a black bean fix really bad right now.
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Old 10-24-2018, 11:07 PM   #19
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I have always wondered why you do not see more cruisers come through our area. I see very few cruisers use the public docks in Morgan City. The ones I have talked with are either heading to or from Texas.
The first trip I want to do when I purchase my boat is up the Tenn-Tom down the Miss to the Atchafalaya through the Buff locks and to the Spunkey Monkey.
I'm heading that way, leaving Chicago in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to it.
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Old 10-25-2018, 09:19 AM   #20
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I'm heading that way, leaving Chicago in a couple of weeks. Looking forward to it.
If you pass through Morgan City and need a ride for supplies let me know.
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