John wanted to do a canoe trip; but he hates to drive. After travelling to Canada, Minnesota, Alaska and Utah, a closer trip appealed to me. The take-out was only 45 minutes away!
A day trip down a small river in southern middle Tennessee.
Near the Put-in we passed the remains of Bell's Mill, an old water powered mill.
John prepares to shove off. At 6'5" 200 lbs., he found my 10.5' Hornbeck a little tight.
John threads his way through a sweeper--one of many we encountered.
The Elk forms as several streams flow off the Cumberland Plateau. It travels generally west and joins the Tennessee River eventually. We put in at the bridge where the USGS maintains a gauge. The river was flowing at 46 cfs, which is probably the minimum level to do the river. Due to this low flow we had to lift our canoes over several logs and portage around several sweepers.
We paddled my 10.5' Hornbeck canoe and my 11.5' handmade Wee Lassie stripper. These boats with their shallow draft and short length (not to mention light weight) were ideal for this Class I paddling. Larger canoes could not have fit under or between many of the logs we encountered and would have been much heavier to lift up slippery banks.
We left one vehicle at Dabb's Ford Bridge, where the Elk widens out as it enters Woods Reservoir, which was constructed to cool the various wind tunnels at nearby Arnold Engineering and Development Center. We parked the other vehicle by the side of highway US 41 just beyond Pelham in the community of Mountain View. Even though we could hear the roar of I-24 when we put in, it took us an hour to pass underneath it. It took another hour to reach famous Blue Bell Island, home of thousands of bluebells and the rare Dwarf Trillium.
It took an enjoyable 4 hours to reach the end of our trip. Wildlife was abundant. We had three good looks at barred owls. I saw a mink cruising along the bank. We saw several yellow warblers, which we do not see on top of the plateau. Ducks (Mallards and Wood) and Great Blue Herons were commonplace as were the usual songbirds of the area. The trees were just coming out and the catkins of several trees formed a blanket on the surface of the water and indicated the fastest current. We also saw several large carp that seemed to prefer faster water flowing over sand.
The poison oak was just coming out and several times we had to make a hard decision--portage around a sweeper or try to avoid the vine that covered many of the fallen trees. At the moment neither of us have any itching!
It almost goes without saying that we saw nobody else canoeing the river. We saw one guy camped on the bank. He was sitting shirtless in front of his tent. John thought he was weeping. I thought he was sick. We spoke to him and he just grunted. We kept going.
A great trip! We were home an hour after we landed at Dabb's Ford--tired but exhilarated by immersing ourselves in the wonderful Tennessee spring time.