Day 7 – near Dallas Island to Polly Island

Miles Covered:  um 389- to um 345 (44 miles)

Closest towns or landmark (chart): just past Dallas island to Polly island

Original Post date: June 5


Day seven; after cruising late into the late evening from Burlington, it took two efforts to find solid anchorage – where the cruise was nice, the darkness complicated the ‘tie-down’ process – another reminder to stop earlier and to be moored long before nightfall.  Doing so, there will be more river moments to enjoy.

We found ourselves in an area where you could be fifty yards away from an island, and then you’re stuck in the mud…. – the kind of mud that clings to you (black and ‘oily-like’).  We ended up along a nearby island and had a decent nights sleep – 

We keep learning the smaller things – like get away from the city, tie-down early, and come in parallel to ‘ wing-dams.’


and we continue to be reminded that the railroad still runs along the river, the nearer to a city you are – the more they blow their horns at crossings.  So all through the wee hours of the night – wooooo wooooooo, wooooo wooooooooo, – “doggone trains!”

It was real early and as I prepared the coffee maker when I noticed a cruiser approaching in the distance, it was not quite plained-out and at that mediocre speed ‘bow-up’ creating a large running wake which was rolling down the shoreline.  It appeared as though this wake would throw our vessel further onto the mud-bar – so I hollered and Carl sprang from bed like a rookie on the firetruck.  Carl jumped out of bed and flew into action crossing the deck and plopped into the mud.  Of course as he was in the air over our bow when I said “WAIT! – it’s going to be ok”……. wakeup call…

He was in it – So Carl set us adrift since he was already knee-deep in mud.  This didn’t change our mornings, which are special – coffee and drifting.  The black mud is hard to get  off and that enhanced the conversation (and laughs) of the morning – ask Carl.

Next stop was Fort Madison, Ia. allowing me some computer time, Carl was pressing for a breakfast and constitution – so as Carl ambled off to a diner.


I remained to download some pictures and spoke with a few folks which were hanging around the bar and dock.  These folks had recently lost their jobs with a company that made steel plates for heavy equipment – now they were having a beverage at 11 am instead (hey, its five o’clock somewhere).


Once on the river we passed the recreated Fort that was once part of the local history, the city has done a real nice job on the park.  The other buzz around town was of the network ESPN’s anticipated visit this week to televise a fishing tournament..


Pointing the ‘bird’ down river and at idle speed we took to the current – south at 5 miles an hour……believe it or not, it’s plenty fast enough.  It was  possible to put Patric in the Captains chair and tie the steering wheel so that we could ‘throw’ several hands of cards – Carl’s ahead at the moment, five games to 500 – loser has to jump in (if you saw the water you would understand).

Passed the 350 mile marker for the Upper River, Carl’s ½ way point – we’ve been really fortunate to have the cool and gentle breeze at our back and made superb time –


Moniker stop here, and then another stop later at the Keokuk Marina to wait for lock 19 ( a drop of 36 feet) to open.



It was an informative visit just before the lock, they suggested that we go to The Purple Cow after the lock for refreshment – of course Carl and I looked forward to it with the visions of place as nice as this Marina


We think that it was a little purple building along the river where some locals were pitching horseshoes in the sand, but there was only a small beer sign and dockage looked uninviting – wasn’t sure, and with that moved along with the current – river only flows one way.


So we cooked rice and bullion, a poor second choice but it was still pretty good.

.… still hunting some grits.




So off to Day 8 – all is fine on board, no mud fights yet – putting southward – and continuing to work on new and exciting mixed beverage combination’s.


Noted ‘Towboats’ for the Day;

The Virginia Ingram

The Norma Christina

The Bernard G

The Issaquena

The Jennie K

Next post, Days 8,9 to Hannibal

Day 8, 9 – Polly Island to Hannibal, Mo. to Lock 24

Previous Day

Miles Covered:  um 345- to um 275 (70 miles)

Closest towns or landmark (chart): Polly island to Hannibal, day later just before Lock 24 (lost anchor)

Original Post date: June 7

Learning as we go, if you can – tie to the ‘off-side’ of an island or within a known slough – out of any wake.

