Paducah, Kentucky, USA (Photo: SteveinAZ/Shutterstock)
Paducah, Kentucky, USA (Photo: SteveinAZ/Shutterstock)
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

Jason Frye
Cruise Critic Contributor

Port of Paducah

Travelers have been calling on Paducah, Kentucky, since it was settled in 1821. Then, the town was a small trading outpost with a population of American settlers and Native Americans from the Chickasaw tribe. Sitting at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers, and near the Cumberland and Mississippi Rivers in an area known as the Four Rivers Region, Paducah was well positioned for river and later railroad traffic, which gave rise to the town's prominence as a commercial outpost. William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, laid out the town and established it as Paducah -- named in honor of the Chickasaw Chief -- in 1827.

During the Civil War, Kentucky was officially a neutral state, but "wildcat" Confederate regiments were raised across the Kentucky, and Paducah was no different. Union General Ulysses S. Grant took the city in 1861, giving him control of the Tennessee River and allowing him to utilize the docks and warehouses to support ground and naval troops across the region. The Union Army controlled the city for the duration of the war, though Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest held the town for less than a day as he and his troops raided the supply depots; the Lloyd Tilghman House and Civil War Museum tells Paducah's Civil War story in full.

Being a river city, floods are an inevitable part of Paducah's history. In 1937, the city was hit with a record flood that displaced 27,000 residents (that's more people displaced in the flood than live here today). Markers around town show the high-water line when the Ohio River crested at 60.8 feet. The massive flood forced the building of the floodwall that now lines the river side of the town.

One thing that attracts visitors to Paducah is the artistic spirit of the town. This is evident for river cruisers first in the murals, revealing episodes from the town's past, on the floodwall. The National Quilt Museum, with displays of historic and contemporary quilts in patterns old and new, brings in some 40,000 quilters and folk art-lovers. The city's Lower Town Art's District, a gallery-packed area where folk art, fine art, fiber art and more are on display in many galleries and shops, also displays that spirit. In 2013, UNESCO designated Paducah as a Creative City of Craft & Folk Art, and as a national heritage destination for its rich folk art traditions.

Shore Excursions

About Paducah


Pro

Paducah's art scene will surprise in its breadth of medium and subject matter

Con

Though the town's history is deeper, most of what you'll learn concerns the Civil War

Bottom Line

Between the art galleries and antique shops, it's easy to pass an afternoon here


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Where You're Docked

Riverboats dock between Broadway Street and Kentucky Avenue, a block and a half from downtown. There are no facilities at the dock, but visitors will find all they want downtown, just a two-minute walk from the boat.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

The currency in Paducah, Kentucky is the U.S. dollar. Most shops take credit or debit cards. ATMs are readily available in the downtown area.

Language

The main language of Paducah is English.