The Black Warrior River to Mobile, AL: Spring 2014

Idyll Time has spent the past two weeks in the small town of Demopolis waiting for the rivers to calm down from all of the heavy rains.

  Demopolis sits at the junction of the Tenn-Tom Waterway and the mouth of the Black Warrior River.  It is a major hub for tow boat activity.  Barge fleets awaiting transport are lining the river banks.  We enjoy watching the constant coming and going of the tows as they assemble their loads. Demopolis Yacht Basin is a fueling facility for these big boats.  Each tow can hold up to 60,000 gallons of fuel.   The marina is pumping diesel 24 hours a day.  It is a busy place!  The New Orleans Restaurant, located beside the fuel dock, is also a popular stop for the tow boat captains.  The 2 lb. crawfish boil on Friday night’s has Jeff’s name all over it.   We enjoy several great seafood dinners while at the marina. When we arrived here, the water levels were 30 feet above normal.  Over the past two weeks, the Tenn-Tom has receded about 15 feet and conditions are much more favorable for us to continue down river


Back on the water, we have a three day trip down river to Mobile,Alabama.  Just after leaving the marina, we arrive at Demopolis Lock for another quick lock down.  Exiting the lock, we have our first tow encounter of the day as we pass the Terra Huckabee.  The river continues to stay busy all day with lots of commercial traffic. It is a long day on the water.  On this section of the river there are no anchorages.  Bobby’s Fish Camp, 95 miles downstream, is our only viably stop for the evening.  Bobby’s is a no frill stop, basically a 100 ft. long floating dock, perched right along the river banks.

  We are happy to find the dock empty when we arrive.  Boaters must raft together when the dock is full.  We enjoy a good catfish dinner tonight at the fish camp restaurant. 


Day two finds us up at 0 dark hundred hoping to get an early start.  Our goal was to run the 138 miles all the way to Mobile today.

So much for plans…..just as we start to crank the engines, we see the tow Chris Pike rounding the bend headed our way.  The Coffeyville lock is just two miles ahead and the tow will get priority.  With the hour delay at the lock, we now have no chance of reaching Mobile before dark.  We will anchor somewhere along the river banks tonight.


Coffeyville is our last lock of the trip.  Yeah!!  The waters below the dam are now tidal. The river twist and turns with one hair bend turn then another.

We see lots of evidence of the recent river flooding.  The banks are littered with channel markers that have washed ashore.  Many of the nuns and cans still in the water show signs of severe trauma from ugly encounters with the barges.   As we wind our way down river, the tows continue to appear on our AIS, one after the other.   A few hours after locking thru Coffeyville, we catch up to the Chris Pike.  He was the tow that held us up earlier at the lock.  We are cruising at 10 MPH and the Chris Pike is doing about 8MPH.  After communicating with him, we arrange a “slow pass”.  He slows down for us so that we can get around him quickly.  At our speed, this is the only way we can get past him safely.  For the most part, all the tow captains have been very courteous and are happy that we are communicating with them.  We have even had several of the Captains asking about our Krogen.  They all seem to like her looks.


This afternoon we pass our first pleasure boater headed up river.  We have been surprised at the small number of other cruisers out on the water. After spotting their Gold Looper flag, we realize that it is Ornico.  We last saw them two years ago in Alton,I Lat the junction of the Mississippi and Illinois River.  They are heading up to Tennessee.   You never know who you will meet on the water.


We pull off the river for the evenings at mile 12.2 into a cut-off know as the Tensaw River.  About a mile up this branch we anchor in Big Briar Creek.  It is a very secluded anchorage with great wind protection.  We keep our eyes peeled for alligators lurking in the swamp but none are to be found.


Leaving our anchorage on day three, we again find the river busy with tow boat activity.  Mile 0, the official end of the Black Warrior River, brings us into downtown Mobile.  Our AIS computer lights up with targets.  At one point we have over 30 different targets to keep track of.

  Being one of the top 10 ports for US exports, the waterway is very busy.    Massive ocean freighters, tow boat operators, along with the Coast Guard boats are going every which way. Once through the congested port, we follow the Mobile Ship Channel south for another 12 miles. Mobile Bay is 35 miles long and 10 miles wide.  Outside of the shipping channel the bay averages only 10 feet in depth.  The ship channel is constantly being dredged to a depth of 45 feet for the big ocean freighters.  The bay has the seventh largest river discharge in North America with 5 to 322 billion gallons per day.


As we reach the Dog River Channel, a group of pelicans escort us into the Dog River Marina.

This will be our home for the next few weeks as IT is scheduled to be hauled out for bottom paint and other maintenance work.


We did a double take as we pulled into the Marina.   The Chattanooga Star is docked along the transient docks. 

This dual paddle wheel riverboat was a downtown Chattanooga tour boat for many years and her captain, Mike Hoseman, is a boating legend in Chattanooga.  It turns out the Chattanooga Star is going to her and Mikes’ new home inSouth Carolina.  She and he will be missed inChattanooga.  What a small world it is!



Total Miles This Trip: 233

Total Miles This Year: 730

1 thought on “The Black Warrior River to Mobile, AL: Spring 2014

  1. enjoyed reading the above and am looking for more pictures of Demopolis waters — am writing a Department of Transportation grant hoping to help the city obtain $$$ to build a port — questions — do you have some other photos of Demopolis – Warrior and Tenn Tom in and near Demopolis? Can I use the 2 pictures I see above when you were in Demopolis.

    Kind regards,

    Carolyn Powell

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