Not long after daylight we were again riding the river and watching the tows –unloaded, loaded, or loading.


along with other thoughts fresh from the day before –

No major hang ups at any of the locks so far – and soon we arrived at lock 20.

All of the folks that we have encountered whether in the locks, tows, or on land have been very cordial and interested, good folks; simply other people in the same world.

Years experience and living as a long-haul truck driver provided me with an insight with the nature of transporting commerce.  I respected the Mississippi as an ‘interstate’ – and the towboats were the power.  In no way did I want our vessel ‘freebird’ to be a nuisance (as a mo-ped on the interstate) – with that being said.  I didn’t find anything insurmountable to deal with along the way, common-sense.

‘Rafting’ is inbred into the Mississippi river lore and motif, now more than ever I suspect that it is a novelty of ‘river-life’ with the towboat pilots too, we were just another amusement – like a bear, a fox, or deserted structure along the way.


As to what we are use to; a tractor trailer can carry @35-tons, where a single barge (tows can push 42) hold @1500-tons, its a massive thought. The towboat pilots patiently maneuver those brainless containers with literally a foot of distance from each wall within the locks – its pretty impressive.  Understanding, utilizing, and then balancing the factors of current and control, perception and machine – plus other factors.

We clearly recognize their skill, – no hurry here.


LaGrange, Mo. another little riverside town and time for a morning walk.  It did not appear as though there were any restaurants around so we walked into a small store for supplies…..


and a fine lady cooked us breakfast.  It was a cross between a store and a restaurant.


There were a few gentlemen with a card game going; they continued playing within their normal chatting – its always nice to climb into a new dimension in the world.  Lots of the same folks, whom are simply in a different place in this world.  Carl and I have maintained good conversation with no major hurtles – all in fun, and with an objective; take what this river has to offer while talking about – well, whatever…..

We found too that it wasn’t long before our dirty clothes were cleaner than what we were wearing, its nice that it doesn’t really matter – and its a plus that we each smell the same (if we smell at all).

Later we stopped in Quincy, Ill at the small marina to charge some batteries, shower, and clean some laundry – a little less river funk, if that were to matter either (I never heard the comment, “you smell clean”).


and those forgotten Cabeeses....

and those forgotten Cabeeses….

Hannibal, Mo. of Tom Sawyer fame, even walked the town.  Lots going on, they were having a cook off and a live band played through the night, lots of fun – so of course we enjoyed the event (hootin and hollerin) until it was over and then somehow found the marina and the boat without falling in.

Mark Twain Museum, Hannibal, Mo

The next morning a local businessman  (Mike Cates of Brickyard Motor Co.) offered the use of his car to drive to Wal-mart, I would have walked but he insisted, really nice – he and his son were at work next to the diner, just an example of how nice folks are along the river.

Oh yeah, the worst part was walking out of Wal-mart and wondering what kind of car it was that I had driven there – it took a few minutes.


We kinda felt ready to move on and cover some miles, but its been a slow day – extremely strong headwind to hold us back.  Not many pictures taken, again battery charging issues – we left wondering if we would make our 30 mile minimum, but it really didn’t matter – just to be on the river.

At lock 22 there were 10 tows waiting to pass, the lockmaster said it was the most he had seen in 10 years at one time – maybe the economy is picking up..

The strongest day of headwinds and crashing waves yet and it continued throughout – as we ‘hugged’ the shoreline to reduce the effect of the wind (near the 279 mile post) we began experiencing the ‘jumping fish’ (Asian carp), a few even made it in the boat – BIG fish, it was both amusing and funny as it all happened.


We located a lagoon at Two Rivers Marina across from Louisiana, Mo and waited until evening for the winds to die down further – it was nice to be all showered and have a mixed beverage while waiting.

