The Mississippi River is as famous as any body of water in North America. One would expect it to be a cruiser’s paradise with first-rate facilities and history around every corner.
One would be wrong.
After leaving Alton, Illinois where the Illinois, Mississippi, and Missouri rivers meet within a few miles, we were dismayed to learn the next stop would be twenty miles or so south of St. Louis. It was not really a marina. It was a fuel dock on a barge with room for four or five boats to tie up on either side. It had power. Nothing else.
We were glad to have it.
The river is busier than I expected. Not only do tugs push barges five deep and three across, they park them on the edges and in the middle of the channel. Passing St. Louis, a good-sized city that should have had a nice dock in front of the Arch, we were on our feet with binoculars, constantly watching the traffic in the busy harbor. The river churned with wakes from the powerful boats and we were glad to leave the city behind.
The next stop for us was a lock wall that allowed tie-ups for the night. Capt. Mark felt right at home. He was surrounded by Army Corps of Engineers boats…tugs, dredges, even a barge with crew quarters.
Tonight we’ll anchor just off the main river, and the next day we’ll turn into the Ohio River and find another anchorage on our way to the Tennessee. The waterway guides point out the places where you can safely put down your hook, but they caution you to watch your depth finder. The charts we have don’t have depths. The reason for this might be a clue as to why there aren’t more boating facilities.
Floods are common. While there are no tides in the rivers, even a heavy storm upstream will swell the rivers several feet. We saw evidence of floods everywhere. In Alton, the waterlines from old floods are marked on a smokestack. Once-flourishing river towns whose industries were wiped out once too often are shells of their former selves, struggling to survive.
On the Ohio River, we’ll pass Paducah, Kentucky, another large city without facilities, but with plans to build a downtown marina with a little help from Uncle Sam. Then on to the Cumberland River. Just through the Barkley Lock is a marina…a large one on a lake and that’s our destination.
Marinas mean clean clothes and wifi. This one has a courtesy car so you can go shopping and eat out. We’ll stay here awhile.