Monday, November 2, 2015

To Land Between the Lakes and the Mississippi River

Kentucky is a little unusual in that there are a number of what are called "parkways". Many of them are east-west and they are 4 lane divided highways.  For most of our travels on these parkways they were very lightly traveled.

On a rainy day, we decided to stick with a short distance on Interstate 75 to Route 80 west (Cumberland Parkway) and then Route 127 south to Kendall Recreation Area COE on Lake Cumberland.

Lake Cumberland is the largest lake ,by volume, east of the Mississippi.  A huge electric power station is located at the dam.  Also a large national fish hatchery-Wolf Creek This link will give you some information on the hatchery( They produce about 1 million rainbow,brown, and brook trout annually) Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery. We missed a lot of activity with the rain, but Lake Cumberland is also the houseboat capital of the U.S.

From Kendall, we head back up to the parkway and then west to Glasgow. Then it's the 31E south to 252 to Barren River Lake and Tailwater Recreation Area.

A number of the COE parks have already closed and it is a challenge to be sure what is open.  We thought this campground was open, but this is the sign as we entered.  BUT!!!! note the parentheses.


As you can see above, our site backs right up to the river.  Since the campground is closed, the water and electricity are off and the bathrooms are closed.  But we are self-contained and have all the water and electricity we need.  Being a rainy two days, however, we are using our generator a lot and not seeing a lot of charging from our solar panels.  The few other campers here are dedicated fishermen.  The water is released from the dam here and they are having good luck with some large fish right from shore.

From Tailwater, Jan and I head south on Route 252 to Route 231 north to Bowling Green. Out of Bowling Green it is Route 80 west to Hopkinsville and the Route 109 north to Pennyrile State Park.
This is a quiet, picturesque route.  Along the way we can tell that we are in tobacco country with the drying barns showing off the latest crops.  Also along the way are signs of Amish country and especially a great bakery in Auburn, Kentucky called Countryside Bake Shop. As a small diner they served a great pulled pork sandwich.  But even better were the pumpkin bars and fresh bread!!

We don't often say this, but this time we will say that we would NOT recommend Pennyrile State Park.  While the area and grounds were pleasant enough, the sites were mostly quite off level. Strangely enough, there was a separate horse camp and those sites were exceptionally level and large.  So, a very short stay and off to Route 69 west to Route 453 south to Hillman Ferry Campground in Land Between the Lakes.

Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area is a beautiful , quiet drive that will remind you of the Skyline Drive in Virginia or the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, or the Natchez Trace down into Mississippi.

The area was created by a dam on the Tennessee River --creating Kentucky Lake on the west.  And then a dam on the Cumberland River creating Lake Barkley on the east.

Both of these rivers flow north to join the Ohio River which then joins the Mississippi River.

One of the nicest campgrounds is Hillman Ferry Campground as you enter the north entrance to the LBL.  Over 300 sites, nicely spaced, with some for water and electric and some for full hookup.

Just north of Hillman Ferry is Grand Rivers, Kentucky.  
This is a small town that caters to the tourists on the lakes and LBL.
At the marina are a number of sailboats including some for rental

Central to Grand Rivers is Patti's 1880's Settlement.  This is a Mom and Pop restaurant that started in 1977 as a small hamburger diner.  Now it is multiple restaurants and shops. The restaurant is known as number one small town restaurant in Southern Living Magazine.  It is famous for a 2 inch pork chop.
How about a rustic chair set?
or a rusty steam engine?
And then there is the Pink Tractor clothing shop.
Of course Jan and I find Mister BBQ.  A small diner with all homemade meals.  We both had a pulled pork meal that was absolutely wonderful.  
A short distance south on the LBL is the Elk and Bison Prairie. This is a 700 acre refuge that currently has 61 elk and 59 bison.
The elk are hiding during the daytime. But we did see this female in the woods
One of the rangers has these elk horns in his vehicle.
Jan agrees they are impressive.
Bruce sees this elk in the visitors center.  That's as close as you can get.
The bison are more cooperative. A large number are resting as a herd in the woods.
One seems as interested in us as we are in them.
Obviously, the turkeys are enjoying the refuge as much as the bison and elk.
From the Prairie there is a junction for Route 80 that takes us west to Columbus-Belmont State Park on the Mississippi River.
 Similar in some ways to Natchez, Mississippi that we visited last year.  Not as busy with the barge traffic as West Memphis from previous years.
This is our view from Lady Blue's back window.
Columbus was a major stop along the Mississippi in the 1800's before bridges.  As such, it became an important Confederate fort in 1861 during the Civil War.  The earthworks fort is still visible in the park.
One advantage is a great sunset !

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