Ol’ Man River (and he is at flood stage)

“Unquestionably the discovery of the Mississippi is a datable fact which considerably mellows and modifies the shiny newness of our country, and gives her a most respectable outside-aspect of rustiness and antiquity.”-Mark Twain

Thank you Steve for the additional photos.  Steve requested his friend, Louis, come out and see me when I passed through Washington, Missouri (I was unaware ).  John and I were almost to Washington last Tuesday when Louis approached me via his Sea-Doo.   I assumed he was someone curious about my trip and then he says “Keith?!”  I said affirmative.  He explained he was looking for me on the river and was friends with Steve.  It was a cool moment.  We went to shore and rapped for a few minutes, I wish I had more time to chat but the storm was a comin’.

Friday, September 12th

Today was suppose to be St. Louis day.  I didn’t make it.  I did, however, complete the Missouri River and went over the Chain of Rocks upstream of St. Louis.  The feeling of completing the Missouri is one of satisfaction. Kinda hard to believe.  Of course, this is tempered by the fact I am now on the almost flooded Mississippi River.  Good times.

Mike an I got off to a late start as a result of shared Blues passion. We spent the morning listening to a variety of classic delta blues tunes. It was almost like I was 16 again jamming out to Zeppelin…only we were more mature, perhaps refined, about our appreciation for the origins of all great music.

Finally, we realized the morning was escaping us and we departed. I think I learned as much about “situational paddling” in the 3 hours with Mike as I have since Norm showed me a few tricks back in Montana.  We experienced a big barge passing, went over the The Chain of Rocks, and saw Steve Miller.  As we approached the confluence, I asked Mike if it would be OK for me to stay with him one more night so I could get an early start for St Louis tomorrow.  He agreed.

We easily navigated through The Chain and landed by the park by his house.  I left The Helinda on the river after stashing it discretly downstream from the park takeout(this way I wouldn’t have to disassemble all my gear, tomorrow I can hop in and paddle). Another contributing factor in the decision to wait was weather, today was a cool cloudy afternoon, tomorrow is suppose to be a glorious afternoon with abundant sunshine.

I am anxious about getting past St. Louis, it is a very busy port and relatively narrow. Mike reassured me I’m good-just stay river right and don’t hit a barge!!!

I had a great time tonight(again) hanging with Mike. He gave me a tour of the neighborhood and shared his long term vision for his property.  Good day all around although I am still nervous about paddling St. Lou…I mean, hey what can possibly go wrong?

 

Preparing for the Mississippi with Mike

Preparing for the Mississippi with Mike

I made it to the Mississippi.  Here I am at the confluence of the MO & MS

I made it to the Mississippi. Here I am at the confluence of the MO & MS

Mike and Dolly at the confluence.  This guy rocks and his dog ain't bad.

Mike and Dolly at the confluence. This guy rocks and his dog ain’t bad.

Chain of Rocks??? Easy Peacy

Chain of Rocks??? Easy Peacy

Saturday September 13th

St. Louis Day. Success.  Not without an initial delay.

Remember how I stashed my boat by the park? Well, the river rose overnight and the trail to my boat was swamped.  I had no access to my vessel.  I called Mike and he directed me to go to another path which worked out.  I am on my way.

I set out on a perfect September afternoon, could not have drawn it up any better.  I started out about 10 miles above St. Louis and and paddled on river right.  A tugboat passed me about 5 miles from the Arch, I didn’t think anything of it. It’s wake was manageable.  Then, about another mile down river the St Louis Fire Dept. boat approached me and mentioned the tug boat captain had a hard time seeing me and wanted me to move even further towards shore. No problem.  They did take an interest in my trip and were quite pleasant.  I asked them for an escort which they politely declined.

I paddled to the Arch without incident.  It was definetly one of the special moments of the trip , I mean how cool is it to canoe past one of America’s iconic structures? Very groovy.

After passing the arch traffic increased. I had to deal with massive wake from another tugboat and then at one point there were 2 upstream barges and one downstream barge passing me at the same time. I handled it like a champ.  I finally made it past the port (relatively quickly too) and felt the adrenaline rush dissipate.  What a stretch, what fun.

I decided to paddle another 30 miles and called it a night at the Plattin Boat Club in Crystal City, Mo.  Good fortune came when my friend Nick called and said he wanted to come visit me.  He brought food and drinks. Back to back memorable afternoons.  I  now on the Mississippi.  Wow.