Mini Yard tow at Two Rivers Marina

“Its really nice out here…and the weather is starting to be more like summer, hot – but I guess that’s where all this headwind is coming from…. the South.”


Noted ‘Tows’ for the Day;

The Ann Naye

The Moline

The Tom Talbert

The Reggie G

The Thomas K

The Gene Herde

The Bernard G

The Clayton McWhorter

The Bill Berry

The Cooperative Ambassador

The Laurie S Johnston

The James F Hurey

The Cooperative Venture

The Erickston

The Pebble Beach

Next day, Day 10 – to Squaw Island

Day 10 UM Lock 24 to Squaw Island

Previous Day (s)

Miles Covered:  um 275- to um 221 (54 miles)

Closest towns or landmark (chart): just before Lock 24  to Squaw island (a nice beach, chair exchange)

Original Post date: June 7

Day 10,  we were settling in just prior to lock 24 (we could see the lock), – in the effort to anchor Carl tossed the anchor out (it was disconnected from the line) – needless to say – it didn’t ‘hold.’  “Lost to the sea” we began to call those things, sunglasses, a hand truck (later before Memphis), and probably a few other unintentional items along the way.  The anchor bit was more funny than anything else – we kinda watched it happen, then anchored to a tree along the shore.  “Just part of it.”

We preceded early to the Lock and awaited the movement of a Corps of Engineers crane (on a barge) to lock-through.  They were performing some of the locks maintenance – once within the lock and as the water lowered we were again enjoying simple conversation with someone (likely low in seniority) on the other end of the rope.

After the lock came the riverfront town of Clarksville, so we stopped in search of breakfast.  No luck, too early – or the town was simply deserted after a large festival a day or two earlier – missed it.


Further down the river we went absorbing the mornings scenery, Hamburg, Il. is where we noticed these steel boats settled on the shore – no restaurant in sight.


Carl couldn’t wait any longer and cranked up the stove creating egg and bacon sandwiches; river-good.

The day was another special one on a calm river flow, pleasant has to be the word of the day. Pretty much we just walk around the boat filling the void of the other as they stir (if its important such as steering) – this morning Carl spent most of the time on the lawn chair reading as I found places and ways to move and hang things in the cabin – everything has a place.

The passing riverfront is simply interesting to look at, for conversation even the simplest things are open to debate; where Carl has only simple responsibility (no authority) on the boat – he sometimes quips that “as we return to our workplace he’s going to ‘eliminate my position,” all in fun – good company.


At lock 25 the lockmaster wouldn’t return our call, we were beginning to think our radio was bad and without any further information we once again tied up to a ‘can’ (buoy) before entering. It was the nicest pool of water that we could remember entering (others had been windy and turbulent) – until we mentioned the fact to each other – and then the wind turned on us and our only saving grace was the buoy we had to tied to.

calm before the whitecaps

This is where the tow Gene Herde worked his magic around us (like parallel parking) so close that they easily sucked the water from under the ‘bird’ as maneuvered into the lock ahead of us – the buoy held.



Another tow (The Bill Berry) began working his way around us too and about that time we were able to establish contact through the telephone – they allowed us to ‘lock-through’ between the two tows.


That’s the short story, all of this took more than two hours of beating wind and current, after a cam entrance….. I was never concerned for what the tow pilots were up to, because they are absolutely aware of their surroundings – which includes us little guys.


For some reason on the low side of the dam/lock the wind diminished and the evening became much calmer – just outside the lock at the 240.2 we found the Cedar Hill Resort.


Very nice place overlooking the river with a Tiki bar and a 1957 Trojan boat for a stage, nice setup.



Kelley served us drinks and some fried green beans, really good – just like fries. Through conversation a few of the folks there had done a similar thing in 1991, and they were still friends.

Also with the several of them present was a model of their boat “Middle-age Crazy” that they floated to New Orleans on before selling it there (a common practice) for 700 bucks.  It was a completely home made raft (boat), built by Al Morgans Dad (who is in his 90’s now).


