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DISCOVERY: THE TENNESSEE VALLEY
Virginia Kraft
July 07, 1958
For summer travelers in search of unexpected vacation adventure, Sports Illustrated explores the South's most impressive valley
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July 07, 1958

Discovery: The Tennessee Valley

For summer travelers in search of unexpected vacation adventure, Sports Illustrated explores the South's most impressive valley

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Chattanooga's CABLE INCLINE RAILWAY, a big attraction for kids, runs to the top of Lookout Mountain from the center of town. ROCK CITY, which advertises on practically every barn and birdhouse within 200 miles, is worth visiting at any age. Lookout Mountain and the Chattanooga-Chickamauga area are especially interesting from a historical point of view. Besides the spectacular drive along Missionary Ridge, nearby CHICKAMAUGA BATTLEFIELD, the nation's oldest and largest military park, houses the country's most complete collection of firearms. These weapons are representative of every war in which Americans have fought since prerevolutionary times.

CHICKAMAUGA TO GUNTERSVILLE—122 miles

Most vacationers on cruise plan to spend several days on Guntersville Lake. The 122-mile run to Guntersville from Loret, however, is the longest on the trip and should be broken by an overnight stop along the way. MULLINS COVE FISHING DOCK (mile 435.8) and MUD CREEK (mile 394.7) both have small overnight cabins. Mud Creek is just under 90 miles, dock to dock, from Loret and involves the time delay of two lockages. If it can be reached in a single run, accommodations here are somewhat more comfortable than at Mullins Cove. But Mud Creek is definitely not water which even the expert should attempt to navigate after dark.

Nine miles downstream from Loret, Chickamauga Dam (mile 471) is 129 feet high and an easy lockage. Just before the dam, gas up either on the right bank at GOLD POINT MARINA or on the left at CHICKAMAUGA BOAT HARBOR. The next gas stop is 35 miles from the dam.

Hales Bar Reservoir is on the other side of Chickamauga Dam. Here the river runs past the most heavily industrialized section of Chattanooga, along the base of Lookout Mountain and around Moccasin Bend. For the next 30 miles it cuts through the Grand Canyon of Tennessee, traversing some of the most spectacular country in the state. The river twists and winds its way past Signal Mountain, through such picturesquely named areas as Skillet Gap, Pot Point, Grindstone Ridge and along Raccoon Mountain to Ellis Gap. For car trailers, the Lee Highway runs parallel to Hales Bar in this section of the reservoir.

If planning an overnight stop, follow the markers at Mullins Cove Light (mile 435.8) to Mullins Cove Fishing Dock. There are also several fueling points five miles from Mullins Cove at Hales Bar Dam.

In Guntersville Reservoir, two miles downstream from the dam, the Lee Highway Bridge crosses the water. Here RAULSTON'S DOCK and BEENE'S DOCK can handle refueling problems and also launch boats up to about 28 feet.

Once past Long Island (there are several Long Islands on the river; this one is at mile 416.5), the channel runs broad and clear to Mud Creek. This is a good place to water-ski. It was possible to ski behind the boat I had on many of these stretches, although its 20-mph speed was somewhat slow for success with a monoski—at least as far as an amateur monoskier was concerned.

Mud Creek is 2½ miles off the main channel at Mud Creek Light. The secondary channel is nearly impossible to locate from the river. This spring the markers for the first half mile into the creek had fallen to ruin or been washed away and only a twisting, narrow passage between heavily overgrown banks was visible from the main channel. As deceptive as this passage appears, it is deep and safe to travel—merely frustrating to locate. A half mile up the creek, small markers run all the way to MUD CREEK DOCK.

The restaurant here specializes in Alabama barbecue at $1 a plate. This meal more than compensates for the difficulties in locating the channel. In addition to cabins, Mud Creek also has a tackle shop and overnight moorings in a protected harbor if you plan to sleep aboard. It is less than 40 miles from here to Guntersville, with one gas stop at STEWART'S DOCK, just past the Pine Island Light at mile 368.

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