June 8, 2011

We wake with the rise of the sun well rested and ready for the push through St. Louis, one of the busiest and most challenging sections of the river. This section is narrow and the barge traffic is heavy, as this is a major hub for commercial activity. Getting our little craft through safely will be tricky, we must be ever so diligent.

Gator and I decided to take our time leaving out today because of the nice spot we are in. We take time to sit on the veranda, drink coffee and eat breakfast. The covered berth we are in provides shade from the early morning sun.

Soon it is time to make way. The canoe is reattached to the “Belle,” the ropes are dropped and with full fuel tanks we exit our slip for the current of the Mississippi channel. It is a clear, sunny day, the temperature rising quickly with each passing mile.

Cruising at a slower speed today to conserve gas we pass Grafton, Illinois, a cool little town with a casino disguised as a colorful river boat sitting at rivers edge. They call Grafton the “Key West of the Midwest.” I check it out through the binoculars and seeing little sign of life, we slip on by.

Next is Alton, Illinois, home of “Fast Eddie’s,” an almost mandatory stop for some evening fun. Eventually, we see the Mel Price lock and dam in the distance, one of the last before reaching the lower Mississippi where there are no locks. There is no wait for this lock and as the lockmaster beckons us in, we experience much turbulence and debris in the water. The massive doors close and we drift as the waters recedes. Usually, a staff member will come out to view our odd craft and chat for a minute. I asked about the rumor we’d been hearing about the river being closed to pleasure crafts down river. He hadn’t heard anything but gave me the number to the Coast Guard, the governing body on the Mississippi.

As the doors opened, the current of the mighty Mississippi sucked us out of the lock and spit us down river towards St. Louis and the “Chain of Rocks,” an impassible section of the Mississippi. Here, a 10 mile canal has been constructed diverting all traffic around the rocky section. It is here at the entrance to the canal where we encounter our “third strike.”

Calling the Coast Guard to inquire about the traffic conditions at the last lock and dam entering St. Louis, he informs me that “yes, the lock is closed to pleasure craft until further notice.” We pull into an eddy prior to entering the canal and tie off. As I talk to the Coast Guard, he informs me that due to the added flooding from the confluence of the Missouri River, we must wait for the river to recede to 30 feet, the estimated time for this occurrence, 6 days…….maybe more…….

I talk to some nearby fisherman and find that we are sitting in “no man’s land,” nothing around for 10 miles in either direction. Gator and I discuss our options once again. We are not prepared nor do we want to sit on our boat for the next week waiting to move down river. It appears that the conditions are getting worse the further south we go. We are confident that getting past St. Louis, we could’ve made it all the way to New Orleans but here we sit.

As the sun sets on the Mississippi, nestled in our little eddy, we settle in for the night to figure out what to do. If we are to call it quits, the only boat ramp is back up river at Alton, a trek that would require us to fight the strong current with our little motor. This, it seems, is our only option. “Mother Nature” has decided the fate of our journey.

Even though our journey down the Mississippi must end, we spend the evening in good spirits with good spirits………..

Finally, a decision is made to call Tom in North Carolina and get him on the road to meet us in Alton, where we will attempt to get to first thing in the morning. Little did we know what will happen during this night, a night of sheer misery……….

June 9, 2011


2 Responses to “UM June 8, 2011”

  1. Lisa From Fulton Illinois Says:

    I sure enjoy reading about your interesting adventures. the modern adventures of Huck Fin.

  2. Tom Haynie Says:

    Mother nature wins more than she loses

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