July 23, 2017, Paducah, KY-
This old river town, now also a regional hub for the Confluence- (people in Cairo, IL refer to Paducah as “town”), has two places that drew me back, all the way from last year, when I passed this way after dark, and ended up in Marion, IL. The first is the Ohio Riverfront. Middle America has done well, in making the most of its waterways, both the great rivers and the Great Lakes. Retaining walls are accompanied by walkways and adorned by murals. Public events, ever with music, are a given- especially in summer. This is Paducah, named by William Clark, who gave the local Comanches the name Padoukas- a corruption of the Kaw term for them: Padoka.
The Ohio is joined by the Tennessee River, not far from here. Then, as you may recall, the Ohio itself conjoins the Missisissippi, a few miles further west, at Cairo. Thus, one might set sail in Huntsville, Alabama and make one’s way clear to Billings, Montana, or Wichita, Kansas, with clever navigation.
The preacher man was too busy singing, to introduce himself, but he is apparently a local fixture, as many of those in their lawn chairs said they’d be at his gospel festival, a few days into August. He covered all the timeless classics, and got me to croak along, on a few of them.
The triptych mural, on Paducah’s floodwall, covers different aspects of the river’s heritage. This one, of the riverboat, looks at a period of time that fascinated me, as a child. The gamblers and the roustabouts of the early river communities were among my favourite characters, on shows like “Daniel Boone.”
River traffic made Paducah prosper, in the mid-Nineteenth Century, even into the beginnings of the Rail Era. The solid buildings still maintain a bustling downtown. Even on Sunday evening, when most everything was closed, I got a sense of the city’s vitality.
Every Midwestern town, it seems, has a gazebo, and Paducah is no exception. This gazebo spawned its own park, and Garden Club.
Should I pass this way again, I would make certain to come when the long Market Hall is open. Growing up with Boston’s Faneuil Hall, I am perfectly content spending hours in a public market.
Along Broadway Street are some ever-enticing abstract murals.
Lastly, this evening introduced me to St. Clair Court, the site of a three-story wooden hotel and theater, across from the Market. It was destroyed by fire, in 1895. Adjacent to it is this brick and mortar wonder.
So, there is a taste of one of Kentucky’s interesting river towns. Like any region, the Ohio Valley would offer a full experience to the discerning and curious traveler. Alas, I must head westward, though through other interesting areas, to my own exhilarating Home Base.
NEXT: A Tale of Two Campgrounds