Monday, June 8, 2009

Harpeth Narrows

Floated and fished the Harpeth Narrows yesterday with a buddy. A great thing about the Narrows float is its simplicity. Since the river bends around to form a roughly 5-mile circle, you can do the float solo. A short hike from the take-out puts you right back to parking at the put-in. With a truck, it's easy to just toss a kayak in the bed, and within an hour, I can be on the water.

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Harpeth Narrows at EveryTrail

Map created by EveryTrail: GPS Community

For the second time, we paddled our kayaks up a small channel that leads to a waterfall, its spillway tunnel connecting the closest portion of the Narrows. About this landmark, the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture notes:
The Patterson Forge, the site of which is now preserved at the Narrows of the Harpeth State Historical Area, was constructed at the neck of an unusual bend of the Harpeth River where, after approximately four miles, the stream channel returns to within two hundred yards of itself. Around 1818 Montgomery Bell purchased the site, which at the time was in Davidson County. Soon after, African American slaves under Bell's direction began excavating a tunnel through a one-hundred-yard-wide rock ridge that separated the river beds. Designed to convey water for power, the tunnel was completed by 1820. Following a failed effort to sell the site to the United States government for construction of an armory, Bell erected a forge for the production of wrought iron, using pig iron from regional blast furnaces.

Montgomery Bell owned and operated Patterson Forge from 1832 to 1854. After this, James L. Bell ran the operation until about 1862, when it was closed during the Civil War. The forge was not reopened after the Civil War because the iron industry in Tennessee, in general, remained depressed. In the 1880s a gristmill was established on the site to take advantage of the water power provided by the tunnel.

Today the Cheatham County site of Patterson Forge is part of the Narrows of the Harpeth State Historic Area maintained by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. The site and the nearby grave of Montgomery Bell are silent reminders of one of Tennessee's important early industries.

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Casting a 1/16 oz. Rooster Tail all day, I caught and released over 30 fish, including catfish, bluegill, sunfish, rock bass, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass. Big fish honors, however, went to my friend who caught a nice 15" smallmouth. On ultra-light tackle, all these fish were fun to catch, but the bigger smallmouth put up an especially good fight.

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I'm always amazed by the iridescent coloring of the little longear sunfish that populate streams and rivers in Tennessee. They look nearly tropical. Besides the fish that we caught, wildlife we saw included beaver, fox squirrel, great blue heron, gar, lots of large carp sunning in the shallows, and a softshell turtle.

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