Archive | September, 2014

Float #112: Mississippi River

24 Sep

Truman Access to Ste. Genevieve Marina

F112_Mississippi

Mississippi River
Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri
Sunday, August 31
18 Miles

DW and I both spent part of our childhood years in Ste. Genevieve county and members of both of our families still live there. During Labor Day weekend we had multiple family events to attend and decided to fill the time in between with a float trip on the Mississippi. The Mississippi is about the only floatable water in Ste. Genevieve county and we have been remiss in doing it. We took DW’s Dad, Dan, along with us, as it was his birthday and he had never floated the Mississippi before, despite living right next to it his entire life.

We headed to Truman Access, which is off Hwy. 61 and literally right next to the Rush Island power plant. Just before the entrance for the power plant, take the little road to the right that winds under the bridge and across the railroad tracks. This will lead you to the river bank where there is a large parking lot and a concrete boat ramp. We readied our gear, gave Dan a few tips on paddling big rivers and pushed off into the muddy expanse. The river was up a little bit and there were several medium-sized logs making their way downstream. The temperature was hot and muggy, but there was no rain in the forecast.

Mississippi River

Rush Island power plant

Mississippi River

Dan’s first big river paddle

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

The next few miles after the power plant are very pretty. There are numerous bluffs and rolling hills on the Missouri side of the river and sandy beaches and banks on the Illinois side. There were a lot of barges moving upriver that day, so we had plenty of rolling waves to play in from the barge wakes. We saw more towboats and barges on this section than we usually see on the Cape Girardeau section. I don’t know if that is normal or it just has to do with the time of year and river levels being busier for barge traffic. As we floated downstream it was fun trying to figure out where we were on our journey. We are all very familiar with Ste. Genevieve county, but everything looks so different from the river!

Eventually we pulled up to a large island to eat our lunch and explore a bit. We found a large barge rope that we wanted to take home for our dogs, but both ends were buried in the sand and would not budge. DW decided to cut the rope where it went underground. He dulled two different knives in the process, but finally got the rope out. Next, he had to figure out how to fit the huge, heavy coil of rope in his hatch! He managed to wrangle it in and get it home. The dogs love to tear that rope up, 2 feet at a time. We also found a lot of cool rocks and some green glass that had been rounded off. I saw a lot of large chunks of coal on the island. If you need some free coal I guess the river islands are a good place to find it. Dan found a soap dish that looked really old. He looked it up when he got home and found that it dated from the mid to late 1800’s. Pretty awesome that it was still in one piece and usable!

As we finished our lunch and paddled back out on the river the sky began to grow dark and we could see storms approaching from the West. They lingered a long time, but finally blew over the river. I welcomed the downpour, as it was so miserably hot and you don’t want to swim in the Mississippi.

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

Ominous sky

Mississippi River

Downpour!

Mississippi River

The storm seemed to stall out over the river for a couple of miles, but we eventually paddled out of it. We soon neared Ste. Genevieve. It didn’t seem like we had been on the water all that long, but the river moves fast! If I were to do this trip again I would definitely take out at the ferry landing instead of the marina. The ferry landing is easily visible from the river (where the marina is not) and the river bank is very solid, so you are less likely to sink in the muck when exiting your boat. The ferry was doing brisk business that day. We saw it cross the river four times as we paddled by.

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

The Ste. Genevieve ferry on the Illinois side

After the ferry landing we floated past more woodland on both sides of the river. I thought we would be able to see the Ste. Genevieve catholic church steeple, as it sits up on a hill, but you could not see it from the river, you could hardly tell the town was there at all. When Ste. Genevieve was originally founded the town was much closer to the river, but it flooded all the time, so they moved it further inland. We were keeping an eye out for the marina landing, but Dan was the only one who spotted it, due to a pair of barges that are routinely parked right below the slough. Lucky he did or we would have ended up in Chester, IL!

A barge was moving upriver, kicking up waves that DW just had to play in, so he missed the marina. I passed it too, and yelled at DW to paddle back upriver. He easily powered back upriver, but I ended up struggling to make it the few hundred yards up. The waves were rolling downriver, pushing me back and the parked barges were blocking the ferry eddy that would normally carry me upstream. It took all the strength I had and then some to paddle up that bastard and make it to the marina. I guess I could have gotten out and carried my boat along the bank, but that didn’t look much easier.

