This is a picture of the Paris Landing bridge. It connects the Land between the Lakes area with the western part of the state of Tennessee. The bridge spans a mile over the Tennessee River and the widest point of Kentucky Lake. It is beautiful on a sunny day and so impressive to see all that water in both directions. This is where we live in Tennessee. Every time I come home down here, I love to look out over the bridge and take in the sight.
One afternoon as we were driving home over the bridge we saw something startling appear beside our car. A Blackhawk helicopter began rising above the bridge to our left. There were two military UH-60’s flying at water level beside the bridge. We watched as they landed in an open field in Paris Landing state park. Being curious we turned in and parked in the lot. It was some kind of family of servicemen gathering and lots of kids were waiting to see their dads get out. Fort Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne is only thirty-miles away.
The bridge has quite a rise to accommodate the daily barge traffic and the kid in me couldn’t resist the urge to accelerate the Corvette every time we approached the bridge. If you exceed 100 mph it feels like you are in a plane taking off when you reach the top of the bridge. I must not have been the only one doing that because one day I saw a Tennessee Highway Patrol parked by the marina side of the bridge. Nothing like the sight of a squad car to slow you down.
About ten miles upstream is the Danville transfer elevator. We enjoy boating to the site and the bridge can still be seen in the distance for almost the entire trip. The Danville elevator was a five-story concrete structure that transferred cargo from rail car to paddle wheelers over a century ago. When the lake was formed by the construction of the dam in 1941, the elevator was abandoned and left to stand in the middle of the lake. The arial lift bridge was also removed at that time and a ferry provides passage for automobile traffic across the river there for one dollar per trip.
Twenty-four hours each day barges travel under the bridge as they haul grain, coal and gravel up and down the river. One learns to stay between the green and red buoys on the river, just like the barges do. The dam controls the water level and at winter pool it is six feet lower than summer pool. Unsuspecting boaters during the cold months can suddenly find the bottom of the river in the middle of the lake, and run aground if not careful. We had that happen one fine afternoon last winter as we were exploring the cove near Cypress Bay Marina. We were at least 200 feet from shore as we came around the bend and suddenly we were looking at the rocky floor of Kentucky Lake. I hit the trim and raised the prop out of the water and after further investigation reversed the boat and backed out to deeper water.
The wind coming off the nearly two-mile wide lake can create some substantial waves crashing into the bridge pilings and there is a breakwater at the entrance of the Paris Landing marina to calm the waters. On a windy day there will be over two-foot swells to contend with heading into the marina. The first day we used the boat launch there we encountered quite rough water returning to dock. I rode a wave in looking at the trough and thinking it could easily swamp us. While I tried to keep the bow straight, I could hear my wife yelling “Woo Hoo”. She was enjoying the adventure much more that I was. After that we started using Gray’s Landing on the other side of the Lake where the water was much calmer.
When we first moved here the Paris Landing Lodge was being demolished to make way for a new facility. The locals were up in arms because the 70 year-old lodge and restaurant was a sentimental place in their hearts. It took about five years to complete the new one but it is a beautiful resort on the lake with a restaurant which is out favorite place to eat and just down the road from our home.