Aerial Tour of Joe Wheeler State Park Man-Enhanced Amenities!

On August 20, 2023, a friend took me aloft in his Cessna 182. We departed Pryor Regional Air Field, Decatur, Alabama at 7:00 AM under cloud-free but hazy skies, the threat/promise (depending upon perspective) of expanding heat index…arriving long after our return to the airfield. Our flight plan encompassed exploring the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge and cruising the Tennessee River from Guntersville Dam downstream to Wheeler Dam (and Joe Wheeler State Park). I focus this Post on our aerial exploration of Joe Wheeler State Park.

I’ve enjoyed many on-the-ground hours at the Park, publishing numerous prior Posts focused on this State Park. Go to the Blog page of my website (, enter Joe Wheeler State Park in the search window, and read/explore the Posts at your leisure.

I snapped this photo at 8:17 AM over the south end of Wheeler Dam looking to the northside lock, and the forested Park shoreline stretching northeast from the dam.


Out of sight, a portion of the Park (southside cabins and the Multiple Use Trail) lies directly beneath me, visible in this view to the south both east and west of where the bridge reaches the opposite shoreline.


There is absolute magic in an aerial view of the famed US waterway, dammed by the Corps of Engineers and the Tennessee Valley Authority in the bleak Great Depression days of the 1930s for economic development, navigation, and power generation. From just 2,000 feet, the horizon expands exponentially. Since the first time my Dad arranged for a friend to take me airborne above our Central Appalachian home, I have been mesmerized by flying above a natural landscape. On such flights, the whole notion of my taglines…Nature-Inspired Life and Living; Nature-Buoyed Aging and Healing!…comes alive in crystal clarity.


As impressive as Wheeler Dam is from 2000 feet, it can’t surpass the October 19, 2022 pontoon boat view from the breast of the dam looking down into Wilson Lake, the next in the series of Tennessee River impoundments leading to the Ohio River.

Joe Wheeler


From this aerial vantage point a couple of miles east of the bridge crossing the dam, the Tennessee River (and Wheeler Lake) stretches eastward. First Creek empties into the Lake from the left. Nearly all of the forest surrounding the First Creek embayment is central to Joe Wheeler State Park. I have spent hours exploring trails and woodland within the field of vision from 2,000 feet altitude. I marvel that such an aerially-compressed view can account for at least half of the Joe Wheeler State Park Posts I have authored.



And, a single photo can encompass an entire lifetime…my 72 years of life on Earth. Yet, in stating something so overwhelmingly significant in terms of my own meaningless life, I am overcome with humility. I don’t belong in the same paragraph with the compressed wisdom and perspective offered by famed astronomer Carl Sagan, who better than anyone else in history, encapsulated the meaning of this view of Earth, this our only home in the vast darkness of space:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Internet Image


John Muir, the indomitable conservationist, Nature-advocate, and philosopher, distilled the reality of the pale blue dot that is Earth into a single thought…a perfect harmonious, beautiful vision and concept:

When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.

And Muir drew the dewdrop analogy a century before man first slipped the surly bonds of Earth! (John Gillespie Magee, Jr’s High Flight).

I recorded this 0:39 video at 8:19 AM, capturing the beauty, magic, wonder, awe, and inspiration of a very special place on the eastern edge of the First Creek embayment at Joe Wheeler State Park.


The view to the left includes the Lodge, part of the marina, a section of the golf course, the wastewater treatment facility, and the Day Use picnic, beach, and recreation area along the inlet east of the Lodge (closeup below right).


Aerial views complement our Earth-bound perspective, yet Earth-bound is where we reside. I snapped this sunrise photo in early June 2023, from the Lodge pier, where the boat is docked in the photo above left.



Before departing the Park, we banked over that adjoining inlet, capturing a view of the Day Use area and campground.



I took the photo below on the blustery evening before the sunrise photo, from the pier faintly visible in the upper left peninsula in the photo above. I am grateful for the opportunity to aerially explore familiar places August 23. However, I am a terrestrial explorer by experience and passion. I’ll accept and embrace the alternative perspective even as I will continue to relish my earthbound standard.


The campground reopened in the early summer of 2023 following two years of repair work necessary after a December 2019 tornado ravaged the Day Use area and campground.

Alabama State Parks Foundation

Thoughts and Reflections


I offer these observations from my aerial flight and the breath-taking perspective from 2,000 feet above God’s northern Alabama wild and domesticated patchwork quilt:

  • When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.
  • On such flights, the whole notion of my taglines…Nature-Inspired Life and Living; Nature-Buoyed Aging and Healing!…come alive in crystal clarity.
  • I am mesmerized by flying above a natural landscape, where beauty, magic, wonder, awe, and inspiration reach into my soul.

Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire, Inform, and Reward you!


Note: Unless otherwise noted, all blog post images are created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2023 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

Another Note: If you came to this post via a Facebook posting or by another route, please sign up now (no cost… no obligation) to receive my Blog Post email alerts:

And Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at


A reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied by untold orders of magnitude:

Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.


  • People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
  • They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and understand their Earth home more clearly.

Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!


Steve’s Three Books

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature.

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

  • I love hiking and exploring Nature
  • I see images I want to (and do) capture with my trusty iPhone camera
  • I enjoy explaining those images — an educator at heart
  • I don’t play golf!
  • I do love writing — it’s the hobby I never needed when my career consumed me
  • Judy suggested my writing is in large measure my legacy to our two kids, our five grandkids, and all the unborn generations beyond
  • And finally, perhaps my books and Blogs could reach beyond family and touch a few other lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's Books


All three of my books (Nature Based LeadershipNature-Inspired Learning and LeadingWeaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship with the natural world… and the broader implications for society. Order any from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.

I now have a fourth book, published by Dutton Land and Cattle Company, Dutton Land & Cattle: A Land Legacy Story. Available for purchase directly from me. Watch for details in a future Post.