Category Archives: Tennessee River

Wilson Lake and what Lies Below

Wilson Lake, Florence, Alabama.

When Wilson Lake was impounded there was a lot of old structures, canal, bridges and other structure let on the lake floor. With the advent of the new sonar technology such as Side Imaging and Down Imaging you can still find a lot of them.

I have both Humminbird Onix and Helix Mega Scan units on my boat. These amazing pieces of technology enable me to see what’s still laying on the ;lake floor to this day almost a 100 years later!

A Little History on the Lake

Wilson Dam spans the Tennessee River between Florence (north) and Muscle Shoals (south), Alabama. It stands at an elevation of 508 feet and crosses the Tennessee on a 20-foot roadway along the top of the dam. Impoundment of the Tennessee River above Wilson Dam has created Wilson Lake, with a maximum width of 1.6 miles and a main shoreline of 154 miles.

Wilson Dam was erected by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1918-25 and turned over to the Tennessee Valley Authority when that agency was established in 1933. Wilson is a concrete gravity-dam on a blue limestone rock foundation. The total length of the structure is 4,535 feet, the height 137 feet, and the maximum width at the base (Including the apron) is 160 feet. The head the water depth on the upper side of the dam is 97.6 feet. There were originally 58 spillway gates in the face of the dam, each capable of discharging 10,000 cubic feet of water per second.

As I scan the lake bottom with my Side Image and Down Image units I’m always looking for objects that are on the lake bottom. If I do manage to find something, if I can I’ll research and see if I can find out what it is and if possible try to find a photo of what the object is or was. In the two photos below I found an old submerged arched bridge crossing a small stream or creek bed. You can clearly see the creek bed in the Side Image photo.

Click on the photo thumbnails to get a larger view.

I found an old submerged mill a couple of years ago that an old time fisherman told me if I had ever looked for it. In the two photos below you can see what the mill looked like before it was torn down and all that was left was the stone work of the mill.

The following photo is an old marina boat cover slips that instead of being torn down was easier to just pull it out into the lake and sink it. The tin metal top and sides are still on the old boat cover slips. I have tried to find a photo of the original one but have not been able to do so.

Tight lines……

Fishing Log – March 2, 2018

I made a spur of the moment fishing trip yesterday on Pickwick Lake as I was hearing about all the big fish that are being caught right now. The weather was pretty nice with the low in the morning at 41* and a high of around 58*. There were very few clouds in the sky and the wind   shifted during the day. The wind was blowing out of the north when I started but shifted out of the WNW as the day progressed. The water was very muddy as TVA was running current through the lakes at about 245,000 cfs, we have had a lot of rain this past week. The water temperature was 57* to 58* in the area I was fishing.The key for me was to find clear water running into the lake mixing with the muddy water. These areas seemed to be holding the shad in the shallow warm water. I did notice several time shad flicking on top and if I threw to those areas I would either get a bite or catch a fish.

The best lures for me were two primary lures one was a Squarebill 1.5 crankbait in my Hunger Pang pattern and the other was a Rattle Trap I painted in the Dark Crystal Craw pattern. I fished these two lures about 95 percent of the day. I did catch one fish on each of the following , an 1/8 ounce shaky-head with a Zoom Green Pumpkin Trick Worm and one on a Texas rigged Vibe tail Speed worm. I had a couple hit a spinnerbait but did not hook either one even though I had a trailer hook on it.BER Custom Lure Painting – Hunger Pang.BER Custom Lure Painting – Dark Crystal Craw

I ended up catching a total of 27 bass with most of them in the 15″ range. My best bass pushed 5 pounds. Overall it was good day of fishing since this is the first trip out since the first week of December from last year.

Tight lines until my next post.

History – Florence Barge Canals

While doing a little research at the library this week I ran across some history about Pickwick and the canal systems.

Before TVA took over the operations of the Tennessee River there were canals all up and down the river from Florence because of the Mussel Shoals also called Muscle Shoals. These were not navigational sections of the river because of the low water over these rocks and the rapid descent of this portion of the river.

After the dam was built and the shoals inundated there were a series of canals that were built up to Wilson Dam. When the original two stage lock was built the original canal shown in light blue below was used to get to the locks. But after the start of construction on the new larger single lift lock the canal was rerouted up to the original lock.

