Day 14 – Cape Girardeau Mo. to below Cairo, Il

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Miles Covered:  57 river miles, um 52- to lm 948   Wickliffe, Ky

Closest towns or landmark (chart): Cape Girardeau, Mo. to just below Cairo, Il

Original Post date: June 14

Thursday – It was a ‘Storm World’ night under the Cape (Girardeau) bridge.  Carl decided that he’d set up his tent on shore and sleep there for the night.  As we each settled a weather-front rumbled through the area rocking the little boat – the ships-bell shook and rang like a telephone.

It was about two am when the worst of the storm came streaking through; I was somewhat prepared with the sides down (‘battened-down’) and not overly concerned. When the sudden winds arrived they sent Carl tumbling, and wrapped him in his pup-tent up like a burrito. The boat held fast.  It was one of those times that I just had to accept the odds – of stuff going bad, there was really no other choice. 

Carl stood in the darkness under the bridge a while before stumbling back onto the boat. 

The fast moving front (and lightning) ‘rocked’ us, yet with it all we have learned is that there’s simply a point where there is nothing further a person can do.  I laid there as the sky flashed and after forty minutes it all passed.  The ‘peace of the river’ returned as if nothing had ever happened.  Well, except to laugh at Carl’s tent adventure – I think he left the mangled mess under the bridge….

Early the next morning the weather appeared clear so we began to move downriver, soon another weather front approached so we located the first sandbar possible – and protected it from being struck by lightning!

This weather front passed also – just a quick moving micro-burst – and we were back on the river and once again into a really neat river routine….



The Carol Ann Parsonage


Drifting this part of the Mississippi the scenery and view is worth every minute of it – we watch as the bluffs level a bit becoming a more level type of shore. Along this section of shoreline we also noticed different ‘natural’ industries (cement, rock quarry’s, etc) each utilizing the barge as a primary means of bulk transport. 

In comparison to trucks or trains each barge can carry eighty times as much as a single truck, a massive amount of commerce.  Then consider that one towboat is pushing up to 42 barges at one time, it says all the more for the skill of the river-pilots and how they maintain such a high standard of safe transport.



On several occasions we noticed traffic, so we simply stopped – taking a walk and simple break while letting the river ‘come back to us.’


Later in the day we made the Confluence of the Ohio River, around four in the afternoon – the difference in the gray and clearer water of the Ohio as compared to the Muddy Mississippi River is apparent far out into the channel.

Being in the afternoon we figured that we would try to find some ice and something to eat so we headed up the Ohio – against the current and through a barge ‘re-hook’ area, it took nearly an hour to make it above Fort Defiance past the bridge and near what appeared to be the city (per chart) landing.


As we crossed the wall into Cairo, Il what a different town we found than what I recalled of thirty five years earlier.  I had driven a truck this way numerous times to get into Arkansas and this was a thriving part of the city – since that time they have rerouted traffic for the interstate, and now what is left in this part of the city is pretty close to a ghost town.


Old hotels grown over with weeds, businesses deserted, the only active stores immediately available were an old restaurant and a package store (for ice). We took a chance for a meal with the locals and the waitress pretty much told us not to talk to anyone and ‘run for the boat!’- we should have known something was up when Carl first noted a ‘blowup’ doll hanging in a window soon after landing….

I’m not saying never stop in Cairo, it will take a hand-truck to retrieve fuel – maybe leave someone with the boat.


From our experience and public service Carl and I were not completely uncomfortable with the surroundings, – at the same time saw no great reason to linger.  Our vessel was fine on arrival and unmolested.


The trip back to the confluence seemed to go much easier with the current, once onto the Lower Mississippi we located an island and with it becoming late made a ‘bee-line’ over to it – over the small white water of a wing-dam……. scraped the bottom of one of the pontoons (dented it) but it doesn’t seem to be taking on water – dampened the evening for me – something that remained on my mind daily until day 25 in Vadalia, La. (when I was assured that it was ok).  Lesson learned; would not intentionally cross the white water of a wing dam again, it wasn’t worth the worry..




It was a great nights rest with nothing but natural sounds (I won’t describe them all), but no trains, plains, or automobiles…… just wildlife and silence, exactly what I had made this venture for.



Noted ‘Tows’ for the Day;

The Gail S

The Chas E Peters

The Joshua David Esper

The Mary Evelyn

The Laurie Johnston

The Alois Luhr

The Cynthia

The Pathfinder

The Francis Benedict

Next post, Day 15

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jack Donachy
    Nov 07, 2010 @ 13:41:34

    Wow, Tom,
    My wife Barbra and I have just begun the planning stages of a Pittsburgh to New Orleans trip in our C-Dory. Your blog is inspiring!
    Jack Donachy

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