Cruising
America's Great Loop
America's Great Loop, Barkley Lake anchorage
:: Cruising the Heartland's Inland Rivers ::
© 1993 - 2017 CaptainJohn.org
Depending on your starting point, you may already be familiar with the challenges of
traversing locks and dealing with bridge height restrictions, which (believe it or not) you will find
again on this portion of your journey. In addition, faster currents, silting, wing dams, fewer
anchorages, and barge traffic may all be new challenges you will face on the rivers. With proper
planning however, this portion of the trip will prove to be every bit the most adventurous, easy,
enjoyable and relaxing of all.

This, the Water World of America's Heartland, is most everyone's favorite part of
the entire journey. In hindsight, you will realize it is more then worth the few unwanted surprises
along the Gulf and Atlantic ICW just to get to this part of the journey.

Mid-September is the preferred time to depart Chicago and enter the Illinois Waterway. In
most cases, summer heat has passed, and with the touch of a Master's hand, the cooler weather
will begin painting the landscape with colors of Autumn as you journey south.

There are two routes from Lake Michigan to the Illinois River, if you can clear an over-head
structure of 17', you can take the scenic route, which is right through downtown Chicago. If you
can't clear 17' you will have to cruise about 11 miles south of Chicago and take the Cal-Sag route.
In either case, it is less than 3 miles down river from the junction of these two routes, where you will
meet up with that 19’ 1” bridge you must go under in order to reach the Mississippi River.
As summertime closes on Lake Michigan, you will want to be in a position to leave Chicago and begin your voyage down
the Illinois, Mississippi, and/or (if you take the Tenn-Tom route) the Ohio,  Cumberland, Tennessee, and the
Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. Your destination of course, is the Gulf of Mexico.

You are about to enter the water-world of America's Heartland. You will be voyaging miles of tempting side-trips. From
Chicago through the Midwest, to the Deep South, each region will seem as distinct worlds. You will see cities melt into
farmlands, and farmlands rise into hillsides, and eventually; it will all fade into swamp land before you reach the beautiful
beaches along the Gulf ICW.
That Bridge!





      After you pass under "that 19' 1" bridge" at Mile 300.5 and then the U.S. Coast
    Guard's electric Asian Carp barrier field at Mile marker 298; you will soon find
    yourself on your way. . .  Voyaging at last, on your own adventure in the wake of
    Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn on the mighty Mississippi.
America's Heartland  will welcome you much in the same
manner as it did the original steamboat settlers.

   This is your chance to cruise by and visit the friendly towns they
settled, tour the stately mansions they built and walk on the very
battlefields on which they fought.

   This is where the great rivers opened up America's pioneers to
the land of opportunity, and it now awaits your own exploration.

   
This is the land of red, white and bluejeans, of rhythm and rivers, of patriotic, interesting and colorful characters, and of boundless
beauty . . .

From Fish Camps and shanties
to magnificent mansions and stately plantations. What better way is there to discover it all, than from a slow boat?

In these waters, it won't take you long to discover the refreshing simplicity of life. It is here, cruising through these waters, you will come to
understand that true wealth has much more to do with needing less, than it does with having more.

As your heart and mind wraps up what is really important and what really excites and energizes your life; you will discover your 'land-loving life' has
walked the plank. Taking all your stress with it; leaving you with a much richer life, one not earned by burning your candle at both ends, but given
freely by just letting it burn more brightly at one.

Do you want to take the Lower Mississippi to New Orleans? Or take the Tennessee - Tombigbee route up the Ohio to the Cumberland River,
and pass on in to Lake Barkley?

Maybe you want to tour Clarksville before traversing Cheatham Lock to Nashville.
cruise past the homes of Reba McEntire, Barbara Mandrell, Martina McBride, and the late Johnny Cash. You may even want to cruise on up to Brad
Pitt's little "fly fishing hideaway".

From Cairo your options are wide open. . . This "Water World" of America's Heartland connects you with over 24,000 miles of navigable rivers
and waterways. So, the question is: Where do you want to go? Louisville? Cincinnati? Pittsburgh? Chattanooga? Knoxville? Nashville? Or Mobile?  Or
do you want to take a side trip to Hannibal or even Minneapolis?  Or cruise on down the Lower Mississippi to New Orleans?

If you haven't made your decision by the time you reach Cairo, chances are, your vessel's fuel range will make the decision for you. The
farthest distance between fuel on the
Tennessee-Tombigbee route is only 200 miles for all boats. On the Lower Mississippi route, you need a fuel
range of
376 miles for diesel, or 449 miles if you use gasoline.
The difference in fuel range is due to the fact that diesel fuel users have an option of having fuel trucked in to a delivery stop at Cape Girardeau, and
Vicksburg. For insurance reasons (they tell us) no one any longer delivers gasoline to boats. (We have more details on fuel range on each Rivers'
page.)
NOTE:
For Loopers, it is important to know your vessel's fuel range in gph (gallons per hour)  not mph (miles per hour).  As you have learned by now, In
some places, strong currents, tides, and wait times at bridges and Locks will continue to burn fuel when you are not making any headway miles.  

It is true, without exception, the boaters we have stopped to help and render aid, who have run out of fuel, are the ones that have always
estimated their miles in miles per gallon.  These Skippers most commonly can tell you what they "think" their fuel burn rate is based on "mpg" - but
when you ask them their fuel burn in "gallons per hour" they get that 'deer in the headlights' look on their face - as a result - they inevitably run out of
fuel.

So, you need to know your vessel's fuel burn rate based on hours, not miles.
Cruising the Illinois River - click next.
Red, White, and Bluejeans . . .
That Bridge
What better reason is there to cruise America's Great Loop by the recommended seasons, than being on
the rivers in America's Heartland in the Fall? Once you think you've seen it all, God offers you his painted
masterpieces in the landscapes of the heartland of America. It's a bright and brilliant colorful kaleidescope of
awe inspiring scenery with lots of places to go and plenty of things to see and do.
So what makes Capt. John's books so popular?  He gives us the practical, not the panache!
  So many Mariners turned bloggers need the biggest boats only to float their egos. That leaves the rest of us with the
impression "Looping" is only for the rich & famous.  Capt. John is a eight time Looper.  He's done it in six different boats; big,
medium, small, sail and power. He gives us "All" the options for safe, comfortable cruising. He also tells us how to do it on a
frugal budget, if need be.
  "Practical" that's what makes his books Best Sellers. That's what gives us the ability and the
  encouragement to live this dream!
James Peoples
Amazon Announces 2016 Best Book Of The Year in the Nautical Market
financialpost.com | Posted 01.18. 2016 | Books
"Once Around Is Not Enough" by Capt. John receives Best Book of the Year in the Nautical Market.   This is the
first time a nonfiction book in the Nautical Market has made the TOP 100 BEST SELLING list.  Amazon.ca announced this list
represents the TOP 100 best sellers in all Markets in 2016.
I found Dory
www.captainjohn.org                                                                      - Cruising America's Great Loop - Once Around Is Not Enough -
Cruising America's Heartland on the Great Loop