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Old 08-04-2011, 19:58   #1
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Up Stream Tenn. River to Upper Mississippi

I have recently agreed to take at Lazzara 80 power Boat from Naples FL to a port near St Paul MN. Draft 4.6' Beam 20.1' Air draft approx 19'. i was considering going up the Miss River, but I saw a thread on this site about the Tenn-Tomm. I am orriginally from seattle....didnt even know this existed. I would love more info on this water way. ie realistic speeds to anticipate, approx time clearing the locks, etc etc. I will only run this day light hours just as I would on my many inside passags in the PNW to Alaska. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 09-04-2011, 05:53   #2
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Re: Up Stream Tenn. River to Upper Mississippi

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, cappyz.

Check out the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway
Let me google that for you
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Old 09-04-2011, 06:35   #3
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Re: Up Stream Tenn. River to Upper Mississippi

It's best to make the trip (either up or down) mid to late summer, when the rivers are low. Right now they are very high and littered with debris from the spring thaw up north. They will continue to run high until the spring rains subside and everything dries up for summer. Maybe June at the earliest.

I don't know exactly what the tenn-tom looks like, but I can see the OH river right now, and its very messy :/

If you google "great loop" you will find various guides/blogs for different sections. Most people going south on the Tenn-Tom in the fall, so you won't see much talk about the spring floods.
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Old 09-04-2011, 06:42   #4
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Re: Up Stream Tenn. River to Upper Mississippi

Oops, your aim was a little off on that post Pete.

A good friend worked the coal barges on the river system in Alabama for years and has related some stories to me over the years.

Besides the locks there are also railroad bridges to clear under, and highway bridges of course but they are usually tall. The rail bridges have to be lifted but with your clearance some will not. The Army Corps of Engineers have free e-charts for the river system now.

Only about four or five locks to get to the Mississippi line (that's as far as I'm going sometime soon) but then in MS there are many locks to get into Tennessee because of elevation change. Don't know much about the rest.

The coal barges are HUGE and want the entire river to maneuver in the bends. Pushed from the rear they swing around at the back and care must be taken not to be in a squeeze play with the river bank. Many bends are 180's and it's best not to be there with a barge. Communicating with the barges will help.

I know you will be working but it sure is a great place to be floating along.


edit,.... good point about he flow right now. There is a website with real time updates I'll look for.

Some of the locks and dams are only a few feet high in Alabama. When the flow over the dam is great enough the barges simply bypass the lock going downriver and simply steam directly over the dam since the water is over them. Sounds crazy but they do it.

Once the flow was so great my friends float was full reverse at full power and still going down river. They had to put it into the bank and knock down an acre of trees to stop.
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Old 05-07-2011, 17:05   #5
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Re: Up Stream Tenn. River to Upper Mississippi

My wife and I are considering making the trip from Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi and possibly Tenn-Tom Waterway. We will be sailing in a very competent 38' sailboat. Any help or comments would be appreciated.

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Old 05-07-2011, 17:38   #6
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Re: Up Stream Tenn. River to Upper Mississippi

We have made the trip from Cincinnati to the Gulf of Mexico several times in our 48' motor vessel that draws 4 ft. and 25' high (radio antennas) We went the Tenn-Tom route and would highly recommend it.

No problems with bridges because most are either high enough or are swing or lift bridges. Communication is key -- with bridge tenders, with lock masters and with tows working the river. If you're coming up or down the river and let the lock master know you are going all the way north or south, they'll notify the next lock for you. That can help if there is not a lot or tow (barge) traffic and they'll leave the lock open in the proper position.

Anyway -- you'll run into (literally!) a lot of junk in the river now because of all the flooding, etc. It is really a nice trip, though. Get a good guide and you'll see lots of places to anchor at night, behind islands, up small tributaries. One of our favorite places is Bird Song Creek up in Kentucky, and also the Alabama River Cutoff, just north of Mobile.
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Old 05-07-2011, 17:43   #7
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Re: Up Stream Tenn. River to Upper Mississippi

Thanks a lot Sailorgal. We'll be doing a lot of research, and this info helps.
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Old 05-07-2011, 17:49   #8
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Re: Up Stream Tenn. River to Upper Mississippi

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Originally Posted by BoatTed View Post
My wife and I are considering making the trip from Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi and possibly Tenn-Tom Waterway. We will be sailing in a very competent 38' sailboat. Any help or comments would be appreciated.

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