Morris Ferry Dock, Woods Reservoir, Labor Day 2008

Morris Ferry Dock, Labor Day, 2008 - a last hurrah for many of the families who have had vacation homes here for 30 years

Morris Ferry Dock, Labor Day, 2008 - a final holiday weekend for many of the families who have had vacation homes here for 30 years

Sunday’s activities precluded my getting my gear and boat loaded up. And yesterday afternoon, my wife, son, in-laws, and I drove to Alabama for a barbecue at John and Linda’s house on the outskirts of Huntsville. I overate, but not like last time. I was full, fat, and tired by the time I hit the sack about nine of the clock.

I slept late this morning, was late getting boat and gear ready, and was late getting on the water at about eight o’clock. NOAA predicted winds from the northeast at 5-10 mph. The temperature was warm, and the wind calm, when I paddled away from the boat-ramp. My goals today were to have a look at Morris Ferry Dock, then paddle back to UTSI “beach” to practice sculling, braces, wet-exits, and kayak re-entries.

Small bird island several species' rookery - noisy place and stinks

Small bird island several species' rookery - noisy place and stinks

I paddled past the mysterious Island of the Birds, then across the lake to the causeway. Two aluminum canoes on the grass behind the VFW lodge waited side-by-side for someone to pull them into deep water.

Vacation homes at Morris Ferry Landing - dock's at the left

Vacation homes at Morris Ferry Landing - dock's out of the frame to the left

A woman sitting in a lawn-chair outside outside an ancient mobile home modified with equally old red-painted brick foundation and Florida room told me all of the Morris Ferry residents have been given notice that they must clear out by September 30. Her parents first, and now she and her siblings with their families share use of the house. She said, if I remember this right, it has been in their family for 37 years.

Today, she said, they were all planning to meet there to divide up furnishings and items of personal property. They will have the original trailer hauled away, and she wasn’t sure what they were going to do with it. She said the rest of the family was probably not interested, nor prepared to buy or lease a vacation home or property elsewhere. She and her husband, she said, were considering some options, but were glad their children had been able to spend their summers at the lake house.

The woman told me she’d heard three or four rumors about why the Arnold Engineering and Development Center commander did not renew the Morris Ferry Landing leaseholder’s contract. She seemed to disbelieve the reason provided by the AEDC public affairs office – that the fuel-dock, store, and other facilities were in a state of disrepair so severe that no reasonable expenditure could make them right; that the lease was originally granted when the area had no recreational boating, fishing, or camping access, and now there are several. Like her, I think the stated reason is bogus. The facilities are not state of the art, but they are functional, and although recreational access is available at Normandy and Tims Ford lakes, both relatively nearby, none will now be available at Woods Reservoir.

The lady said the homeowners had sought the advice of two lawyers, gathered 8,500 signatures on a petition protesting the site’s closure, had contacted television news and print media, had requested the base commander grant an extension on the eviction date, all to no avail. The base commander, she said, never deigned to respond in any way.

The one rumor the woman disclosed (and I would have liked to hear all of them) is that the current base commander wishes to reopen a facility on the Morris Ferry Dock site when he retires from military service in two years, and wants the site cleared off for his use at that time.

Wouldn’t surprise me if it were true, but I’d guess the guy would build condos, selling them to government aerospace contractor executives. On the other hand, he may be a genuinely decent sort who’s got a real reason for divesting a number of civilians of the vacation dachas that’ve been in their families for thirty-plus years. Based, however, on what I’ve observed character-wise (although I can think of five to seven exceptions LaterI can think of at least a dozen exceptions now that I’ve had time to reflect a bit – pity, however, that reflection was required) in so many of those I know who have been associated with AEDC, I’d have to doubt it.

Isaac paddling the Campsis Radicans, sitting far forward to reach the rudder pedals

Isaac paddling the Campsis Radicans, sitting far forward to reach the rudder pedals

Paddling on, around the cafe-store and fuel-dock, I saw a boy apparently swimming, jumping onto and back into the water from a blue sit-on-top kayak near a large white spherical buoy and a brown vacation shack. In a minute, I noticed the kid paddling the short blue Wilderness Systems I-Dunno-What model toward me, Werner paddle held upside-down and backwards. He asked about my boat, and I told him about his paddle.

IV & Beth's Morris Ferry Landing vacation house - Beth and another woman whose name I failed to retain

IV & Lynda's vacation house - Lynda & Beth adorning the stoop, Charlie barely visible at table on the porch apparently breaking his fast

The boy’s parents gave permission for him to try out the E68. “Are you sure?” his father said, “He’ll wear you out (talking about kayaks).” We swapped boats in the thigh-deep water at the bank by the family’s two other SOTs. Isaac, that’s the boy’s name, had to sit well forward in Campsis Radicans to reach the rudder pedals. He informed me that speed was necessary to the rudder’s performance, and he experimented with my Eric Renshaw paddle.

His dad, I.V., which is a play on his generational suffix, The Fourth, sat in the bow of his pontoon boat, tied up to a very old dock, and talked with me some. I.V. told me his whole name, but I’ve sadly forgotten it, not having had anything with which to take notes this morning. I do remember that the family farms substantial acreage near Chattanooga, and that IV’s wife is probably an attorney. I remember IV said his father was “an old country attorney” who had been politically involved, had campaigned hard for George Wallace. We talked about kayaks, about paddles, about a houseboat apparently abandoned and inoperable nearby.