After some beverages, we boated on down to the Riverbend Marina at 232.5 and met up with Jeff and Al again, where they provided us an extra stool.  Riverbend showed us some warm hospitality and the marina was well kept and modern.


The river and the folks along her are friendly, helpful, open, and just awesome – we haven’t had a negative encounter.

Al then piloted the ‘bird’ a short distance down the river to his home (next to Riverbills) where we checked out his welding inventions, workshop, and where he gave us an anchor to replace what we had lost the night before.


Next day, Day 11 – Sucked through St Louis

A few more miles and we found a nice beach (Squaw Island) to tie up to, its now morning and a storm has blown up around us, storm world 3 – on to Grafton, Il.

Noted ‘Towboats’ for the Day;

The Cindi L Erickson

The Stephen L Colby

The Gene Herde

The Bill Berry

The Bootsie B

The Virginia Ingram

100_2126washing windows

Day 11 Patrick’s Back

Patrick (crew)  is making his final pass through St Louis,


welcome home, and thanks Patrick – Godspeed.

Day 11, Squaw Island to St Louis, to Hoppie’s Marina

Previous Day

Miles Covered:  81.5 river miles, um 221- to um 158.5  Upper Mississippi River

Closest towns or landmark (chart): Squaw island (near Grafton, Il) to St Louis, to Hoppie’s Marina

Original Post date: June 9

We tied off last evening to a log along this inviting beach with nice sand (Squaw Island) – it appeared to be well used because there were chairs and a cook stove strewn about – so it seemed to be a local hangout. 

With the morning light we took our walks and then traded our old rickety chair for a raggedy one that was lying on the beach (which we later traded for another in Memphis).  As we were preparing to depart it began to rain.


The weather radio reported storm clouds and hail on the way – so expecting the worse we ‘battened down the hatches’ (dropped the tarps and ran a rope around ‘the bird’) and settled in.  I took my ‘one-with-the-river’ morning bath as it all passed over (rinsing in the rain) –  the ‘weather’ passed and calmed to normal in about 45 minutes.

So far the weather has not been a major factor, it has been overcast but for the most part the breeze has been at our back – which works great on the water.  We have experienced three pretty good lightning storms without any real ‘hair-raising’ experiences (even though we have clearly seen bolts illuminating the ground at a distance).  With such weather you cross a point where you have done all that you can – so we find as much protection as possible – and leave the rest to ‘the odds,’ “just a part of it.”


After shoving out in the current and having our morning Coffee, we hit our idle speed pace around five miles an hour, a perfect ride on the river.  The morning air holds simple conversation with amicable debates on any subject throughout the day.  Happy hour, well you pick the time.


It wasn’t long when we came to the junction of the Illinois River, hardly noticeable.  That is where we stopped at the Grafton Marina for some supplies and a battery recharge.


Our Lady Of The Rivers” (212 mm) watched over us on this night

It was a wide expanse of the Upper Mississippi with wide gentle curves and a highway that ran along one side with some steep banks.

Our thirty-mile average a day has been exceeded by a long-shot as we now float well ahead of schedule – still unsure of the date to make New Orleans.  Still plenty of hurtles before then – plenty that I’m starting to see.

Alton Marina, Carl's turn for the 'buzzer'...

Alton Marina, Carl’s turn for the ‘buzzer’…

Alton, Ill was ahead so we stopped at the Alton Marina and ‘topped-off’ our fuel.  I had also hoped to go to ‘Fast Eddies’ for a burger but found it was a mile or so away – instead we headed to the Mel Price lock where we were ‘locked through.’  This lock was full of floating debris, the ‘bird’ struggled to get through it  – the most trash in one spot that I had seen on the river so far.




