On July 12th we traveled to Cheatham Lake to spend our day with Ranger Mike Kuntz. The morning started off with us winding through the back country roads just outside Ashland City to find the Lake’s main office. When we arrived, we quickly noticed that the office was a small trailer that was cram-packed full of stuff. Before we were even able to ask about the situation Mike explained to us that their old office building was wiped out during the 2010 flood. He said that water quickly rose up from the river and destroyed just about everything in they had in the office. Mike described how they were frantically tossing files from the office to a rescue boat that was waiting outside. The most tragic event that Mike explained probably was the story about a gentleman who was working on the Lock and since the water rose quickly his only option was to climb up the tallest tower and wait for a rescue boat in order to avoid the rushing water.
The construction of the new permanent office building was set to begin the day of our visitation and was expected to be complete by early next year if weather permits. In order to avoid the chance of floods again the new office building will be built on an area of raised soil. Mike told us the floods of 2010 were very uncommon but it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to building their new office.
As we set out to do our work for the conservation project, Mike drove us around the Lake and showed us some of the sites that we were not familiar with. A lot of the sites were just boat ramps with not much else to them. Mike showed us one of the Lake’s more popular camping sites which had around 30 camping spots with a lot of things for visitor’s to do. There were horseshoe pits, swimming areas, plenty of fishing spots, and Mike even said that they were planning on putting in a sand volleyball court.
When we finally arrived at our first spot to clean up, it was full of trash that visitors had left. In order to have some fun we joked about assigning points to rare items that we might find while cleaning up. Some of the odd things that we found included a pair of snow boots, tons of little “M150” energy drinks, a cooler, and even a TV. With the six of us and Mike working hard, we were able to clear the area of trash in a very short time period. We finished up collecting well over 10 bags of garbage.
Dealing with the grossness of the trash was not the only factor we were faced with. We were constantly walking through spider webs and feeling like we were going to become their next meal. Another issue that one of our team members faced was being a magnet for ticks. Over the short period of time that we spent picking up trash at the site, one member found three ticks that were hoping to suck her blood. Luckily she was able to get them off before they got too attached. On a brighter note, we did come across a baby turtle that I named Teddy. He was a very cool little turtle that just wanted to hang out and enjoy our company. I think he might of cried a little when we left to head to our next site.
The second site that we cleaned up was a popular fishing spot for locals that was located right underneath the dam. When we first approached the area we were overwhelmed with the extreme stench of fish that fisherman were using for bait. There were also a lot of fish carcasses that people just left after filleting them. With the combination of the extreme rancid stench and scorching heat, we cleaned up the area quickly to escape both elements.
To finish up our day, Ranger Mike showed us a few of the secluded sites that were on the lake. On the drive to the office a few of the members were so exhausted from the long hot day they ended up passing out in the back seat of the SUV.
All-in-all it was a good conservation day and we all agreed that Cheatham Lake was a great place if you were looking for some peace and quietness.
Written by Tyler Frisbee