He sounded pretty disgusted with the way AEDC is treating the Morris Ferry Dock householders. He said a former base commander tried something similar about 15 years, but that man’s arrogance was checked by a superior officer. Sadly, it seems the current commander’s arrogance will go unchecked. Woods, with the exception of two somewhat inadequate boat ramps, will in short order become a tiny AEDC Mare Nostrum, which is a loathsome shame.

Charlie paddling Campsis Radicans - Morris Ferry Dock's visible at left

Charlie paddling Campsis Radicans

IV paddling his own boat

IV paddling his own boat

I.V.’s friend, Charlie, was willing to try out Campsis Radicans. The four of us – Isaac, I.V., Charlie, and myself paddled out around a no-wake or a channel buoy, and back again. I was able to get back in my boat using the Renshaw paddle as an outrigger – for me, a noteworthy accomplishment. All in all, I think I spent about an hour visiting with them, which was the most enjoyable part of my time on the water today.

I did also enjoy paddling into the wind afterward, drifting up on some egrets (I’m pretty sure they were egrets), and photographing some of the few wildflowers now blooming along the lake’s shore.

In red bloom

In red bloom

Some wildflowers in context

Some wildflowers in context

Back at the put in (I never did make it to UTSI), I practiced some side-sculling, tried to figure out how far over I can put the kayak on either side without going over, for awhile before heading home.

A last look before paddling back under the causeway toward the put in

A last look before paddling back under the causeway toward the put in

How’s that for toned-down? Even a little proofread. Comments are welcome, but won’t appear until after I’ve hit the “Approve” button, unless you’ve posted previously. Bug or feature? Dunno.

6 thoughts on “Morris Ferry Dock, Woods Reservoir, Labor Day 2008

  1. Thanks for pointing out the egret, I had to look it up, and now I know there are a lot more herons than I realized. There is an American blue heron, that’s different as the European one. In Amsterdam herons have become like urban nomads, living in parks (one colony even squated a tree at the flamengo pond in Artis (the Amsterdam Zoological garden). They often hang around fishermen and snackbars, trying to cadge a catch or half eaten snack. Like urban pidgeons, they often look neglected, and I wondered before why you would name one of your boats after such a bird. But now I realize that the American blue heron is a different blue heron, which is in comparison with ours, stylish and has an allure of greatness.

  2. Your blue herons sound like our Canadian Geese (they are protected legally, overbreed, and frequently fail to migrate. Their droppings are a hazard around most shorelines and docks in this area. “Goose Grease,” is, I think, the accepted polite colloquialism – referring to the legendary speed with which greasy morsels travel through the bird’s intestinal tract.), or our seagulls. The former are edible rats with wings and the latter simply winged rats with beaks.

    The blue herons in this area are wading birds that feed upon fish or maybe other small waterborne things. They seem skittish around people. When I drift up or paddle up to them, they invariably fly away from me in the same direction I am headed. Thus, I repeatedly come upon them, and they repeatedly have to fly away. Their angry calls are raucous when annoyed in this manner. They are graceful in flight, with broad, full wingspans, and their long, straightened legs trailing behind. I believe the herons are legally protected, as well, although I have heard that they can be eaten.

    Anyway, when on a vision-quest for a boat name for the behemoth blue RZ96, pretty much all I saw were these birds.

    Do you have a photo of the European blue heron?

  3. Thanks for the great photos. I am IV’s wife, Lynda. Our friend Beth is Charlie’s wife. Thank you also for letting Isaac paddle your kayak. He had a great time and very much enjoyed the opportunity.

    Take care and happy paddling.
    Lynda Hill

  4. Hi Linda,

    I saw IV today and took some more photos that I plan to post sometime in the next day or so. Sorry I got your name wrong, and will try to correct that caption.

    Getting to meet and visit with you all was easily the high point of my paddle season at Woods Reservoir. Isaac’s a great kid, I’m hoping our own boy (now about seven months) will grow into an active, intelligent, boat-loving youngster, too.

    Happy paddling also to all of you.


  5. Hello, Chris!

    Charlie & I enjoyed meeting you and he loved trying out your very special kayak! Our family has always loved water sports (especially those not involving noisy, motorized propellants!) and will miss not being able to stay at the Morris Ferry Dock site.

    Fortunately there are many other lovely sites here in Tennessee – both for camping and water sports. Not that we, as restauranteurs have much leisure time!

    Happy paddling!
    Beth & Charlie Meyer
    Chattanooga, TN

  6. Hi Beth, Charlie,

    It was good to meet you guys, too. Holler next time you’re up this way, I’ve got a tandem – Pouch RZ96 – you could both use. This is a great state for outdoor activities – I also much prefer those that don’t rely on noisy motors. Sheesh, you never stop paying for something that’s got a motor and uses petroleum distillates.

    I thought you all were from Wisconsin or another of the far northern states…

    We’ve got to be in Chattanooga for my work a couple of days next week. A hassle for me, but fun for my wife and our baby. If your restaurant’s not too far from downtown, and not one for which dressing up is required, maybe we could eat there. I get a per-diem for meals 🙂

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