Just above the confluence of the Missouri was another area full of Tow/barge work, adjustments, and rerouting – a busy place that I suppose was out of the greater current of the combined rivers.  Soon we came upon the confluence of the Missouri River – it is said that the Mississippi’s volume is increased 40% here, and where we couldn’t immediately tell – it became more apparent to us closer to St Louis, especially after exiting the ‘Chain of Rocks Canal’…


The Chain of rocks

The Canal near St Louis was built for boat traffic to avoid an area of rocks in the river.  For me, this short video by a paddler (link here) best explains the chain of rocks (other information for paddlers).  Originally I wasn’t sure why another dam wasn’t built there – but the canal allows boats to avoid the potential shallows.  Some smaller boats and kayaks can make the rapids, but that is directly related to how much volume is flowing – a boat such as ours could not make it.


The entrance to the ‘chain-of-rocks’ canal is well marked.  Traveling through the canal we crossed the path of several Northbound tows that we had worked with several times since our journey began southward, the Gene Herde and the Bill Berry – evidently their route is the one from St Louis North.  When we exited the Chain-of-rocks canal the volume, water-speed and other river traffic became more apparent to us – maneuvering our little craft took greater forethought and careful anticipation – we were to learn more about this later in the darkness of the night.




It was a good feeling to see the Arch in St Louis where we spent the rest of the day into late evening, its a powerful place where folks must come for miles, states, and nations to experience the awe of this structure – you can just feel something about it in the air.

Our plans were to sleep in the boat there at the brick shore and then go up into the arch the following day – but as we settled for the evening the hull of the boat rubbed the shoreline (no dockage) and a simple reset of the anchor lines in the swift water turned into a twenty mile ‘flush’ through the highly commercial and busy tow-boat area of south St Louis.  Whew, an unexpected night ride……

My half-hearted intentions were to make a small circle in the darkness and return to the spot ( I say half-hearted because inside I was ready to move on from SL – Carl wanted to stay) but the current and darkness pulled me southward………

Soon in the busy darkness my trek became similar to riding a moped down a busy interstate. I was ‘out of place.’ Small tows were crossing back and forth in front of me; barges were being set and reset for routing – it was busy!  The beacons of spotlights would flash us, and being a tiny dot in the darkness I wondered if we were seen. Carl had got up to look once or twice and I told him with all the fireman’s calm that I could muster “all is fine, just go back to sleep,” which he did.  We did make it safely through.  Later, I wondered how many wing-dams we might have crossed…..

Our introduction addition of the Missouri River’s current channeling through St Louis was that of a noticeably stronger flow, the water seemed swifter and there were fewer obvious places to tie-off.  

Keep the motor running, think ahead and power on……

‘Hoppies Marina’ is made of old barges that has been in place (lm 158.8) since the days of hand-lit river markers.  It was a pre-planned stop, just hadn’t planned the midnight arrival – not sure how we found it, but it was a mighty welcome tie-down.  We slept late the next morning.

Grafton, Ill to St Louis, Mo. and the midnight ride to Hoppie’s.


After walking a couple of miles through a small shopping village to Kimmswick, Mo and picked up some basic supplies in preparation of the next long stretch of river.  Fewer civilized stops ahead while riding that great big chute of water towards the Gulf.

I love it.

Noted ‘Tows’ for the Day;

The Cooperative Mariner

The New Dawn

The Prosperity

The Gene Herde

The Baxter Southern

The John R Operle

We did not notice the Towboat Ken Tubbs (current location)

Mississippi Men – The History Channel

Next day, Day 12 – ‘Feet-up’ at Hoppie’s

Day 12, Hoppie’s Marina – NO miles

Previous Day

Miles Covered:  (n0 river miles today) um 158.8

Closest towns or landmark (chart): Hoppie’s Marina (Kimmswick, Mo.)

Original Post date: June 9

Ok, so late last evening during a simple ‘re-set’ of our anchor at the St Louis Arch we were set adrift and then “flushed” Southward through one of the busiest ally’s of commerce along this river. The activity on the river South of St Louis is where ‘local’ tow pilots separate the groups of barges while arranging and reattach these barges into organized groups for regional delivery.


