We recommend listening to our “audio postcard” above.
For many Middle Tennesseans, the classic way to beat the muggy heat of summer is to hit the water. Some load the boat on a trailer and head out to Percy Priest Lake or rent canoes to float down the Harpeth River.
But you can also check out a scenic confluence of waterways in Ashland City.
Start at Bluff Creek boat ramp
We put in the water in a small recreation area next to a busy road, with picnic tables overlooking this spot. It’s called a creek on the map, but looks more like a small lake, with heavily wooded islands and even the broken trunks of trees sticking out of the water here and there.
There are a lot of nooks and crannies to explore and, when given the choice, my husband and I will always take a peek and see what we can find. Soon after we enter one, a blue heron flies out just in front of my husband.
I paddle closer to the banks to see what’s growing there. I find walnut trees and mimosas growing up out of the banks. Every so often, kind of nestled in the undergrowth, climbing prairie rose is blooming. I stop to take a look, paddle resting on my lap. A dragonfly takes that as an invitation and lands on the paddles blade. Now, I love dragonflies. I’d love to hang out with this one for a while, but after a moment I realize I’m about to float into the low branches of a waterside tree, so it’s a very sorry goodbye to the delicate insect as I paddle away.
Next, find the Cumberland River
Just around the bend, it’s not such a lazy float anymore. There’s more movement in the water, a feeling of energy and power. The creek has been a quiet little jewel box of a setting, but now we’ve reached the Cumberland.
The river is broad. Its current is pushing one way while the wind blows the water on the surface in another direction. And every few minutes we encounter speed on the river, too: families enjoying their day out on the water who rush by in pontoon boats and jet skis, making wake that gives us a bumpy ride. We ride it out, laughing and enjoying the small thrill.
On the opposite side of the river, it’s easy to see big, sprawling homes surrounded by acres of grass. We’re staying near the bank to stay out of the way of faster watercraft, so it’s a little harder to see beyond the trees on our side. But all of a sudden, there’s a clear spot, with a surprise: a horse pasture that comes all the way to the water’s edge so the animals can enjoy the river, too. Two horses are grazing just a few yards away. They ponder me a moment before they go back to munching grass.
When we turn onto another creek, the water quickly calms again. And once we’re round the first bend, you’d never know those motorboats were nearby. I go back to just floating, letting the water carry me slowly, so I can listen to the sound of birds calling across the water to each other.
Finally, back to nature
On one little tip of land jutting out into the water, I discover what must be somebody’s private fishing spot. An old, blue kitchen chair sits facing the water. Beside it, there’s an upside down five gallon bucket. It’s like a little throne.
I can see why someone picked this spot. It really does feel like a special place. Much like the spot where we put in, we aren’t far from a road — in fact, we can still hear the traffic. But all we can see is nature.