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Experiencing totality: Ancient mounds attract eclipse goers

WICKLIFFE, Ky. – License plates from Virgina, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina, among others, lined the shoulder of U.S. 51 near the gate of Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site Monday morning. While several ended up there by chance, motivated by a forecast of 15-20% cloud coverage, more favorable than conditions expected in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Carbondale, Ill., others intentionally chose the ancient site to view the rare celestial event – a total solar eclipse.  

At least 200 people, young and old, dotted the grounds of the ancient Mississippian site which dates back to 1100-1350 A.D. with their blankets, chairs, card tables and coolers, intermittently donning approved eyewear. 

At 1:59 p.m., the crowd erupted in applause as the moon completely obscured the sun, but silence soon fell upon them as they basked in the strange green glow of totality for two minutes and 36 seconds.  

Larry and Vickie Booth have been planning on watching the eclipse at Wickliffe Mounds for over three years. The couple, who lives in Jonesboro, Georgia, a community south of Atlanta, had spent time in Paducah before and were familiar with the area.

“We knew what we were getting into,” Vickie said. “We came here, specifically, because (Larry) wanted to see the Indian mounds.”

“Seemed like a good time to catch both,” Larry added.

“We could’ve stayed in Atlanta and seen a partial (eclipse),” Vickie said, “but that’s not the same thing! It is great! It was great!”

“This was just fabulous,” Vickie continued. “I know that there’s a cross-section of the one from 2017 and this one in 2024 in this area; so, it’s really a historical event to be back where the one from 2017 was total. And the weather is fabulous! No bugs. No heat. It’s just gorgeous. Everybody lucked out – the rain came through last night, and here we’ve had a fabulous day for it.”

The Booths traveled around 400 miles to reach Wickliffe, but they are taking their time on the journey.

“We went to a couple of distilleries in Tennessee; we just made a trip of it,” Vickie said. “There’s so much to do here, and it’s so beautiful. We’ve really enjoyed our trip. And we’re still just going to venture on when we leave here. I think we’re going back down through Memphis, then Alabama and back to Georgia. But we’re both retired, so we have the opportunity to do that – just go.” 

When Marcelo and Paula Brassolatti set out on from their home in North Carolina with their daughter Luiza and Brick, the Weimaraner, their destination was Cape Girardeau, but as they drove through Ballard County, 12 hours into their 13-hour trek, they adjusted their plans. 

“That’s a funny story,” Paula said. “We lost our phone (service) along the way. We were supposed to go one more hour further, but the traffic was so weird. So, we decided to just stay here.” 

Traffic was notably bad in the city of Wickliffe. Dik Jones, of Calvery City, reported spending 45 minutes waiting to get through one stop sign in town.

Linda and Lupe, who chose not to give their last names, planned their trip home to Maryland from winter home in Mexico around the eclipse. 

“We came up from Vera Cruz, Mexico, intending to see the eclipse near San Antonio,” Linda said, “and when the weather report was bad, we used that eclipse interactive map, and this was going to be, I think, 15% cloudy today. So, we’re one of the millions of people pouring into that 15%.” 

Ultimately, the change in plans ended up making a better trip than they had originally planned. Linda came across Wickliffe Mounds while searching for potential viewing areas around Paducah. 

“It’s been on my bucket list to go to places and learn more about the mound-builder culture, the Mississippians,” Linda explained. “And this museum was just incredible. So, this was much better than we could ever had (hoped for). I’m so glad the weather was bad in San Antonio – which, never has bad weather – so we’re just having a great time here. This is such a nice crowd. People are very calm, very respectful. It’s lovely.” 

“We came up (U.S.) 51,” she added later, “and I did not realize until we saw the sign that it’s part of the Great River Road; and that had been on my bucket list – to do part of the Great River Road. So, it was very cool to do that. I’m only sorry that we didn’t get to see the confluence of the Mississippi and the Ohio (rivers); it was too foggy this morning. But we’ll be back.

“I picked up a lot of information in the visitor’s center about all of the wonderful sites that celebrate the mound-builder, Mississippian culture, so I would like to do another trip back to this area just to go see more of that. Sometimes things work out for the best.” 

The next total solar eclipse that will cross a substantial portion of the US will be Aug. 12, 2045. Dubbed the “Greatest American Eclipse,” it will feature a maximum totality duration over six minutes.

Sentinel Staff

Jessica Paine
I’m Jessica Paine, founder of The Murray Sentinel. You may know me from my time as a citizen journalist, running the Calloway Covid-19 Count page on Facebook, or you may be familiar with my more recent work for another local news outlet. Being that I’m “from here,” you may have known me since I was “knee-high to a grasshopper,” although you knew me as Jessica Jones. But whether you know me or not, I’m glad you found your way here.

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