(Local work tows such as the example above from Cairo cris-crossing the waterway, but at night!)

It was the busiest area of barge activity that we had witnessed on the river so far – empty and loaded barges were being shuttled for delivery North (St. Louis up) South (St Louis down and the Lower Mississippi) East (The Ohio River) and West for the Missouri river conduit.  It’s very likely that this terminal/barge activity is unrecognized for its true value in organizing the delivery of bulk materials within our country.

This is what we noticed as we drifted and ‘bobbed’ through the waves and wakes of the nighttime cris-crossing ‘yard-dog’ tows – occasional spotlights, radio chatter, and perpetual activity in a very unintentional manner – we felt about as comfortable as a ‘street-walker’ at a church social.


In the midst of it all the wakes and darkness we maintained power and somehow found the last outpost forty miles downstream, Hoppie’s Marina near um 158.8.


Hoppie’s is on the right bank heading south with little to no lighting, not sure how many wing-dams we crossed before we lucked out and located it, but we did – and that’s where we spent the rest of the night and next day…


Spending a day at Hoppie’s Marina was preplanned as a zero-mile day – I was really happy to just chill in one place for more than a day – it was a much needed ‘feet-up’ day.


This Marina is a log-time family business which dates back to when folks had to keep the lamps burning along the river, Bob Hoppies parents were ‘lamplighters’ here.  The marina is build on old barges so it floats up and down with the river and dates back to the 50’s and 60’s.


It’s not a Yacht Club by a long stretch, but it does have all the character of a troupe of monkey’s eating candy ‘fireballs’ – just what I was looking for.


Fern and Hoppie are wonderful folks with lots of character too, I had read about this place as I researched the trip, now it was great to finally meet them and to watch them work together.  Their ‘banter’ was a very comfortable fit – well worth much more than the short time we had there.


To some degree it is a ‘last outpost’ for supplies, but again you will have to walk – Hoppies does have fuel and Ice.  There is a small village (Kimmswick, Mo) a mile away that has some really nice ‘shopping’ stores and a restaurant, for a grocery store you will have to walk 2 miles further….


Rock Community Fire Department, Mo

We walked, but overall the day was about ‘stopping,’ some of which this is all about.


For a day it has been awesome to sit upon the river on these old barges and feel the river’s pulse – another place to be, another part of it – a big part for me.  Hoppie’s has a hose to shower under – just don’t step on the power cord as you do…


‘Fern’ and ‘Hoppie’ have been great to us, as I have heard they are to all that pass –


Fern was sure to stress that there was no fuel for the next 400 miles!, she could have meant “on the river,’ which was true, but we listened appreciatively and then found fuel available along the way – we just had to walk ( Cairo, New Madrid, etc.).


The downtime was great, the river flowed while trees floated by in the water while we considered the more challenging circumstances of the Lower Mississippi ahead – it could be a few days before re-posting, but certainly we will as the signal or battery will allow.


Next day, Day 13 – onward to ‘The Cape’

Day 13; Hoppie’s Marina to Cape Girardeau

Previous Day

Miles Covered:  106 river miles, um 158.5- to um 52

Closest towns or landmark (chart): Hoppie’s Marina (Kimmswick, Mo,) to Cape Girardeau, Mo. (Storm World)

Original Post date: June 11

100_2313small dredge in operation

It was an early start from Hoppie’s Marina; 6 am coffee then a wide swing past the wing-dam (memories that last) just below the ‘marina’ and ‘bac into the main channel.  Once on the main channel we floated – and once the fog lifted the day in front of us became pretty doggone nice…..



After ‘Hoppies’ we notice miles of picturesque river frontage.  The bluffs along the shore became smaller and less frequent while in places along water’s edge appeared a number of ‘natural’ industries (rock, stone quarry’s, etc).  There were a home or two, and along with that “Kennett’s Castle” (Selma Hall) rose out of the trees on river right.


