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Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Paddling Fort Patrick Henry Lake in Eastern Tennessee

Suddenly we had unseasonably warm and sunny weather here in Eastern Tennessee on Tuesday, November 9, 2021!  The afternoon temperatures reached 70F.  We took the opportunity to pack up the kayaks and drive them over to nearby Fort Patrick Henry Lake in Warriors Path State Park.  While there were a number of people in the park, there was no one else in the water as we launched into a riot of Autumn color:

Fort Patrick Henry Lake is named for a Revolutionary War-era fort once located at nearby Long Island of the Holston River.  The Long Island of the Holston River was an important site for the Cherokee and their ancestors, as their homelands for thousands of years. Their territory extended into present-day western North and South Carolina, and northeast Georgia. It was a sacred council and treaty site among the Cherokee.  European colonial pioneers and early settlers of the region also used the island for its strategic location. Daniel Boone, in 1775, began from the Long Island to clear the Wilderness Road, which extended through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky.  During the Revolution, the Cherokee allied with the British, in the hope of expelling colonists from their territory. European-American settlers built Fort Patrick Henry on the north bank of the South Fork of the Holston River. Colonel William Christian commanded 2,000 men in a punitive expedition against the Cherokee towns, suppressing their resistance. The 1777 Treaty of Long Island (Avery Treaty) stated that the Cherokee still owned the land of Long Island, but they relinquished all claims to other land occupied by whites in east Tennessee. 

We could see why the Cherokee and the Europeans prized these waters.  Even today, they nourish many species of wildlife, including this gaggle of geese, who swam by us with almost no concern for our presence:

The South Fork of the Holston River travels, in this area, past grey limestone and grey, fine-grained dolomite.  These blocky rock cliffs peeked out from under colorful deciduous trees along the shoreline of the lake everywhere we paddled:

Soon after we set out, Kathy spotted this river otter, who was playfully rolling and diving in the water, even as we neared:

Gaps in the limestone cliffs made friendly homes for ferns and other hanging-garden-type plants:

The stony cliffs were imposing when viewed from their base in the water:

Sometimes, the rocks formed basalt-like columns with squared-off sides:

As we paddled upstream, opposite the State Park, we spotted this Great Blue Heron, who, uncharacteristically, soared over to a tree next to our position on the water.  These birds are notoriously shy; but we think this fellow was more wary of a motorboat roaring along the opposite bank of the lake than it was of our quiet paddles.

However, we have to give the heron credit for discretion.  He landed on a perch where he was difficult to see, even from our position nearby below:

While David was photographing nature, Kathy was protecting it by scooping up all the trash she could find.  As you can see from the photo below, she was having great success:

As we paddled further upstream, we reached a marker for boaters that noted that this was the confluence with Fall Creek and has been designated as Mile 11.7 on Fort Patrick Henry Lake:

We have no idea why this "Fish Attractor" sign was posted on the water's edge at the confluence of the river with Fall Creek.  We've never seen such a sign before.  However, a little research confirmed that fish attractors provide habitat and cover for fish, and we assumed that local fish conservation groups had installed dead tree trunks and other materials to attract game fish to this spot:

As we paddled further up Fall Creek, it wasn't long before we encountered the reason for its name -- small falls!

We were able to paddle almost to the base of the falls, which was surprising.  Here, Kathy turns back downstream after inspecting the falls:

It is hard to appreciate the falls without a little video, so we offer it here.  The Falls Creek falls burbled merrily as it fed its current into the lake. 

By the time we were paddling back out into the main section of the lake and river from Fall Creek, the sun was lowering in the sky and the temperatures were beginning to fall.  We decided it was time to return to our put-in spot and head home for dinner.

Our boat ramp was near the causeway for Duck Island.  As we turned our little boats toward the boat ramp, we were treated to a view of trees along the causeway, denuded of leaves as a warning of the approach of winter --

-- and a view of (paraphrasing Wallace Stevens) casual flocks of geese making ambiguous undulations as they sink, downward, to the water on extended wings:

As we pulled our kayaks out of the water, Kathy signaled her satisfaction with our short afternoon outing on the flat waters:

We couldn't have asked for a prettier, nor a balmier, day.

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