On my way to (gulp) St. Louis.

On my way to (gulp) St. Louis.

It's that way.

It’s that way.

Close up. I'm hot.

Close up. I’m hot.

Getting closer.

Getting closer.

There it is!!! The Arch.

There it is!!! The Arch.

past it now

past it now

(Gulp) Barges barges everywhere

(Gulp) Barges barges everywhere

made it past St. Louis into the safety of Plattin Boat Club in Crystal City

made it past St. Louis into the safety of Plattin Boat Club in Crystal City

Thank you for the healthy meal Nick.

Thank you for the healthy meal Nick.

Sunday September 14th

I awoke to a foggy Misissippi River. This makes two Sundays in a row where my start has been delayed by fog. It worked out well since, in addition to a spectacular site, Mike from the Boat Club arrived and shared his breakfast with me.  I was finally off around 9am.

The Mississippi is almost at flood stage now.  This has created two challenges-finding camping sites and river debris. There is a ton of debris in the river, huge logs and all sorts of tree limbs.  It’s generally not a big deal except when a barge passes.  I found myself dealing with big wake and trying to avoid debris simultaneously. Good thing it wasn’t windy.

I paddled until about 4:00, around 3:00 I started to scout out possible campsites.  I passed Chester, IL which had a boat ramp. I simply preferred to find a good sandbar rather than “ramp camp.”  I made the right call, hey it happens once in a super moon.

I located what may have beeny best camping destination of the trip.   I camped just downstream from Chester on a sandy bank that was elevated about 7 feet.  An incredible, wild evening.  I had an unobstructed view of the sunset, the stars came out to play and I was right on the bank of the mighty Miss.  It was a special evening, every now and agin a barge would pass in the night adding to the incredible aura.  When barges pass through in the night they shine a spotlight in the river channel to ensure it is clear.  So, it’s night, stars our out, creatures are singing in the woods, and a barge passes with it’s lights a flashing. Sublime.

I slept like a baby.

morning mist at the club

morning mist at the club

again

again

Chester IL

Chester IL

campsite

campsite

A very large barge

A very large barge (from campsite)

 

Camping was awesome

Camping was awesome

Monday September 15th

Well, the river didn’t rise and there were no issues with my boat floating away, I had it secured just in case.

Robin, from the Miami, MO ramp, called in the morning and provided with another paddler, Joe T, who wanted to meet me above Cape Gireadeau. I reached out to Joe and he suggested meeting at Trail Of Tears state park about 35 miles down river from my campsite.  He agreed to bring quality canoe food-cheeseburgers and Diet Cokes.

I spent the day navigating around barges and river debris.  I am getting more accustomed to barge traffic, but I am still a bit leary and don’t possess a marine radio, which would allow me to communicate with the barge captains. Maybe next year.

I finally arrived at Trail of Tears and walked around the park, it is quite beautiful with trees abound and a great view if the river. It wasn’t as spiritual as last nights destination but it worked out well.

Joe came with dinner and we had a nice time discussing paddling.  He has paddled The Everglades and competed in the race across Missouri. I found Joe to be inspirational with his all paddling experience and passion about canoeing.  I thoroughly enjoyed our brief time together this evening .  He exited and I crashed, I didn’t sleep as well as last night, due in part to the train that passed by about 100 yards from my campsite almost every three hours.

I am now starting to think Memphis. It is about a week away and my next major destination.  Enjoy the journey, Keith.

Debris everywhere

Debris everywhere

Trail of Tears Park

Trail of Tears Park

MS River

MS River

Joe Cool!!!

Joe Cool!!!

This entry was posted in Adventure. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Ol’ Man River (and he is at flood stage)

  1. Michael Callaway says:

    We should get a group from Dallas to meet you when you go to Shreveport Louisiana

  2. J-Dub says:

    I am in! Sounds like a winner.

  3. Dana TeCulver says:

    “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. Gen 1:1
    I think being in such close and consistent contact with nature is transforming your soul.
    Paddle on my friend!
    Dana

  4. Donald Zinter says:

    Be mindful of the barges, river debris, and sand bars, the current can be traitorous and deceiving at times so be careful and you will do just fine. You sure have been eating well for someone who is determined to conquer the trials and tribulations encountered by Lewis & Clark (and Keith). Remember show the mighty Mississippi some respect.

Leave a Reply