Family Traditions Emerge at the Elk River

by | May 2024

AS SUMMER approaches, families eagerly anticipate the break from daily routines, preparing to embark on new adventures. Friends load up their RVs, ready to hit the open road and create unforgettable memories. It’s a season of adventure. The Elk River, cascading below Tims Ford Dam in South Central Tennessee, is an oasis where cool water and inviting pools glisten under the sun. In the deeper stretches, fish dart and gleam, their scales flashing like jewels. It’s a place of endless fascination, an ecosystem inviting those seeking serenity and new experiences. 

For some, the Elk River is a second home, an integral part of their lives for generations. It’s a place that holds memories as precious as the glittering fish that call it home. 

It’s no wonder that 25 years ago, Lolita Golden asked her boyfriend, Karl Jones, “When are you going to take me fishing?” 

She immediately fell in love with the area. Lolita, raised on a farm in Holders Cove, found her own slice of heaven wading in the creeks on her family’s land. Karl grew up in the Farris Chapel community and spent many childhood days fishing the pond on his family farm. 

As Karl grew older, he and his friends explored the Elk River’s stunning landscape, floating, fishing, and camping on the weekends. 

What makes the Elk River deeply personal for the Jones family is the bond Karl and Lolita shared over the water. This was well before she gave birth to their two children. 

“When I came along, he took me floating on the river and camping on weekends. He taught me how to fish with crickets,” Lolita remembered fondly. “I had never been to such a quiet, peaceful spot and never caught so many fish. It was so quiet and peaceful and beautiful to observe nature.” 

The couple soon married, and as their family grew, so did their river adventures. Karl built a little spot on the boat for their daughter, Brooke, with a cute umbrella, allowing her the space to enjoy the ride in her infancy. The birth of their second bundle of joy, their son, Austin, added a new dimension to their family traditions. 

“We loaded them up, packed tents, coolers, and fishing poles into a small 14-foot Jon boat, and floated down the river to our camping spot. Our friends and their children would go too, and there was nothing better.” 

On weekends camping along the river became a blend of old and new, where the children learned to fish, build fires, set up tents, and appreciate the great outdoors. They bantered and played together in the river, catching minnows, skipping rocks, and swimming. 

River days weren’t always smooth-flowing. On one trip, the family and friends enjoyed a beautiful evening, lulled to sleep by the warmth of the air and the coolness of the water. They woke up the next morning to a massive downpour as their tent filled with water. Despite a day of continuous rain as they floated downstream to their vehicles, the families didn’t let a little rain stop their shine. 

“The fishing was good. So we had a good time,” Lolita shared. “We still laugh about that trip.” 

Successful fishing trips are familiar to the family, and especially to Austin. Since toddlerhood, he has been reeling in catches alongside his father and close friends on the Elk River. His fishing prowess led him to join the Franklin County Junior and High School Bass teams, exploring lakes from Watts Bar to Kentucky Lake on the Tennessee River. 

Before the era of COVID-19, Austin’s skills earned him fifth place at Toledo Bend in Louisiana with his partner, securing a spot in the high school BASS Nationals. 

Over the years, Lolita and her family have marveled at the wildlife. They’ve witnessed many river wonders from clouds, trees, wildflowers, and the kids wading in the water with friends. 

“The wildlife we spotted is amazing,” Lolita said. 

Deer, mink, snakes, fish, birds, and even bald eagles have graced their experiences. 

The family and their friends now enjoy Tims Ford Lake on their pontoon boat, downrigging at night. They delight in afternoon boat rides, pulling the kids and their friends on the inner tubes. 

Karl and Lolita take their cousins from Florida and their boys out for tubing and fishing along the Elk River during family reunions. An experience sparked a newfound passion for fishing in one of the boys, who now participates on a fishing team back in Florida. 

Karl and Lolita recently switched from tents to a camper. The family embraces the added comfort of their trips, exploring and enjoying the amenities of the wonderful campgrounds in the area. 

Reflecting on 25 years together in 2023, they realized it all began with a simple question: “When are you going to take me fishing?” GN 

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