Open the Flood Gates!

What first appears to be just another small town in Kentucky turns into a treasure trove of fascination! This little town has tons of character, history and great eats! You will feel the flood gates of adventure open up as you tour the historic downtown area of Paducah, Kentucky!

At the heart of America’s inland waterways, where the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers converge lies Paducah, named after Chickasaw Indian Chief Paduke, or so the local lore goes. What we discovered was there is no Chief Paduke! Nor is there a tribe of “Paducahs” but rather a misspelling by William Clark (of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition) of the Comanche Indian tribe known at the time as the Padoucas.

Turn­ of ­the­ century Paducah history books are effusive about the man, describing him as “towering Atlas-like above the common range”.

The locals want to believe in the bigger than life man so Chief Paduke remains. He’s on T-­shirts, stickers, post cards, police officers’ cars and uniforms. He’s a statue at 19th and Jefferson. He is a great misrepresentation of someone you want to follow and have your town named after. And so this wonderful folklore around the town of Paducah endures.

Cities and towns along river banks are no strangers to flooding. On January 21, 1937, the Ohio River at Paducah rose above its 50-foot flood stage, cresting at 60.8 feet on February 2. After 18 inches of rainfall in 16 days, the earthen levee was ineffective against this flood.

Congress authorized the United States Army Corps of Engineers to build the flood wall that now protects the city. The painted concrete wall is 14 feet high and the system includes 12 pump stations and several pipe gates, pipes, and 47 vehicular openings. The flood wall provides a level of protection equal to the record 1937 flood plus three feet.


Paducah Wall to Wall is 3 city blocks of murals. The magnificent Dafford Floodwall Murals were painted by Louisiana Mural artist Robert Dafford and a team of other artists including Herb Roe, Benny Graeff, Doug Safford and Mike Doherty. They completed the 50 murals along the flood wall in 2007.

Murals depicting Paducah in 1873 as a prosperous and growing city, large scale agriculture in Kincaid Mounds, African American History, the churches of Paducah and steamships on the river are just a few of the 50 beautifully detailed paintings on the flood wall.

Bronze interpretive panels explain the content of each mural and enable onlookers to understand the history unfolding before them.

As we walk around the end of the flood wall, we see in the distance a beautiful river boat. Can it be? Oh, yes it is! The American Queen Riverboat, in all her splendor, we had the pleasure of viewing when we were in Hannibal Missouri! She is in port for the last time this season. In this mural all three of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company’s boats (Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen, & American Queen) were docked at the Port of Paducah at the same time in July of 1996 and were greeted by the Paducah Ambassadors.

Today the Ambassadors were at the Paducah Riverfront to bid farewell to the passengers of the American Queen as they set sail. A tradition that has been part of Paducah hospitality for over 28 years. These volunteers take to heart the welcoming, sharing, and handing out of information about their town. If you’ve got a question, they’ve got the answer!

The Moonshine Company, located in historic downtown Paducah ~ Makers of fine Kentucky Moonshine! Step right inside and sip it straight or mixed with flavors while listening to how it’s made and the colorful history behind moonshine.

Did you know it’s illegal to own any part of a still, let alone the whole still? You can’t even have an antique one converted to a flower pot! It’s still a still and it’s against the law to own. So if you know someone who has one….you know a modern day bootlegger!

There’s more than moonshine at the distillery. This place is jam packed with stills and moonshine history exhibits, including an actual still that the revenuers axed when action was taken to enforce prohibition.

The tradition of moonshine is in the recipe. Different blends of rye , barley, white and yellow corn make up the distinct flavors in each recipe of moonshine.  In addition to the straight moonshine they are beginning a new tradition by offering flavored mixers to add to the spirits. Flavors like Lemon Drop, Fireball, Apple Pie and Whiskey Sour can be added to the moonshine to lighten things up a bit.

They continue to use the same recipe, and the same method, Uncle Mosey used to support their family through prohibition and the Great Depression. The very same Uncle Mosey’s moonshine that was the favorite of the notorious gangster bootlegger Al Capone!

Sometimes you just gotta have a juicy burger! JP’s Bar and Grill delivers! They even had a local artist singing on the patio for some extra ambience.

My burger was topped with hickory smoked bacon, onion straws, Swiss cheese and BBQ sauce. On the side, a pile of sweet potato fries! David is a traditionalist so he ordered 1/2 lb. steak burger with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions and Provolone cheese. Criss-cross cut fries of course!

A perfectly satisfying day! So many little treats to savor in Paducah remain for our next visit!


One thought on “Open the Flood Gates!

  1. Larry Carrier says:

    Following EatMyMap is a wonderful education in American History. More can be learned here than in most college courses. The pictures are are exquisite and the commentary light, but poignant. My wife and I will be taking a cruise down the Mississippi from Memphis to New Orleans on the American Queen River Boat in the spring. Great to see it mentioned here.


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