As we crossed under the bridge at Chester, Il. it was possible to catch a quick glimpse of the bronze statue of Popeye. Chester is where the cartoon and his crew were created by Elzie Segar; you just have to look hard immediately after the bridge on the east side.


It was another day of the simplest river travel and just ‘going with the flow’….. from the neatest of observation posts.


A mealtime routine,….


and a “where do bears stop” stop….




We did stop and chat with others along the way even tying along side the ‘African Queen’ to drift a few miles – sharing cold-beverages.  Beverages always seemed a good ‘ice-breaker’ when coming across others ‘on’ the river.  With these folks we drifted up to and around ‘Tower Rock,‘ the one Mark Twain once wrote about. 

On this date our easy-idle pace made a hundred miles.


Tower Rock

We have not pushed this river at all; we only ride her current – now since the additional volume of the Missouri above St Louis we have surpassed our mileage expectations 3 fold – from thirty expected to more than a hundred a day – for two Carolina drifters, its interesting.



Harold B. Dodd


With traffic showing from both directions we stop to ‘stretch’ and let things ‘settle down.’ The sand-bars clearly show the ravages of flooding waters – on this particular sandbar the sand was just ‘like the beach.’ In addition I found a large rope like the one used to connect the barges – so I ‘tied ‘er on the ‘bird.’


Again, the flow of the river is now more apparent, on the occasions that we have worked against the current – our little 40 hp motor can pretty much hold it’s own with a small gain – that’s where in Mark Twain’s books the river Captains would find/utilize the river’s ‘eddy’s’ to their favor – just off of the main channel.

The surface water can also play tricks to your eyes, especially at night – like day 11 when we got ‘flushed’ through St Louis.  At night the reflections of the current from the surface can appear to be flowing backwards, maybe you have to witness it in travel and circumstance to fully understand.  For us its simply been a matter of maintaining idle power for control and holding on to the few senses that we have.

The ‘wing-dams’ (rock formations) along the way are strategically placed by the US Corp of Engineers to utilize the hydraulic power of the river itself to reduce sediment in the channels depth.  Wing-dams may or may not be visible depending on the river’s water level.


Wing dam breaking surface

For boaters it is important to use the channel as much as possible to avoid these, scraping a hole in your hull or pontoon could ruin the whole trip for you – the spring rains seem to heighten the river over these structures, we barely noticed them – late summer when the river is lower they are distinct.  Sometimes the ‘whirlpools’ they create can also play tricks with your vessels direction, there are several areas where these extend into the channel – the worse were in the areas of um 130 to 133 and around um 70 – 71, these create simple challenges for the pilot when two vessels share the same area of channel.



As evening fell we met our goal of Cape Girardeau – just before town at the Red Star landing we found fuel, it was a short walk (less than 1/2 mile). We had our hopes up for some real food too, but hopes were soon dashed as we found there was a large barge blocking the only wall at the riverfront.  It did not seem like a craft friendly stop.  With this we crossed the river and found a beach under the hwy 74/146 bridge.  Carl pulled his tent out and settled down for the night.  I battened down the hatches and all started peacefully – that is until two am when the ‘Wicked witch of the west’ thunderstorm rolled through.  Carl retreated to the boat after his tent collapsed and we rode the wind and waves out as the ships bell rang like an unanswered telephone.  It all passed in a few hours and the morning sun is now starting to show.

It all remains very awesome and neat in its own river way, and as with anything like this venture there are challenges that the wind, the rain, and the current can trow at you


we’re just going with the flow….

Noted ‘Towboats’ for the Day;

The Frank Stegbaur

The Judi

The WT Toutant

The Cooperative Agent

The Ms Bobbie Fugit

The William Crum

The Joe B Wyatt

The Harold B Dodd

Next post, Day 14 to Cairo and onto the Lower Mississippi

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

Previous Day

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

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