America's Great Loop, Barkley Lake anchorage
:: Cruising the Heartland's Inland Rivers ::
© 1993 - 2019
Depending on your starting point, you may already be familiar with the challenges of traversing locks and dealing with
currents, silting, wing dams, fewer anchorages, and barge traffic. If not, you may be in for a few new challenges on the rivers.
Proper planning however, promises the safest most adventurous, enjoyable voyage.

This is the Water World of America's Heartland, it is many Loopers 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.

Late September is "our" 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 through downtown Chicago. If you can't clear 17' you will 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’ 6” bridge we all 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,  
Ohio, Cumberland, Tennessee, and the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. Your destination of course, is the Gulf of Mexico.
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
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.
For Loopers, it is important to know your vessel's fuel range in GPH (Gallons Per Hour)  not just MPG (Miles Per Gallon).
    Without exception, the boaters we have stopped to help along the way who have run out of fuel, are the ones that have always
estimated their 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 - those
with smaller fuel tanks and shorter fuel range inevitably run out of fuel. On the Great Loop, it most likely to happen on the Ohio river just
before you reach Paducah. Why?
    It is 'currently' 208-miles between Hoppies Marina and Paducah. As long as Hoppies is open for business, this will be your farthest
distance between fuel stops on the entire Great Loop, assuming you are NOT cruising down the Lower Mississippi River to New
Orleans. If Hoppies closes, this fuel range will increase to 235-miles from Alton or 252-miles from Grafton.
    Problem however is the last 48-miles of this journey is against a mighty 2 to 3-mph current against the Ohio River. That will seriously
slow the slower boats forward speed way down. For some of us, this 48-miles turns into a 12-hour journey. Those sailboats and small
boats with a small fuel tank may need to plan on carrying extra fuel in jerry-cans.  

                                    So, you need to know your vessel's fuel burn rate based on hours, not just miles.
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 just when God starts painting colorful masterpieces across the landscape?
    Did you know Capt. John has been our #1 BEST SELLING "GREAT LOOP" AUTHOR in the non-fiction genre of the Nautical Market since
2014? And, he just took his #1 Best Selling Book off the market. WHY?
   In his own words: "It wasn't good enough! The Looper's Companion Guide puts it to shame!"
   We have to agree. His newest 2019 release, "The Looper's Companion Guide" is a game changer! It is not only a giant book physically, it is a
giant leap forward for all "how to" cruising guide books that follow. This is the one all others will be compared to. At 8.5" x 11" x 335 pages, it
contains 100-full color maps and photos. It also contains 200,000 words and almost 1-million typed characters. It weighs 2 lbs! It took Capt. John
and his team of Super-Loopers years of Looping experience and the past two years to produce with a final "working 2018 confirmation voyage"
around the Loop. The result of which is an incredible Great Loop guide. It goes far beyond Capt. John's previous reach. So, we can't disagree with
his taking his previous best seller of the market.
    We can't even begin to visualize another book dedicated exclusively to planning, preparing and actually cruising the Loop that could possibly
compare to "The Looper's Companion Guide". It is beyond doubt the most complete, informative and beneficial guide for planning and preparing
one's self and one's boat for cruising the Loop. But, that's not the most revolutionary part of this book!
    What makes this book stand out from all the rest, is Capt. John's 5,429-mile x 140-travel day route & destination's itinerary. It makes cruising
America's Great Loop as safe and easy as, well, 1, 2, 3, to 140-travel days which takes Loopers to 140-incredible "Looper favorite" destinations. It
gives each and every day's distance, way-points, fuel range, bridge heights, controlled depth & known depth issues, as well as free dock & wall
locations, safe anchorages, and what Capt. John refers to as "Looper friendly" Marinas. Which he defines as those marinas that are both people &
pet friendly, have on-site or nearby restaurants, and/or provide courtesy cars or free shuttles and discounts to Loopers.
I found Dory
    In addition to safety and fuel economy. . .
    This is reason #37 - why we highly recommend cruising America's Great Loop by the preferred boating season.
Here, we are anchored out on Kentucky Lake at the peak of Fall foliage.
James Peoples
Most importantly, we believe, his route guides us to a free dock or wall, a safe anchorage or marina
every evening before dark. That is in itself a big safety issue that also is a cause of much
frustration. Following in Capt. John's wake, you will never have to worry about your next fuel stop,
next incredible destination, or the safest and most convenient anchorage or marina to stay the
   In addition, Capt. John's 140-travel day route covers your choice of cruising Canada or
remaining entirely inside the USA. He also provides information on all the main routes detours to
interesting places and gives us the top ten most popular (and more lengthy) side-trips.
   Whether you are cruising in a fast boat, slow boat, and have a long or short fuel range, Capt.
John has you covered. Not all stops along the way are amazing. Some are just "necessary" stops
for fuel, water and possibly provisions. All along the way he provides plenty of options. Faster boats
with longer fuel range can shorten their travel days by skipping some fuel stops. Loopers will add
travel days depending on the detours and side-trips they take. Additionally, some recommended
destinations can be skipped in favor of another. Either way you go, this incredible route will have
you covered.    
   You won't just be happy with "The Looper's Companion Guide" - You will be THRILLED!
Capt. John did exactly that!
    Many Loopers spend absolutely all the time they possibly can in
Canada. We don't blame them. It is filled with world class cruising and
destinations. We also don't have to be south of Chicago until Oct. 31st., as
the Chicago Harbors start closing for the winter.
    Our suggestion is don't overlook the option of being on Kentucky Lake
and the Tennessee River at the peak Fall Foliage, generally near the first or
Great Loop Boats - next: