Mississippi River & Ohio River / September 28 - October 5, 2014
September 28, 2014
We left around 7:30 this morning. We wanted to enjoy the cooler weather and cover as much distance as possible before dinner. We knew the day would be hot and we did not want to paddle during the hottest hours. The launch from the marina went well. Several boats had already left before us.
The Mississippi River is very pretty, despite its muddy water. There is a special and unique charm to the area. The Mississippi offers golden, sandy beaches, especially on the Illinois side. At lunch we stopped on a huge sandbar. Jasmine was able to run around, dig holes in the sand, and find shade near the small bushes to cool down. Around 3:00 pm we arrived close to Chester, Popeye’s hometown. We have taken up residence on another sandbar, this one even more beautiful than the one we had stopped on for lunch. The sand was fine and the location has a perfect orientation between the "wing dam". We could see the barges and boats go by without feeling the wake. It was a beautiful day and we had time to relax in the late afternoon. We are close to Mile 113 on the River.
September 29, 2014
There was a lot of traffic during the night; towboats and barges. At times, we were dazzled by their immense spot lights. Even though this cut into our sleep, we were delighted to experience and enjoy a night in the middle of the Mississippi River.
Leaving our sandy island in the morning, we saw no ordinary fishermen. They were fishing with an electric fence in front of their boat. We saw that many Asian carp were caught (Asian carp are a nuisance in the large rivers of the U.S.). During the day, we saw more barges and Loopers passing us. We saw several golden eagles. At dinner, we stopped on an island with a huge sandbar that gave us the illusion that the boats were floating on the sand.
We had a great day of paddling! There were a lot of swirls, currents and turbulence, but regardless, we moved along quickly. Despite our late start, we arrived around 5:30 pm at Mile 60.5, before the next city, named Cape Girardeau. We found a sandy beach on the tip of an island. There were lots of coyote prints on the beach, but with Jasmine, nothing to worry about! Mosquitoes arrived quickly when the sun was setting. Then nothing, just calm and darkness.
September 30, 2014
Last night we heard coyotes howling on both shores of the river. It was really fascinating! There were fewer towboats passing by during the night, but, in the morning there was a lot of back and forth.
Our paddling day was shorter today because we wanted to get closer to the end of the "Upper Mississippi" and the junction of the Ohio River. We had only 60 miles to go before the Ohio River. So at Mile 24, we found an even larger sandy beach than the previous ones. The beach is located on a large island, which boasts abundant wildlife. We saw the prints of several animals, so many it was hard to say what kind of animal it was for each footprint. We saw deer, coyotes, herons, Canadian geese, ... and heard coyotes. Jasmine remained on alert all night.
Tonight, we finally made the decision to go against the current of the Ohio River to navigate the Tennessee-Tombigbee River system to Mobile, Alabama. We will reserve the other section of the Mississippi (lower Mississippi) and New Orleans for next year.
October 1, 2014
That's it! We are finally on the Ohio River tonight! In fact, we arrived on it just before lunch. The transition between the two rivers went smoothly. Turning the southern tip of Cairo to enter the Ohio River, we discovered a whole new world! It was almost a shock! We have become accustomed, in recent days, to the wild side of the Mississippi River, only the towboats reminded us that there was civilization around. At the beginning of the Ohio (or rather at the end of it), there is life on the water. There are barges anchored everywhere near shore. There are smaller, cute, towboats that guide convoys. Then there are the big towboats to which we are now accustomed. In a split second, we went from the wilderness to an industrial environment.
We stopped under a train bridge on the border of Kentucky for lunch. We were astonished when we sunk knee-deep into the mud. It was difficult to move and we had to hold onto the canoe to get out. It was so sticky, we took time, once back on the water, to clean our feet and sandals (which we almost lost in the mud). Jasmine did well! Like a princess, she was carried in our arms to prevent her white socks from getting dirty! :)
In the afternoon, we stopped at Mound City to buy water (yes, water!) and bread. The city does not seem very healthy. Several buildings were in ruins and vegetation had taken over. There were even trees growing inside some buildings. Also noteworthy, the villages are practically imperceptible from the water because there are built behind levee walls that have been put in place to protect the buildings and residents against flooding. This was the case for both Mound City and Cairo.
We found a pebbled island on the river where we could set up our camp just after Mound City. The place was perfect and quiet. We were even able to make a campfire before going to bed.
October 2, 2014
It was a big day today. It was already hot when we woke up. There was no dew on the tent, which lately has been wet every morning. We left at 8:00, against the current, towards Fort Massac State Park (Metropolis) located about 47km away. What a day it was! One of the hardest since we started. Tonight, my body hurts!
First, we had to go through the dam and lock # 53. The lock was closed, but there was sufficient water to pass over the dam. It took a lot of our energy to get passed this section. Fortunately, we had the wind at our backs. We were then on the Illinois side of the river. We stopped for lunch, and I was already toast! There was still 27km to go and the current was strong! Then we experienced heavy rain. Nothing could stop us from going upstream that day, except if we stopped paddling, so we kept on paddling despite the conditions. In fact, the rain felt good, even though we were completely soaked. It was very hot and the rain helped to cool us down a little. There were a lot of wing dams on the Illinois side and we did not have the wind in our favour anymore. To pass a wing dam demanded a huge effort and still we were barely moving. The wing dams are used to redirect the current into the centre of the river to prevent the accumulation of sand and sediment in the channel. We crossed back over to the Kentucky side. This was a very good decision! On this side, we saw many, many, many snakes on the surface of the water and many fish, including catfish and sturgeon. About 10km from our destination we had to cross back to the Illinois side. At that time and for the rest of the day, the wind was strong and facing us. It was hard! We paddled our way through stationed barges to try to hide from the wind. Less than 2 km from the State Park, we were completely exposed again and there were clapotis (standing) waves. Fortunately, we found the park boat ramp. The sun was setting already, it was 18:00. We were welcomed by Canadian Loopers: Susan Harris and Jeff Heron from the boat "Gran Vida". They kindly invited us to stay on their boat for the night. We planned to stay in the park for 3 nights, so we decided to portage and set up our camp (in the dark). Pierre went to make the reservation and returned by truck with the campground host, Mr. Penny Emery. Our portage was eased by placing all our gear in Mr. Emery’s pickup truck. Penny, thank you again for you generous help! We set up camp, ate, had our showers and then headed to bed.
October 3, 2014
Yikes! ... Body aches this morning! It is a good idea that we had planned to stay 3 nights here. It will allow us to run errands, do our laundry and rest up. In the morning, Penny and Pierre went to Paducah to run errands. We had outdoor equipment and paper maps to buy. Again, thank you Penny for your help!
In the afternoon, we grocery shopped for what was needed. Then we walked in the park and learned about the area. We learned that in Paducah, there is the National Quilts Museum. From the pictures we've seen, there are several pieces of artwork. Metropolis (city where we are) is the adopted home of Superman. There is a huge statue of him in the city and a museum in his honour. Also in Metropolis, specifically at Fort Massac, Lewis and Clark landed here, in November 1803, to recruit men for their expedition. They hired among others, Pierre Drouillard, whose parentage was a French Canadian, an agent for the British, father and a Shawnee mother. This park was established in 1908 and it was the first state park in Illinois. It played an important role mainly in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
October 4, 2014
It was cold this morning, very cold! The wind was frigid and the thermometer indicated 5 ° C. It remained cold all day and the wind blew hard. Today we did laundry, but, mainly rested. We ate Dippin’ Dots ice cream thanks to Mrs. Kelly Stoner and had the pleasure of relaxing in front of a campfire. Penny had provided us with wood.
October 5, 2014
Today we were supposed to depart. There was no wind this morning when we got up, but it was soon to be felt. We learned that the current is stronger than normal. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers opened the Kentucky Lake floodgates (which flows into the Tennessee River, and Ohio River) to lower the water level to its winter height. The current should be stronger for the next week, according to them, about 2.5 knots. Above the river, on the hill, we also noticed that ship traffic was dense. There is a lock to pass (# 52) and everything appeared to be stopped. There were a lot of barges and boats waiting. In recent days, traffic was slowed as the water passed over the dam. Our friends, Cindy and Grant, informed us that there were two knots of current running on the Cumberland River, which could be an alternative to entering the Kentucky Lake. So, despite good intentions, we are forced to wait. The weather forecast is not great for the next few days either. We are looking for a means of transportation to get ahead. We thought about portaging along the road, but we cannot legally cross any of the bridges.