Note: Click on Thumbnail to get an enlarged image.

In the above photo you can see the all three canals that were used during the new lock construction. The canal colored yellow above is now closed on both ends and is in the middle of Patton Island. The one in blue is now the location of the Florence Port or what we called Fuzzy Feeds canal.

In the above photo you can see where the canals were dammed off and the other canals rerouted.

Here you can see a photo of all three of the canals in this aerial view photo. You can also see the construction of the new larger and longer single lift lock.

In this photo you can see where Dam #1 was located and also the new existing canal. If you notice you can see the old swing railroad bridge that was used for the trains crossing the river into Florence from Colbert County.

In this photo you can see that the Dam #1 was removed and the existing lift canal is still in place.

 In this final photo you can see that the swing bridge was replaced with the lift bridge for the railroads. This bridge was also removed and all railroad traffic was stopped crossing the river into Florence.

Wheeler Dam Locks

In this blog I’ll give you a little history about the locks at Wheeler Dam located on the Tennessee River.

This a photo of Lock #2 which is located above Wheeler Dam, which was part of the original canal system that ran from lock #1 at the mouth of First Creek all the way to the Riverton Lock at Waterloo. The above lock at the mouth of Second Creek is now under about 40’ feet of water.

Lock #1

Located two miles above Wheeler Dam, now submerged in about 45′ of water.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lock is located about 50 yards out from the mouth of first Creek in about 45 feet of water.  The GPS coordinates if you would like to look at it with your Side Image or Down Image units is N034.48.734 – W087.20.799.

The original lock at Wheeler Dam was started about 6 months prior to the forming of the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933. The project was completed in 1936 and stood until the collapse in 1961.

In this photo you can see an old paddle boat going through the lock at Wheeler dam.

Collapse – June 2, 1961

History – Back in 1961 the original lock at Wheeler Dam had a structural failure. The side wall collapsed killing two people. The Corp of Engineers was in the process of constructing the new larger lift lock that is now in place. There was almost daily blasting to remove the side walls and to get down to the bedrock. Almost immediately after the failure the Corp got into high gear as all barge traffic on the Tennessee River came to a halt.In this photo you can see where the wall collapsed and you can also see where water from Wheeler Lake is rushing in through the lift gate. There was also flooding into the construction area where the Corps of Engineers were blasting for the new lift lock.

In this aerial view that was taken 5 weeks later you can see the full damage side wall collapse.

During construction some barge traffic was continued as you can see in this photo by unloading from below the dam onto barges on the up river side of the dam. This is a grain barge unloading it’s cargo of about forty five feet.

Photo of the down river view entering the new lock at Wheeler Dam, you can see the old original lock on the right after repairs.

Side Imaging – Objects Found While Scanning

In this series of Side Image and Down Image scans I’m scanning an original creek channel in the back of Bear Creek on Pickwick Lake. While scanning I found an interesting object on the lake bottom.

This one will be of Objects Found.

Take a look at this side scan and see what you can find before looking at the photo below. As I showed you in the last Blog on Bottom Composition you can see the darker colors are a soft bottom in this case the original creek channel. And the brighter color is of the harder bottom  composition. The shadows next to the objects lets you determine the height of the object on the lake bottom.

Photo 2 below…….

Now that you’ve had a chance to find the objects I’ll point out what you should have found. (1) is a false return as I was making a sharp turn with my boat so disregard it. (2) is a sunken tree top that either was placed there by another fisherman or washed into the creek and sank on its on. (3) is a very large stump that you can tell by the shadow it casts. (4) Finally as you can tell this is an old sunken boat. It looks to be a flat bottom boat without an outboard engine attached. The GPS coordinates of the area if you want to look at the objects to learn your unit is as follows.

GPS: N 34 48.113 – W088 05.365 

Hope this helps you understand units.

Side and Down Image Screen Shot – Bottom Composition

In this series of Side Image and Down Image scans on my Blog I’m trying and teach you what you are looking at while scanning with your Side Image and Down Image. This one will be of bottom composition.

If you notice the dark color in the screen shot is a mud or muck bottom. The sonar signal is absorbed in the soft material where the hard bottom in this case gravel and rock is hard and the sonar signal returns very quickly thus a brighter color on your screen.

Bottom Composition

Hope this helps you understand units.