Follow the river
A nice winter driving tour is to follow the Mississippi
River, from the confluence of Ol’ Muddy and the Ohio.
Start your river tour at the Paducah waterfront,
where the floodwall has been covered with brightly painted murals that record
the history of the town and its relationship to the river.
The two rivers come together just outside Wickliffe.
You can take the direct route-U.S. 62-from Paducah. Or you can follow the Ohio
River, using a series of state roads, taking you through quaint old towns with
names like Ragland, Bandana, and Monkey’s Eyebrow.
At the confluence is the giant Ft. Jefferson Memorial
Cross, which overlooks the two rivers. Nearby is the Swan Lake Wildlife Management
Most Kentuckians are unaware that there are natural
lakes in our state. There are 12, including the 300-acre namesake Swan Lake.
What makes these lakes special is that they are all cypress ponds-among the
northernmost of such growths. The lakes were formed by earthquake action, just
like Reelfoot Lake on the Tennessee border.
In Wickliffe you’ll find Wickliffe Mounds. For more
than 500 years, from about 900 A.D. until the latter part of the 15th century,
the Mounds were the site of a prosperous village. Exhibits at Wickliffe include
a reconstructed Mississippian village, several exhibit buildings, and the Ceremonial
Mound. During the winter, the Mounds are only open on weekdays so plan on stopping
there on Friday or Monday.
From Wickliffe, follow U.S. 51, which is part of
the Great River Road- a series of highways following the Mississippi from Canada
to the Gulf of Mexico. This highway is marked by riverboat wheel signage.
The Great River Road takes you to Columbus-Belmont
Battlefield State Park. Perched on 156 acres above the Mississippi River, the
park was the site of frenzied activity during the early days of the War Between
the States. It was here the Confederates won the Battle of Belmont. The site
was abandoned in March 1862, and immediately occupied by Union forces for the
remainder of the war.
Today you can walk 2.5 miles of hiking trails that
wander through the Confederate trenches, see artillery, and view the six-ton
chain that stretched across the river during the war. There’s a small museum
that interprets the battle and displays numerous artifacts from the period.
Unfortunately, it is closed in the winter. The campground, with 38 campsites
on the river cliffs, is open all year.
Continue south on Great River Road to KY 94, and
take it west to Hickman. Mark Twain called Hickman "the most beautiful
town on the Mississippi River."
At this point you’ll leave the river. Head east on
94 to U.S. 45. Follow it north to Mayfield, where you’ll find "the strange
procession that never moves" in the Maplewood Cemetery. The procession
is a set of 18 life-sized sculptures at the 1899 tomb of eccentric horse breeder
Leaving Mayfield, follow KY 121 to Murray, then go
south on U.S. 641 to the small town of Hazel. Literally sitting on the Tennessee
border, Hazel may be the antiques capital of the Commonwealth, with one antique
shop and mall after another lining the streets.
Return to Murray and take KY 94 east to U.S. 68/80,
and follow that to the Trace. Travel the Trace through the heart of Land Between
the Lakes, a natural area formed when two other rivers-the Tennessee and the
Cumberland-were dammed to form Kentucky and Barkley lakes. Stop in Golden Pond
for literature and displays about this unique recreation area.
In Grand Rivers, at the head of the Trace, stop at
Patti’s 1880s Settlement. Here you’ll find restaurants, original log cabin gift
shops, and a water wheel. All the food at Patti’s is good, but it’s most known
for two things: flower-pot bread and giant pork chops.
Continuing north, follow U.S. 62 to the Lake Barkley
Dam & Visitor Center. The center contains exhibits on the Cumberland River,
steamboating, river navigation, and river craft and accouterments. From the
Visitor Center it’s a short walk to the Observation Deck, where you can watch
barges and pleasure craft lock through the dam.
For more information, contact: Western Lakes &
Rivers Tourism Region, c/o Paducah/ McCracken County CVB, P.O. Box 90, Paducah,
KY 42001, (270) 443-8783.
Day Trips & Short
Along the Trail of Tears
"Many days pass and people die very much."
A succinct summary, in the words of a Cherokee
survivor, of the infamous Trail of Tears-perhaps the worst example of the United
States’ poor treatment of Native Americans in the 19th century.
In 1830 gold was discovered on Cherokee lands
in Georgia, and Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. The United States forcibly
removed 15,000 Cherokees from their homes, and they were marched off to be relocated
in the Oklahoma Territory. Along the way, thousands died, especially children,
women, and the elderly.
That march took many of them through Kentucky,
and there are several sites where groups were wintered over in squalid conditions.
One such camp, along the banks of Little River-in what is now Hopkinsville-
was a major stopping point. Many died there, including such notables as Chiefs
Whitepath and Fly Smith, who are buried there.
Today the site is memorialized by the Trail
of Tears Commemorative Park, situated on a portion of the campground used by
The focal point of the park are larger-than-life
sculptures of the two chiefs. Near the statues are an information wall, with
data about the Trail of Tears; a courtyard of flags representing the nine states
involved in the removal; and a bronze plaque showing the route of the trail.
A two-room log cabin serves as a Heritage
Center. One room is filled with Cherokee artworks and artifacts, ranging from
prehistory to the date of the removal. The other room contains similar memorabilia
from other tribes who suffered at the white man’s hands.
The park is open from daylight to dark daily,
but the Heritage Center is on winter hours, which are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday
For more information, contact: Trail of Tears
Commemorative Park, P.O. Box 4027, Hopkinsville, KY 42241, (270) 886-8033.
Howl of the wild
If you’ve put your sporting arms up for the season,
you could be missing out on the best time to hunt predators.
Furbearer seasons actually close at noon on
February 1, so you no longer can hunt fox, raccoons, and most other furbearers.
However, coyotes are considered pests in Kentucky, and there is no closed season
nor bag limit.
The state is covered up with coyotes, primarily
because there is plenty of food for them, and few of them are trapped anymore
because the fur market is depressed.
Calling coyotes is easy. All you do is sit
at the base of a tree and sound like a dying rabbit. To do this, you use either
a mouth caller or an electronic one. We prefer the mouth callers (which look
like duck calls), because for us the electronics are too loud and have too rhythmic
Hunting at night with lights isn’t legal in
the Bluegrass State, so figure on early morning and just before dark as the
No special equipment is needed, other than
the calls. If shotguns, handguns, or bows and arrows are your favorite arms,
they are perfectly suitable.
You’re also more likely to get landowner permission
to hunt coyotes. Many farmers want them gone and will welcome you, even the
same landowner who normally won’t give you permission to deer hunt.
For information, contact: Kentucky Department
of Fish & Wildlife Resources, #1 Game Farm Road, Frankfort, KY 40601, (800)