I didn’t think this would really be a cakewalk and the first look back shocked me with how little distance I had covered. Camping was easy on the Ohio but the banks of the Cumberland proved to be muddy and steep straight to the water and up to a 20 ft cutbank. The current was also much swifter than the Ohio and it was imperative to use eddies to work my way up the stream and follow the inside of bends.

The sunset was a rosy hue like a treat after the grueling upstream workout. I put in a good bath, kindled the Twig stove for dinner of lentils, quinoa and eggs then set up my hammock in the few scraggly trees. Tows passed by in the night only 30ft away, their engines rumbling from the darkness with two brilliant beams piercing their direction into the nothingness.

It took a total of three days to make it up the 30 miles of Cumberland River. The many Asian carp and dead catfish along the way weren’t a good sign for healthy waterways but I pressed on with constant determination to reach the Barkley Lock and soon, Kentucky Lake.

As you can see here, the river gets very narrow at times.

Some church decided to throw plastic jugs and bottles in to the river with religious messages. Littering in the name of God is ludicrous. Come on people, there are better methods of spreading the word than garbage.

It was a challenge but with the mantra “I think I can, I know I can” and stopping for many breaks on the few Sandy beaches, I finally made Barkley Lock and Dam by sundown. The imposing lock is twice as tall as the usual locks I’ve frequented and took nearly 20 minutes to ascend the 50 ft or more rise.

This sexy 500hp powerboat locked through with me. Happy to share the space.

And next…Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake!

Oh yeah baby! This is what I’ve been waiting for. Some wide open water.


3 thoughts on “Cumberland River

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