The Trail to Pickwick Landing Tennessee

Today’s post is 1100 words, 13 photos, a 5 minute read. Enjoy!

Hi everyone,

The past two blogs revolved around our five-day stay in the Metropolis, Illinois and Paducah, Kentucky area. We had a grand time, my Traveling Partner got her quilting fix while I had a couple of good bike rides on the Blue Bomber and time to catch up on writing.

It was a Sunday morning as we headed south to our next destination, Pickwick Landing, Tennessee. We would spend a couple of days there then head further south to Gulfport,  Mississippi for a brief visit  with my sister and brother-in-law, and on to the New Orleans area for JazzFest.

Unlike our trek from Madison to Metropolis, all on interstate highways, our route to Pickwick took us mostly on two lane roads. As we traveled along, we observed the abundance of churches in the small towns and rural areas. It was Sunday after all. There were Methodist, Baptist, United Church of Christ, Church of God, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, a few Catholic, and a couple of non-denominational churches. Sometimes there were three or four churches in a small village. We wondered how they all survived. I guess: “Where two or three are gathered together……” (Matthew 18: 20)

The other phenomenon was the proliferation of Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and Dollar City stores. They seemed to be everywhere, most towns of any size had one of these stores with Dollar General being the most popular. As we drove further south we began to see signs for the regional, cultural icon, Waffle House. Their website said they are in a couple thousand locations, we saw a lot of them as we traveled the byways of the rural south. People gotta eat someplace, might as well be a Waffle House.

Pickwick Landing State Park

Our lodging for our two-night stay was at Pickwick Landing State Park located near the Pickwick Landing Dam. More on that later. As we were setting up the camper, we noticed an odor, smelled like sewer gas. Ok, we were right next to the restrooms with flush toilets and showers. During the night it got worse, it smelled bad enough to wake us and give us headaches. By morning the stink was mostly gone. It was later that day when we drove through a nearby town and saw trucks hauling logs to a huge plant that we figured out was the origin of the smell. This plant processes trees into corrugated packaging for businesses and the like source of the odor. I’m guessing there was a temperature inversion that kept the stench close to the surface of the earth. I’m happy to report our second night was much better.

Pickwick Landing State Park is known for water recreation such as fishing, boating, and swimming on Pickwick Lake that was created by damming the Tennessee River by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The Park has a popular lodge and conference center, camping, a golf course, and a huge marina. In addition to the campground, there are several miles of hiking trails in the park.

We stopped by the park visitors center, it was closed for the day but we noticed other visitors peering into large enclosures. The park has rescued several birds of prey such as hawks and owls that were injured in accidents or suffering from gunshot wounds. These injured birds would never survive in nature, here they are educating the public as the alternative. There were nice displays that provided information about each of the birds. We talked to a young fella from nearby Mississippi who had driven up for the day with his wife and kids. He told us about the importance of fishing in the lakes and rivers. For most it’s recreational, for others it’s a food source. It was interesting chat. In a short time, we got a flavor of the local culture.

The park hosts several fishing tournaments every year. In fact, one was getting a start during our stay. There were a couple hundred pickups towing nice boats with big motors lined up at the boat launch to fish the tournament. No photo but it was quite a site.

Pickwick Landing Dam

Beginning in the 1840s, Pickwick Landing was a riverboat stop on the Tennessee River. When the TVA chose Pickwick Landing for one of its dams, the local name stuck to the dam.

As a kid, I remember studying something about the TVA, most likely in relation to the Great Depression. The TVA was one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal projects to provide economic development, flood control, navigation, and electricity generation to the Tennessee Valley. This region was especially hard hit by the Great Depression when compared to other parts of the country. To make this project work, more than a hundred thousand residents along the Tennessee River valley were displaced. So while the TVA provided both construction and permanent jobs that helped many people in the region, it was not popular with everyone. Over time, the TVA has evolved into the nations largest public power generation organization from the 29 dams on the river. The recreational benefits are innumerable as it brings in visitors from outside the area for fishing and boating. This provides continued economic benefits to the region.

Just below the powerhouse in the photo above, the parking lot was filled with cars and pickups. We wondered what was going. I found out when I walked over to the edge of the rock rip-rap. The area below the discharge tunnels were large groups of folks including many families with their fishing lines in the water. As I was taking photos, a few fish were reeled in. As we were leaving, a couple of boats floated up next to power plant, trying their luck in the churning water.

Built in the 1930s, the Pickwick Landing Dam is 113 feet high and over 7000 feet long. The dam created Pickwick Lake. The water looked calm and refreshing on the beautiful spring day.

This lone tree is struggling to for it’s life among the rip-rap. I hope it makes it!

On the other side of the dam are two locks that raise and lower vessels about 60 feet between Pickwick and Kentucky Lakes. Yes, there is barge traffic on the Tennessee River. They carry grain, sand and gravel, coal, petroleum products, chemicals, and other raw materials between Paducah, Kentucky and Knoxville, Tennessee, a navigable distance of over 650 miles.

In this photo, the lock is hidden behind the seawall in the center of the photo. It appears the observation deck for the lock and dam is permanently closed due to security concerns. 

Well folks, that’s a little about the Pickwick Landing area near the intersection of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. Next week, I’ll take you to the reason why we were in the area with a visit to the Shiloh National Military Park near Savannah, Tennessee.

Until then, happy travel!



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