Miles Covered:  81.5 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, 2009

We tied off last evening to a log on this well used, but very inviting beach with nice sand – there were chairs and a cook stove strewn about so to us it seemed to be a local hangout.  With the morning light we took our ‘nature’ walks and then traded our old rickety chair for a raggedy one lying there on the beach (which we later traded for another in Memphis), but before we could shove off it began to rain.  The weather radio reported storm clouds and hail on the way – so expecting the worse we ‘battened down the hatches’ .  Tom became ‘one-with-the-river’ (morning bath) as the rain passed over – and it all calmed to normal in about 45 minutes.


To this point weather has not been a major factor, its been overcast somewhat, but for the most part the breeze has been at our back, which is nice on the water.  We have experienced three pretty good lightning storms but have not had any real ‘hair-raising’ experiences (even though we have clearly seen bolts illuminating the ground at a distance).  I think there comes a point when you have done all that you can – so we find peace, and leave the rest to ‘the odds.’ 


After shoving out in the current and having our morning Coffee, we hit our idle speed around five miles an hour, a gentle ride on the river – simple conversation with simple debates on any subject…. and happy hour – well you pick the time. 

100_2194 Grafton Marina

It wasn’t long before we came to the junction of the Illinois River, hardly noticeable.  That is where we stopped at the Grafton Marina (nice place) for some supplies and a battery recharge.  Our thirty-mile a day average has been exceeded by a long-shot and we are now well ahead of schedule – at this point I’m not sure of the date to make New Orleans, but we will keep you posted – still plenty of hurtles before then – plenty that I’m starting to see.

She watched over us this night She watched over us this night 
Alton Marina, Carl's turn for the 'buzzer'... Alton Marina, my turn for the ‘buzzer’…

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.  Alton, Ill was ahead so we stopped at the Marina and ‘topped-off’ our fuel.  We 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’ with water full of debris, the ‘bird’ struggled through  – it’s the most trash in one spot that we’ve seen on the river so far.  


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’…  This Canal near St Louis was built for boats to avoid a natural area in the river of rocks, not sure why another dam wasn’t built there – but they built the canal for boats to avoid the 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.

DSC00331‘Chain of Rocks Canal’

As we traveled 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 in the darkness of the night.  

Soon we saw the arch of St. Louis.

St. Louis

We docked “the bird” right in front of the arch on the cobblestones. Pulling up to the arch was really cool and something that I will always remember. Luckily we had plenty f rope because the nearest point to tie off was pretty far away.


 We made it to St. Louis!


 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 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 right there in front of the arch and then go up into the arch the following day – but plans change. Sometime in the wee hours of the night, the hull of the boat started scraping on the cobblestone shoreline as the tows passed by (they run all night long). This, of course was a major concern – the pontoons could easily be damaged.  As we tried to anchor and retie to another point, the swift water grabbed our little vessel and ‘flushed’ us down river in the dark through the highly commercial and busy tow-boat area of south St Louis. It was like riding a moped through a busy trucking terminal where trailers are being dropped, reloaded, reassembled and rerouted – all in the middle of the night, in the river and ON A LARGE SCALE.  We were a tiny dot in the darkness, but eventually we made it through safely with just  a few more gray hairs.

Our introduction to the river’s current with the addition of the Missouri River and the channeling through St Louis has been that of a noticeably stronger current with fewer places to dock,  fewer places to fuel, bigger tows, larger waves and TREES floating in the current – just keep the motor running, think ahead and power on……

“Hoppies” is a Marina made of old barges that has been here (lm 158.8) since the thirties or forties – Tom had preplanned to stop here, but didn’t plan to arrive in the midnight darkness – a welcome tie-down to a stressful evening.

Grafton, Ill to St Louis, Mo. plus a midnight ride to Hoppie’s.




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