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Pontoon trip on the Ohio and Cumberland rivers

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  • Pontoon trip on the Ohio and Cumberland rivers

    Been a while. We bought this past fall an 1985 Suntracker with a 115 Mercury two smoker. Engine in great shape and pontoon is ok. good floor and pretty bare. What the Mrs and I want to do is put in at Golconda, or Elizabethtown Il, and go the Ohio to the Cumberland then on to lake Barkley. Maybe further. I've heard you can go on to Nashville TN etc.

    So far I've got 2-12 gal tanks and also a 9 for a reserve. I know it'll suck plenty of fuel, thats not a surprise. I also have all the updated legally required equipment, ( first aid, fire extinguisher etc.) and with modern camping equipment is lighter than ever. I'm thinking this direction to cut down on the plowing and make for good speed. Speaking of. The 115 is sturdy and trustworthy but I'm wondering how well it'll push this party barge against current. I do have access to larger engines. like an older 150 Thunderbolt, but I know what I have with the 115.

    Anyhow,, I'm always open for advice from experienced people who do these kinds of trips. And I suppose the main point is how do i go about getting the proper charts, maybe downloads, or Google maps etc? Better to be prepared than to see if I can flag someone down. LOL. BTW, a marine radio would help too. small hand held etc.

    Im like a mosquito in a nudist camp. I know what to do, Just not where to start.

    Thanks in advance.


  • #2
    Have not boated to Nashville from the ohio, but have made the trip from Louisville to Pickwick MS and back in my Rinker. Good story about Cave in Rock

    You can boat to Nashville, and even further if you want to go.
    Best place to get charts is the USACE, probably the Nashville district office
    Need to know how to read the day boards and bouy's (red right return and such)
    Determine where your fuel stops are prior
    Marine radio is a good idea, but a hand held will not go far, but if you need it, might wish it was a fixed mount with a tall antenna

    Don't think a pontoon is very efficient and will leave how far yo can go up to those guys.
    94 Formula 27PC Custom 509MPI MEFI3 , B3 XR
    95 Rinker 232 w/ 7.4L Carb 0F425011 B1 0F486471
    07 Seadoo GTX
    Merc Adults Only VP Adults Only
    G-Dad always said "First Liar doesn't stand a chance"


    • #3
      Thanks. I do have a fixed radio stuffed away somewhere. It has a couple tall whip antennae from a boat used on Lake Erie. I ought to have it checked to see if it works. It’s a Uniden, but don’t know what model. Made in the 80s I’m sure.

      I know it’s not going to be efficient, but we’re not in a race to get anywhere.
      And you’re right about knowing fuel stops. I’ll check out the USACE like you mentioned. At least that’s a start. Thanks so far...


      • #4
        I’ve run the entire 381 miles of the Corps of Engineers maintained navigable waters of the Cumberland River, from the mouth at the Ohio River to Celina, Tennessee in a 21’ Sea Ray cuddy. If you start your trip on the Ohio River above Smithland Lock and Dam, when you exit the lock DO NOT head straight for the what appears to be the mouth of Cumberland River at Smithland, Ky. You will likely hit a dike between those points. Instead, stay in the Ohio River channel for four miles to the downstream tip of Cumberland Island and then turn upstream on the other side of the island. That is the actual mouth of the Cumberland.

        Here’s a link to the Nashville District Corps of Engineers website where river charts can be downloaded:


        There is a lock or two in the upper part of the river that operate by appointment only.

        This is a post I made here about our trip:



        • #5
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          Excellent. Thanks a bunch. I'm looking forward to digging into your links.