Smithland and Smithland Dam
Smithland "Buzzard Roost"
Located in western Livingston County, Smithland is a small city of about 1,000 people. This site is best in summer or fall when the Ohio River is likely to be low. The principal attraction is a group of sandbars in the Ohio river that may produce Franklin's Gull and others as well as terns in the summer and migration. The Ohio river must be fairly low for the bars to exposed. The bars are best viewed from location downtown called the "Buzzard Roost" by locals. This is an apparently public roofed building (or just use the street) that is a center for town "loafers" and male story tellers. A good scope is necessary to fully enjoy this location.
Below Smithland Dam
To reach Smithland Dam, follow US 60 north from the town of Smithland about 2 miles. Turn left on an unmarked blacktop road just past the Cumberland River and associated lowlands. When you approach silver guard rails on both sides of the road, slow down and prepare to turn left. Follow this road about 1/2 mile. It will bend left past a parking area and a fenced are that says no trespassing. Continue until you reach a large parking are and make a sharp right turn back towards the dam. Follow to the end or until you see a break in the vegetation. From this vantage point, look for gulls, cormorants, and waterfowl below the dam in the river and on exposed rocks. Check the close shoreline for shorebirds that may be present. If you are in a pickup, you may wish to set up your scope in the back and look behind the dam for waterfowl and/or gulls. This location is best in late fall or winter.
Above Smithland Dam
To reach the area above Smithland Dam, trespassing is necessary. Normally, this is not advised, but there is a clear path made by local fishermen and birders have not encountered any problems. Nevertheless, if instructed to leave by Corps of Engineers Personnel, do so without argument.
Return to the fenced area discussed in the previous section. Park, and walk around the fence towards the dam. Make a right turn as you approach the river and walk through the tall grass/weeds carefully (holes, erosion ditches). Eventually, you will reach the rocky fill that keeps the river in bank. You may scan the river above the dam here. You may wish to walk upstream about 1/4 mile to scan locations secluded here. The main attraction is migrating waterfowl, in the late fall/early winter season. Other seasons are less productive. Sparrows are a nice diversion in the grassy areas as well.
Viewing From Illinois
For all Smithland locations below, morning light is best as the river runs north south here. In the visiting the Illinois side might be advisable. To reach the Illinois side, either travel to Paducah and cross the Irvin Cobb Bridge on US 45 or take Interstate 24 to the first Illinois exit (37).
Just north of Brookport, a blacktop road to the west is marked with a brown sign will take you to the Dam observation Deck/Room after a drive of about 10 additional miles. From here, the locks obscure your view and the area behind the dam is difficult to see. However, the bulls are closer and much better to view in afternoon light.
-- Mark Bennett