Friday, September 25, 2015

The Mighty Mississippi, Then On to the Ohio and the Cumberland

Sept. 21-25

Days 314-318

After leaving Grafton it was only a matter of minutes before we discovered what it meant for us to join the waters of the Mississippi River. They were not only a chocolate brown, but also quite swift. The current ramped up our speed to a mind boggling 14 mph. Wow, at this rate we would cover this section of our trip in no time at all. We had heard many nightmare stories about traveling the Mississippi, but we experienced no problems. Our timing was excellent because the water was at its lowest level in some time and most of the deadheads we needed to dodge had already found homes along the banks. The Mississippi and the Ohio are definitely working rivers. We had to maneuver around many huge tows as they moved their cargo up and down the waterway. As with all of the other parts of this trip that we have worried about, our cruise down the inland rivers was no big deal.

If you don't look at the color of the water, much of the scenery along this stretch of the river reminds us of our beautiful Tennessee River.

Tucked between the industry of the waterfront are opportunities for entertainment. These former riverboats have found new life as casinos.

The paddle wheeler Spirit of Peoria joined us for our lock through at the Chain of Rocks Lock.

Here is the proof! I had to take a screen shot when we actually topped 14 mph. I know that doesn't sound very fast for all of you landlubbers out there, but when your normal speed is around 8 mph, this is amazing. 

As we approached St. Louis our view became cluttered with one bridge right after the other.

St. Louis has one of the most recognizable waterfronts, thanks to its famous arch commemorating the cities early days as the gateway to the American West. There appears to be a major building project taking place that will eventually open up the area along the water for visitors to enjoy.

Our first day on the river took us to the famous Hoppies Marina at Kimmswick, MO. This is a must stop for most Loopers. Not only does it provide the last opportunity for cruisers to top off their tanks before entering the longest stretch of no services on the whole Great Circle Route, it is owned and operated by the best known character on the water. Fern has been running the "marina" since she and her husband took charge from his father in the early 70's. The village of Kimmswick, MO is lined with businesses designed to entertain tourists. Just don't arrive on a Monday like we did. The whole town takes the day off. We walked the streets for an hour and saw absolutely no one. Nobody was working in their yards, sitting on their porch, walking a dog, saw no children anywhere, it was like being in the middle of a Stephen King novel. The worst part was that there were quite a few shops I would have loved to have browsed through.

Hoppies consists of 3 derelict barges that have been tied up to the banks of the Mississippi for over 80 years. They offer fuel and power, but virtually nothing else. That is except for the valuable information about the river that Fern willingly shares with her guests.

The sun was trying its best to burn a little fog off the water, as we prepared for an early start on the river. Our next anchorage is 110 miles down stream, so even at our new traveling speed it is going to be a long day.

The trip down the Mississippi has actually been quite pretty. I imagine as the trees start exhibiting their fall colors, the views will become impressive.

It is really amazing how much cargo the tows can push up and down the river. This tow was guiding 30 loaded barges, which means it takes awhile for us to negotiate our passage. The secret is to make sure we don't meet these big guys when they are working their way through one of the many horseshoe turns along the way. It is very important that we make radio contact with the captains, so that we both know what we are doing.

Our anchorage in Diversion Creek was a little snug with a few other cruisers joining us. No problem, Always Home, Fryedaze, and Bama Dream just rafted together. That gave us the perfect opportunity to share potluck and stories. With another long day of travel ahead of us, Fryedaze led us all out into the river just as the sun crept above the trees.

There are many ways to enjoy time on the river. We passed this cruise ship loaded with passengers headed north toward St. Louis.

This is a river that seems to be in constant turmoil. The captain had to be alert at all times, watching for deadfall that could damage our props, eddies that have a tendency to toss us around when we least expect it, and of course the many huge tows plying the river.

The confluence of the Ohio and the Mississppi is quite a thing to behold. It appears that the Ohio refuses to allow the muddy Mississippi to mix with their much clearer waters.

We had been warned that we could run across some significant wait times at Lock 53 and 52. A new lock is under construction at Olmstead causing some delays, low water levels and a backlog of barges waiting for locking through all piles up to mean "just be patient". 

After only about a 3 hour wait, we were able to drive right through the new lock, and then on to Lock 53 that will soon be removed. Evidently the old locks were not designed to accommodate pleasure craft. Just getting tied off was an adventure. There was only room for two boats on the very short flat wall, so with four of us going through we had to raft up. One lock down on the Ohio, one to go.

Traveling with other Loopers is not always conducive to sleeping late. When the other 2 boats say we need to get under way by 6:30 it does mean we get to see some very nice sunrises. 

The dust is flying as another barge is filled with what appears to be some type of fertilizer. Industries of all kinds, that benefit from the river system for transporting their goods, line both banks of the river.

We finally made it into Lock 52 with a wait of only a couple of hours. The lift here is only a few feet, which means if the water levels are high enough the wick dam is lowered, enabling watercraft to actually just go right over the dam. That probably would have made me "slightly" nervous, so I was just as happy to wait for a lock through. Always Home developed some unexpected mechanical difficulties as we entered this lock. We made a quick stop so that Jess could go for a swim, hoping to give them a temporary fix that will allow them to limp into Green Turtle Bay on one engine, but at least they will get there under their own power. While Jess is a little anxious to get back into the Tennessee River, we decided we would stick with our buddies for a while longer and take the Cumberland instead.

Another early departure from our anchorage behind Towhead Island. As we entered this awesome hideaway we were behind Fryedaze who evidently spooked a large number of the dreaded Asian Carp. They were jumping all over the place until we got close enough for a picture. 

A right turn will leave the Ohio River behind us, and a much smaller Cumberland River in front of us for a few hours. 

Barkley Lock and Dam is ready for us with no waiting, how nice! This lock provides a 57 foot lift into the beautiful Land Between the Lakes region. This vacationland is formed by Kentucky Dam on the Tennessee River and Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River, which form Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley respectively.

Green Turtle Bay is swamped by Loopers as we stop here for a brief break from the water before continuing our journey. For us this is almost the end of the line, while others are just getting started. Either way we are all making amazing memories!

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