MILES TRAVELED TODAY: 52 KM
We were all fed and ready to travel by 8:30 when Dan pulled away from the Grafton dock. The confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers followed almost immediately and we pondered the importance of these water highways that transport so many commodities.
The Illinois River ended at her MM 0 and we began charting our progress on Mississippi miles that begin here at MM 218.
The towering rock cliffs loomed over the shore to our port and soon we passed under the Alton New Clark Highway Bridge that Kirt and KelLe drove over to leave Missouri and arrive in Illinois. This was followed closely by the colorful Argosy Casino. As Kirt said, “Just enter, give them all your money and leave”.
By 10:00 we had been welcomed into the smaller of the two chambers of the Mel Price Lock (200.8 MM). The kind lock master saw us and held up his lock-down of another pleasure craft. He cheerfully and authoritatively reminded us that everyone on deck must have on their life jackets. “Aye, Aye Sir.” We locked through with a flotilla of debris; a sheet of plywood, general trash and bobbing trees. Ugh!
We ran into churning water when the Missouri River joined us at MM 195.5. Run off and sediment made their way into the Mighty Mississippi. We are now on a constant lookout for the floating debris that sometimes lurks just beneath the water’s surface. Kind of like tiptoeing through a mine field.
At the Chain of Rocks Lock (MM 185) we locked-down with a canoe holding two young men who began their journey 500 miles upstream at the Mississippi headlands and plan on continuing all the way to New Orleans. Hang in there, boys!
Whoa! There she is, the towering St. Louis Arch. She stands shimmering guard over her city and ports. An impressive sight to behold, this renowned 45 year old structure. The Goodyear Blimp passed right at her side for an up close and personal look before moving on to other tourist attractions.
How appropriate for Kirt and KelLe to be with us during this leg of the journey. As we passed Kirt’s old stomping grounds and former employer, Anheuser-Bush, we snapped a few photos of their world headquarters for old times’ sake.
Since there is no dockage near St. Louis, we paid our respects from the water and moved on with our tour, dodging the immense barges both anchored and traveling this huge Mississippi. We saw one big tug pushing a raft of 6 across and 7 deep. That’s a lot of cargo! The huge amounts of trash being pushed along by the barges was amazing.
About 23 miles south of St. Louis we pulled into Kimmswick (MM 158.8) and found our way to Hoppie’s Marine Service where Fern and Charles Hopkins greeted us and took our lines. We are tied to their dock made of a 100- ft. barge. A bit rustic but our kind of place. Fern is a wealth of information that she is more than willing to share with us “Loopers”. Legend has it that the Hopkins men worked on the river for years as lamplighters. Young Charles worked with his father and may be the last living Mississippi lamplighter.