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

Paddling up the creek to the marina access

After finally making it to the slough we paddled up the creek a little bit to reach the boat ramp. This access isn’t much used anymore and the slough hasn’t been dredged in a long time. There were lots of small trees growing in the shallow water. Dan learned not to trust the river mud. He stepped out on what he thought was solid ground, only to sink up to the knee in black muck. We hauled our boats out of the water and unpacked while we waited for DW’s Mom to pick us up. It was an interesting float and a very pretty section of river. I’m glad we finally got around to paddling this one!

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Float #111: Mississippi River

12 Sep

U of M Flats to Harriet Island

Mississippi River 8 Water Trail Map

Mississippi River
Ramsey County, Minnesota
Friday, August 8
11 Miles

The last day of our vacation to Minnesota we paddled the Mississippi just south of downtown Minneapolis. DW dropped me and the boats at the put-in, drove down to Harriet Island to drop the car and took a taxi back to the start. It took him nearly an hour due to having to wait for the taxi to arrive. The taxi driver was actually familiar with Missouri, as he goes fishing at Table Rock Lake every year. He was the only person we met the whole trip who knew how awesome Missouri can be. Most people were under the impression that it looks just like Iowa!

After DW returned we carried our boats down to the narrow strip of beach and paddled out onto the water. The water clarity in Minneapolis is basically the same as the Mississippi around Alton, before the Missouri river mucks it up. There was a light wind kicking up some ripples on the water, but the river was pretty quiet otherwise.

Mississippi River

Putting on the water

Mississippi River

Looking upriver at Minneapolis

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

The landscape was very green as there is a nice corridor of trees separating the river from the cityscape. There is a long stretch of sand beaches lining both sides of the river, which seemed to be very popular with residents. We saw many people fishing, sunbathing, and walking their dogs. The river definitely gets more recreational use in Minneapolis than it does in St. Louis. However, I didn’t find the landscape very compelling as it was pretty much the same scenery the whole way. In Missouri there are huge sandbars with strange, alien landscapes ripe for exploration and beachcombing. I don’t know if there is much barge traffic in this part of the river, but we didn’t see any. Just some recreational motorboats. All the motorboats we saw were very polite and slowed down when approaching us so as to not kick up a huge wake.

 

Soon we approached Lock & Dam #1, which was our first experience going through a lock. DW rang the signal cord and we waited for about 15 minutes while the lock filled to our level. Then the signal light turned from red to green, the gates opened and we entered the lock. We knew we were supposed to hang on to a rope from the wall of the lock, but they were all tied up. DW asked the lock attendant, who explained we were to grab this one short rope attached to a pillar. Apparently the pillar moves up or down with the water level. Neat! So DW grabbed the rope and I grabbed on to DW’s kayak as the lock began to drain. It was a weird feeling, like being in a big draining bathtub (which it kinda is). About 10 minutes later we were finished and the horn sounded, the gate opened and we exited the lock.

Mississippi River

The signal cord for the lock

Mississippi River

Entering the lock

Mississippi River

Hold that rope!

Mississippi River

The lock drains

Mississippi River

Mississippi River

The lock doors open

Mississippi River

Looking upriver at the dam

The remainder of the trip was fairly uneventful. We floated past a lot of nice beaches just below the dam, then the river became a bit more industrial as we neared St. Paul. We took out at Harriet Island, where the beach was less nice (more trash and debris). I encountered some familiar Mississippi mud as I exited my boat; gross muck up past my ankle!

Mississippi River

Minnehaha Creek

Mississippi River

A cruise boat goes upriver

Mississippi River

Downtown St. Paul

We loaded the boats on the car and drove back to Minneapolis, where we showered and went out for one last night on the town. We ate our first Juicy Lucy (delicious!) and planned to go out later for a drink, but ended up falling asleep on the couch instead. The next day we went out for breakfast and then made the 8 hour drive back home to Missouri. We had a great time in Minnesota and the people were very friendly.