The plan was to ride from St. Louis to Nashville, via the Cumberland River. Sure, it’s not quite all on the “loop” but the Cumberland is a must-see if given the chance. Nashville was also our destination for a place to stay for a day or two at the end of this leg.
On a beautiful (and warm) Memorial Weekend, Kenneth “Duker” Cossette, myself aboard two Sea-Doo GTX Limiteds equipped with matching Cargo Wave LLC towables and what I could imagine being the world’s largest collection of YETI coolers landed in St. Charles, Missouri. It was late afternoon Friday and we found ourselves at the planned Wuele Harbor north of St. Louis and a little south of Lock 25.
Duker’s “Big Loop” from northern Mississippi last year ended north of the lock, mile marker 259, in Hamburg, MS, and that’s where we would begin this year. After a bit of logistics work, we made a shakedown run up to the lock. The waters were running quite high, a good 5 knots and there was a ton of debris to watch out for.
The run through St. Louis proper was nothing less than insane. Barges and tugs were everywhere, churning up huge waves coming from every direction, all with a very strong current. A breakdown would be life threatening. We made it through and there it was, the St. Louis Arch. We snapped a couple of pictures and we were out of there, leaving the madness behind. We started late and Alton Marina (mile marker 202) was our next stop for fuel and food.
Alton was a great place and the people were too so we stayed the night. We got moving early the next morning, after a stop for four fuel cans we would need down river. No fuel docks were available until Paducah, some 200 miles down river. After topping off and filling the cans at Hoppies Landing (mile marker 158) and some enjoyable conversation, we took off for the next destination; Cape Girardeau.
After running for about 7 hours and estimated 130+ miles, (around MM 70), we camped out north of Cape Girardeau. The hammock tents were comfortable from what I remember, but it was a beautiful night on the Big Muddy. It was Memorial Day in Cape Giradeau, and we were granted docking at the only place available, Kidd Fuel Dock (which served diesel only). The gracious owner lent us the gate key and we were off to find (hire) someone to help us get a lot of gas!
The first two guys we met on the waterfront said they would love to help out for some cash and gas in his car. Two trips and two hours later we were fueled and racing to untie.
It was already 2pm and our next port was Paducah, Kentucky. We raised our average speed to 40 mph, made the turn up the Ohio at Cairo, MS. It’s 100 miles from Cape Giradeau to Paducah, up river against the current and moving fast. By 7pm the rain had set in, and I had to pull ashore before running out of fuel. Duker went on to Paducah to find fuel and there was nothing to be found. Then he ran across a tug boat Wwrker in a skiff that gave him 10 gallons off the tug’s tanks at no charge. He would not take the money. We made the docks in stinging rain just as night fell. A Holiday Inn was right next to the brand new city docks.
The following day was Tuesday, and it rained all day. We took a “decompression day” as Duker called it. I found it appropriate. Paducah is a great historic town and has a wonderful moonshine distillery. Lewis and Clark would be proud! Wednesday morning and the trip recommenced. Our next stop was Prizer Point Marina and Campground on Lake Barkley. We enjoyed a nice run on the Tennessee River up to the lock, ahead of the lakes. Sadly Duker’s smartphone bounced the wrong way and into the depths forever it went.
The water was pretty high on the lake and that helped us cut some time and miles, allowing us to make Prizer Point a little early. We were set up in a great south-facing cabin on the lake. The next day we pushed to Nashville, specifically Rock Harbor Marina. As we sat on our cabin’s deck reviewing the trip (and 365 miles so far), we recount what an absolutely fantastic experience that will never be forgotten. A PWC trip on the river – any river – will leave you with fantastic memories, smiles, and laughs!
We left early with 120 miles to travel this day. Lake Barkley was beautiful. We refueled at the little dock in Bumpus Mills, TN. The Cumberland was flat before us, nothing but green forest and glassy water. We ran straight through, fascinated by the beautiful channel. We reached west of Rock Harbor and stop mid-stream. The river is deafening silent here except for wildlife and hammers! The sound of construction echoed nearby, which was very weird because nothing was visible.
Pulling into the marina, past a big floating restaurant, people stared at these two worn and sunburned guys on PWC pulling some weird towable they’ve never seen. We met a lot of folks on this trip and every one asked…what is that? That’s a Cargo Wave, the towable gear hauler for PWC. The light goes on and they say, “That’s the coolest thing,” and I say, “No, our Big Loop River trip was!” Thanks Duker for the most enjoyable time on the water I have ever had, all 485 miles of it!