Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area was once home to over 2,000 families and several small tight-knit communities. The Tennessee Valley Authority took over the vast 170,000-acre peninsula between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley in the 1960s. TVA purchased the land from the families and many of them found new homes in nearby communities.
A few weeks ago, Lisa Trimble, a Facebook fan of Four Rivers Explorer, sent me a photo of an old abandoned school bus in Land Between The Lakes.
I asked Lisa regarding the whereabouts of the bus and she gave me some good information on how to find it. The location is a popular hunt for geocachers and actually has a name on geocaching.com – Homer’s Garage.
Finding skeletal remains of civilization in Land Between The Lakes isn’t rare. However, a stripped down school bus is a one-of-a-kind discovery. Despite the fact that the old bus is odd and usual, it’s history is not much of a mystery.
According to geocaching.com, the name Homer’s Garage comes from Homer Ray, a former resident of Land Between The Lakes before it became a national recreation area. Mr. Ray owned Ray’s Garage, a shop located where the remains of the bus is today.
Mr. Ray was one of the last people to leave Land Between The Lakes in 1969. He relocated to Eddyville and operated a garage there until his death in 1981.
Much of the land surrounding the former site of Homer’s Garage was owned by his family. Mr. Ray’s father, Cordie, operated the Kuttawa Ferry across the Cumberland River. Ray and many of his family members are buried in Sardis Cemetery in Land Between The Lakes.
About The Old Bus
I am not an expert at identifying old cars, let alone a bus that is 60 years old. It appears to have belonged to the Lyon County School District; you can see faint lettering on the bus reading “Lyon County”.
It also appeared to seat 32 people, with eight seats on each side of the bus. It’s been striped of virtually everything, leaving only the shell. If you think you know what year, make and model of the bus is, feel free to comment or email me.
Find The Bus
Getting to the bus is not difficult. It is located in northern Land Between The Lakes. From the Trace, take Old Ferry Road and go about 6.5 miles to LBL Road #126. Take that road and travel about a half mile until LBL Road #126 splits into #127. You’re in the general area.
Find a place to park on the side of the road . There is an old driveway with a mound of dirt and gravel near a modern road sign. Take this path and head into the woods about 500 feet or so. You’ll see the bus in front of you. The bus can be spotted from #126 in the winter months.
As always, leave no trace! In the warm months, make sure you watch where you step and check yourself for ticks.
There is a geocache at this site. You can get GPS coordinates for Homer’s Garage at geocaching.com.
Several years ago, right after we had our first child, we were treated with an afternoon off from our little guy and ventured out into the vast woods of Land Between The Lakes.
The destination was Pryor Creek, just south of the KY/TN border near Lake Barkley. We were on the hunt for an old abandoned bridge, and with some luck, we found it. You can read about our adventure back in 2008 here. We went in the summertime and had to fight ticks, mosquitoes and a lot of overgrowth.
Recently I decided to take advantage of a warm winter day to revisit the Pryor Creek bridge ruins and see if I could get better photos. With all the briers and vegetation gone, it would be a lot easier to get to. It was good to get these photos!
This bridge was originally built near the Tennessee River in the 1920s. When Kentucky Lake was created in the early 1940s, the bridge’s location was going to be inundated by the new reservoir, so workers moved the bridge to it’s present location on Pryor Creek.
It isn’t known to me when it was closed, but it might be safe to assume the 1960s, considering the creation of Lake Barkley and Land Between The Lakes.
Pryor Creek Is Beautiful
This creek is spring fed in several locations. One spring is next to the Great Western Iron Furnace. Another spring in the Homeplace 1850s living history farm feeds it.
A gentleman emailed me in 2015 saying there was another spring on down from the bridge that fed the main creek. On the mouth of the spring is a rock formation. His grandfather grew up there and used the spring to keep food cool. A spring house was built on this site, but now is long gone. I didn’t have time to look for it and really didn’t want to get my feet cold and wet from crossing the frigid creek.
Don’t Cross The Bridge!
It’s impossible for a vehicle to cross the bridge with old barricades up and a lot of trees and overgrowth. But I wouldn’t cross it on foot, either. The wood deck is rotten. So if you decide to go visit the old bridge, remember safety first – don’t walk out on it.
Finding Pryor Creek Bridge
There are a couple ways to get there, but the best way is probably taking LBL Road #204 near the Great Western Iron Furnace from the Trace. Follow this gravel road until you reach LBL Road #174. Turn left on this road and go a bit until you reach LBL Road #364 (this road may be unmarked). If you cross Pryor Bay you’ve gone too far. At the time of this writing, any vehicle can access this area.
Travel to the very end of LBL Road #364 and park at the barricade. Walk along the old road a couple hundred yards and you’re there. The bridge is hard to see and get to in the summer, so if you don’t find it, continue walking down the lane to the ford. Get into the creek and you’ll see it crossing the stream about 100 feet down. In the summer, watch for snakes and other critters!
Empire Farm is an abandoned farming educational and demonstration area in Land Between The Lakes. Empire Farm once served as the headquarters of the Kentucky Woodlands National Wildlife Refuge in the 1930s. The refuge covered large swaths of land in the northern portion of present-day Land Between The Lakes.
When Land Between The Lakes became a National Recreation Area in the 1960s, Empire Farm became an agricultural education center until sometime in the 1980s. The fields today are still maintained by cooperative farmers, but the buildings and barns have been abandoned for quite some time.
Crystal Akers recently sent us these photos of her own personal exploration of Empire Farm. If you want to explore this area for yourself, see the Google Map below the photos for directions.
Photos of Empire Farm
Thanks again to Crystal Akers for the great photos.
Location of Empire Farm
This area is located in the northeastern part of Land Between The Lakes near the abandoned Silo Overlook.
Lake Barkley recently turned 50. The US Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) built Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River near Grand Rivers in the early 1960s. The dam birthed Lake Barkley – a shallow sister of Kentucky Lake, just a few miles east of its sibling.
Geocaching is an activity where you locate a geocache using Global Positioning System or GPS. A geocache is typically a small container hidden on public grounds that contain small trinkets and a log book. Handheld GPS units or your smartphone can guide you to geocaches.
Let’s face it – moving can be painful. Chances are everyone reading this article has moved at least once in their lifetime. Kids move out and get married. Newlyweds move from apartment to apartment or to their first home. Sometimes folks will upgrade homes and move to a bigger house to accommodate their expanding family.
In the mid-1800s, the iron ore industry exploded in the area known as “Between the Rivers.” With its prime location due to its close proximity to the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers, the industry flourished. These rivers were the best way to transport goods since railroads did not exist in this area at that time.