The wonderful city of Paducah, Kentucky was a hidden gem on our road trip towards the Midwest. You may have already read about two of our boozy stops in this historic town, Barrel and Bond and Dry Ground Brewing Company, but I wanted to make a separate post about the town itself. I truly didn’t understand just how much this town has gone through since William Clark of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition founded it in 1827, or that William Clark even had anything to do with this place. Truth is, he only paid $5 for the land Paducah sits on that year, but 25 years earlier his buddy Meriwether Lewis paid $20 for his Newfoundland dog named Seaman, who was the only dog to accompany them on their expedition to the Pacific coast and back. And people say dogs aren’t man’s best friend?
Paducah has a strategic location at the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio Rivers. Plus, it’s only a few miles upstream from where the Ohio River joins the Mississippi River, all of which means Paducah has a rich river history. From exploration to shipbuilding and beautiful riverboats to floods, this town has seen it all. Emerging from that colorful past is a flavorful downtown district with various shops, restaurants, bars, theaters, and other attractions, most of which are housed in decades- or even century-old buildings.
We can’t talk about Paducah without mentioning the riverfront “Wall-to-Wall.” This is a massive gallery of murals that are housed on the old Ohio River flood wall that depict the history of Paducah. They have murals showing the Native American presence when William Clark passed through, the shipbuilding industry that encompassed the town for so long, and Paducah’s modernization. The description doesn’t do it justice though; there are over 50 murals, and the whole wall takes up over three city blocks. This, and the nearby quilt museum, helped UNESCO designate Paducah as one of their nine United States Creative Cities.
We didn’t get to spend a ton of time in Paducah, as it was just a stop after we left Land Between the Lakes before we landed at our campsite in the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois. We definitely took advantage of the time we had, however. We got to try some great food, bourbon, and beer while learning a ton of history that we were simply unaware of. The appetizer definitely has us wanting to visit again when we can spend more time, as Paducah holds so much more than people realize.