Sunset Pontoon Cruise
Edgar Evins State Park Marina2100 Edgar Evins State Park Rd, Silver Point, TN 38582
Center Hill Lake – Tennessee
by: Mireille Koester at The Cookeville Review
“The best fifteen dollars I’ve spent in a long time.”
A Sunset Cruise ReviewMy sunset cruise in late June of 2020, was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I highly recommend it!
Getting ThereIt was a pleasantly warm summer’s evening when my friend and I started out for Center Hill Lake from Cookeville heading west on I-40. Unfortunately, we found ourselves thwarted by stop-and-go traffic due to construction on I-40. Knowing we would be late, we called the marina office to let them know we wouldn’t make the scheduled 6:30 launch time. We were pleasantly surprised by the willingness of the ranger to wait for us–as long as the other passengers didn’t mind, he said. We arrived at the marina fully ten minutes after the launch time and were so grateful they held the cruise for us. I can’t promise that the park rangers can always be so accommodating, but our ranger-guide that evening, Mark Taylor, went the extra mile.
Getting on the BoatWe parked in the parking lot where there were plenty of open parking spaces. We walked down the ramp onto the marina and found the pontoon boat for the cruise was an easy walk down the dock and around the corner. The dock was level, sturdy, and stable. The boat was easy to board with no stairs to climb and nothing to step over. We walked right on. Since my friend and I both have mobility challenges, we appreciated the easy access.
The BoatThe pontoon boat was clean, comfortable, roomy, and completely safe, even filled to capacity. Once we were settled, Ranger Mark launched us out onto the open water. First, we cruised very slowly out of the marina–a no wake zone–but there was nothing boring about it. It was fun to look at all the enormous house boats moored at the marina and dream a little.
The CruiseOnce we were out of the marina, Ranger Mark picked up speed quickly and headed for the dam. We stopped near there for a few minutes as he told us about the history of the dam and the story of its construction over seventy years ago. It was fascinating to hear about the history of the region before Center Hill Lake even existed. It was lovely to sit in the gently rocking boat and watch the sunlight play off the evening clouds as he explained the history of the area. Next, we cruised up the reservoir full-steam-ahead for several minutes, going fast enough to be a fun, wind-blown ride but not fast enough to be uncomfortable. The photo opportunities on the water were stunning.
Once again, Ranger Mark cut the engine and we listened to more unique stories about the history of the area and the impact of the lake over time. For instance, did you know that the Caney Fork river had once been full of world-famous, highly-valued and precious “river pearls” before the fresh-water mussels were wiped out by overharvesting? Or did you know the Caney was so named by early explorers because of the dense thickets of river cane that used to grow along its banks? Me either. We again cruised further up the lake and then Ranger Mark turned the boat around so we were facing west. We sat for several minutes and visited with fellow passengers as we watched the summer sun set. Even though it was too cloudy to see much of the sun itself, watching the light play on the clouds was beautiful and relaxing. I could have stayed on the lake for hours. After about 15 minutes of sunset gazing, we headed back to the marina and returned to the dock right on time. (Normally, the cruise returns to the marina dock at 8:30 on the dot, but because the cruise got a late start, we got back about 8:45.)
After the CruiseWe returned in enough time to order a bite to eat–spinach dip and a basket of fries–before The Galley Restaurant closed at 9:00 pm. The food was good (not gourmet, but completely acceptable), the service was friendly, the prices were reasonable, and the menu was full of American-style favorites such as brats, chicken tenders, burgers, and specialty pizza. As we ate, we sat outside on the dock’s patio area right on the water and enjoyed the calm evening under strings of cafe lights. We especially enjoyed the unexpected visit of a large and curious turtle that swam right up to the dock’s edge where we sat. All together, it was an utterly charming evening and worth every dollar. I hope the Edgar Evins State Park ranger station continues to offer this beautiful and relaxing cruise–enjoyable for all ages–for many years to come.
Know Before You Go
- Book in advance. The pontoon boat only seats twelve and cruises can sell out quickly.
- Dates vary. Check the Facebook page or website for scheduled cruise dates and times.
- Don’t show up without a ticket. Cruises that haven’t sold any tickets may be cancelled due to lack of interest.
- Don’t be late: Plan to arrive ten minutes before launch time. Check traffic before you leave.
- Don’t see a date that works for you? Call the park office at (931) 646-3090. The rangers may be able to schedule an additional cruise to accommodate your group.
- Weather permitting: Tickets cancelled due to bad weather will be refunded. Please call.
- Cancelations: Call as soon as you can if you need to cancel or are concerned about the weather.
- It can get cool: Perhaps take a light jacket if you get chilly easily.
- Restrooms: Use the restrooms in the parking lot by the shelter before coming down to the dock. There are restrooms in the marina building, but they are not always open.
- ADA accessible: Call (931) 646-3090 to find out if the boat can accommodate your needs.
- Food: There is a restaurant at the marina if you’d like to eat before or after your cruise. Light snacks and drinks are permitted on the cruise. No alcohol.
May thru October, weather permitting. Schedule varies seasonally.
- Sunset Cruises: evenings, May to early September
- Fall Color Cruises: afternoons, September to October
- Fireworks Cruises: early July