Underwater Explosion

This isn't the exact explosion, but it's kind of how Michael Kirkpatrick remembers it when 900 sticks of dynamite were used to deepen the channel at Point of Pines when he was a boy. 

(Another in a series of boyhood remembrances by a weekend resident of Point of Pines at Beech Creek.) 

Let me tell you a little about our cove. It is a beautiful place, quiet, serene, and protected. It is located on the backwater near the mouth of Brown's Creek, the southernmost part of the entire Tennessee River.

The cove is nearly a mile long and an eighth of a mile wide. At the entrance, the water is about 5 feet deep and grows gradually shallower. About two-thirds of the way back, you could walk across it without getting your short pants wet. A few stumps, some marked, some unmarked, limit the boat traffic to locals, fishermen, or the "yet to learn" novice day cruisers. Our motto was, “It’s nice back here, but shallow and stumpy!”

Two points protrude into the lake guarding the entrance to the cove. To the west is a long manicured point with 100-foot tall pine and poplar trees protecting the cove from winter gales.

On the opposite bank is an exposed boulder-lined peninsula known locally as "Cow Pasture Point." This point is covered in thick underbrush and trees untouched since the lake came up. Beyond the point, the peninsula opens into large pastures that TVA once leased to cattle ranchers.

PAST THE POINTS, the cove widens with long arching shores that gradually taper to the back of the cove. The east shore is completely natural and lined with pines, maples, and willows. The west shore is populated with neighborhoods.

Wealthy investors developed the neighborhoods in the late 1950s as TVA sold large tracts of waterfront land at auction. Interesting names were given to these new developments: Point of Pines, Sherwood Forest, Pine Acres, and Cherokee Pines.

The lots in the shallow end of the cove were inaccessible by boat and, of course, less valuable. To solve this problem, the developers dug a canal along the shore for the last half-mile of the cove.

The canal was about 40 feet wide and about 5 feet deep. The work was done with a dragline, a large dredge bucket thrown by a track-hoe using cables. The excavated dirt was spread along the water's edge and smoothed into wide lawns along the shore. Boathouse slips were cut into the bank with backhoes, making the slip doors flush with the shoreline.

THEIR PLAN was working so well that at the end of the cove, the canal was extended past the natural shoreline of the cove. The extended canal was formed in a 200 yard long semicircle, which created many more waterfront lots on the outside of the semicircle and a neighborhood park on the inside.

At the opposite end, the entrance of the canal needed to curve out to the middle of the cove for deep water access. This was a problem because a dragline could not reach the middle, so they completed the job with that scientific wonder, dynamite! The last 300 feet of the channel was filled with nine hundred sticks of dynamite. When the charge was blown, a brown wall of mud and water was thrown hundreds of feet into the air. The boom was heard for miles and echoed for minutes around the mountains.

The developers placed freshly painted red and green buoys to mark the channel. The job was complete, and the marketing blitz began. The lots along the canal were the first to sell. Soon week­enders from Birmingham, Gadsden, and Huntsville bought lots and built cabins and boathouses. The cove had begun a new chapter.

Our lot was at the mid-point of the cove next to the access lot, which provided lake access to the neighborhood lots across the road. We were on good water. A hundred feet out, it was about 4 feet deep and provided good boating access with a dock and boathouse.

Over time we progressed by clearing the lot, drilling a well, upgrading our accommodations to a used "New Moon" brand 60’ by 12’ house trailer, and building a dock. We established a new routine of work and school through the week, then off to the lake for the weekend. Our adventures were about to move into high gear.

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