Kentucky – Land Between the Lakes

The first site, 500 miles into our Northwest Expedition was Hurricane Creek Campground near Cadiz, Kentucky. Why pick this random spot? Because it is on the shores of Lake Barkley a place known for its wildlife and fisheries. Lake Barkley and its sister Kentucky Lake wrap around the area known as Land Between the Lakes a peninsula of fertile soil created by the beautiful Tennessee River. Growing up in Tennessee this is one of the few places near the state I had not been. We stayed Tuesday until Thursday morning in this great spot to be back with the fishing gear.

The campground is off the beaten path as you know are my favorite kinds. This place featured lakeside water and electric graveled sites. The area features a boat ramp, bathhouse and many big shaded sites. Many hours could be spent sitting at your campsite enjoying the action in the cove from the fish, turtles, and butterfly filled button bushes.IMG_8779 A nice breeze comes from the main lake up the cove. On our many dog walks we saw a 4’ Northern Brown Snake crossing the road and a Swamp Rabbit (a cool species that can swim). The countryside surrounding the area is full of turkey and deer. We saw several of both including a beautiful and little fawn.   

A must see is the Elk and Bison Prairie on the Land Between the Lakes proper. It has a $5 fee to enter and tour the 3.5 mile loop. It is a rolling area with many fields, forests and tree lined streams. In my excitement to go we went in the morning about 10:30 am. Morning is a dumb time to see animals, always dawn or dusk, but the 5:15 sunrise was too much to ask to disrupt my coffee routine. The first pass around the loop we saw Wild Turkey – while nice – not a bison or elk. The second time around we saw way down by the river (really a creek but that did not go with the song in my head) some large reddish to dark chocolate brown moving boulders. IMG_8739Could it be? Yes it was about 15 bison hiding in the shadows some 300 yards away. It was then we decided to make the 40 minute drive back at the proper time of dusk. (Yes I know even the sign said it but I had to try).

So we went back to the campground to chill and wait for dusk. As we finished lunch a storm was brewing heavy dark Cumulonimbus clouds were heading our way from across the lake. We hurriedly stored the camping gear in anticipation of the deluge to depart dry in the morning. A pretty terrific thunderstorm rolled through dropping copious amounts of rain and creating whitecaps in the cove. The thunder chased a few fur babies under the table. This went on until about 6pm, stupid rain.

After a serious debate on what Bison would do in a thunderstorm or thereafter, sighting cow behavior (they just stand out in it) was not relevant due to their learning disabled state.  We opted to try it around 6:45 pm departed again on the 29 mile trip there were deer in what seemed to be every field (17 to be exact) supporting my assertion that a bison is more intelligent than a cow and has to eat, rain or not. Enroute we saw this double Rainbow – another great sign of hope.IMG_6499

Once we arrived we saw three other cars, a crowd from what we saw earlier. Paid our $5 and drove through the big intimidating gate over (the cow ankle breaker) grate into the compound. We noticed just up the hill on the 3.5 mile loop in front of us a car stopped, they saw something. We slowly approached, scanning for movement. WOW it was two big ELK, just munching away at the shrubs at the woods edge. As we descended the hill there were 5 Turkeys to the left before the stream, once across there were three big cow (female) elk just to our left. As our shock was subsiding a small set of calf ears peaked over the tallIMG_8794 shrubs. There were two calves and their moms just eating away. As you see one calf was curious and wanted to see us too. We were now in the valley near the stream in the low fields.

We rounded the corner to see the a 30 Bison herd, calves and all blocking the road. There were Bison everywhere on the left, on the right, and in front. We sat starring at these great beasts and little ones for 20 plus minutes. IMG_8821There was scratching, cud chewing, grazing, cleaning, urinating, rolling, and napping, happening all at the same time. As we looked past the line of cars in front of us there was a calf laying directly in the middle of the street. A ranger was gently easing forward inch by inch img_8823.jpgto encourage the little guy to move. As this process continued we attempted to count the Bison and then noticed the huge rack of an elk just the other side of the herd. IMG_8831We then noticed two more Elk off in the distant hillside. The Ranger was still slowly herding the bison off the road with her truck in the inch by inch fashion and then the calf finally got the hint, slowly rose and sauntered off the road in slightly wild eyed disgust. Victoriously seeing Elk, Bison (being in the herd) and Turkey we departed the prairie for the campground.IMG_8808

For my bird nerd friends I saw: An unidentified yellow bird, a warbler? (See photos – he was fast), a flycatcher? (long tail with black center white edges pursuing a fly and eating it), Great Egrets (lots of them), Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Fish Crow, Cattle Egret, Cormorant, Barn Swallows, Purple Martin, Tree Swallows, Fish Crow, Robins, Sparrows, Chickadees, Doves, Cardinals, Titmouse, Hummingbird (also too fast to id), Turkeys (lots), Turkey Vultures, Pileated Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Random unidentified Owl (was dusk – big guy looked headless). I heard: Osprey, Red Shouldered Hawk, and a Whippoorwill (the bird I wish would shut the hell up – when I am trying to sleep @10:45, @12:17 and @2am, in a tent or at least be consistent in your call pattern so I may zone you out – Slingshot fodder. Yes I was in a National Park after hiking 10+ miles and no the stupid bird was not harmed…it was to nice in my sleeping bag.) See the Photo Album here  sorry photos load sloooooowwwwwwllllllllyyyyy.

Next site some 333 miles northwest to Red Bluff Campground in Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri to spend Thursday to Saturday morning.   

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