18 September - Entered the Upper Mississippi River at mile 218. The Upper Mississippi mile zero is at the junction of the Ohio River, so we have 218 miles on the Mississippi. Stopped at Alton Marina at mile 203. We plan to stay here 5 or 6 days, rent a car and do some sightseeing in St. Louis. The marina is a great facility with about 300 slips, most of the in tall sheds. Being in a covered slip is nice, except you cant get any satellite tv reception. Not a big problem since we are close enough to St. Louis to get the local channels. This is also the last fuel stop before Paducah, about 250 miles away.
St. Louis Arch
Eads bridge was one of the first to use caissons during construction. It was also the first recorded instances of caisson's disease, now known to be decompression sickness (the bends). I thought this first occurred during construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, but I've learned otherwise.
We took the tour of the Arch, which includes the ride to the top, a really great film on the construction of the Arch and a one hour riverboat cruise. After all this time on the boat you have to wonder why we took the river cruise, but it was pretty nice to sit back and enjoy the ride. Plus they had beer. The arch itself is incredible. The engineering and construction is unbelievable and the view from the top is awesome.
View of the Eads bridge from the top of the Arch
Across the river is the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park. It is the best location for pictures of the Arch.
25 September - Underway again. We stayed a week at Alton, not only to sightsee, but to get the water pump replaced on the port engine. It had been leaking slightly but last week the shaft seal gave way altogether. We called Cummins service and they were there on Friday, ordered the parts and came back Monday to finish the job. Their service is great. In spite of having needed repairs we had a great time being tourists. In addition to all the stuff in St. Louis we got a tour of the Mel Price Lock and Dam. There is a nice museum about the River and then a guided tour out on the lock and dam. There were only us and one other couple so it was like our own private tour.
At the Mel Price Lock there are 2 locks, one 600' and one 1200'. It is one of the few 1200' locks on the river.
After touring the lock on Tuesday we locked through on Wednesday. We got to go through the 1200' lock and we were the only boat in the lock. Cleared the Mel Price Lock and the Chain of Rocks Lock which is also 1200' and the last lock on the Mississippi River. Headed for Hoppie's Marina. Hoppie's was (is) a landmark stop on the great loop. It used to be the last fuel stop before Paducah. It's not really a marina but a series of barges that you can tie up to. The floods of 2018 and again in 2019 have pretty much destroyed the facility. The fuel dock is gone and there is only enough room to dock 3 boats. They are trying to rebuild and maybe by next year they will have a fuel dock again. Even though things are pretty rough I'm glad we stopped there. It's a short walk into the town of Kimmswick where there are several good restaurants and many shops. Everyone brags on the Blue Owl restaurant but they close at 3 and we didn't make it in time. We went instead to Smokee Robinson's BBQ and it was fantastic!
Smokee Robinson's Cajun Smokehouse
26 September - Kaskaskia lock. You can tie up for the night, no charge. Mile 117.5
27 September - Anchored if Little Diversion Channel along with 7 other boats.
Little Diversion Channel, mile 48.8. This is as far up in the channel as you can go.
There was this Ranger tug, then us, then 6 more behind us.
28 September - Last day on the Mississippi. The current has been impressive, about 5 mph. Running just above idle we have been making 11-12mph. Today I ran at 1200rpm and made 15-16mph. As we enter the Ohio River we are now running upstream, against the current. We were told this could be 4-5mph but we found it to about 1. At 1200 rpm we were still making 9mph. We cleared the Olmstead Lock and anchored at mile 953.5. The Ohio enters the Mississippi at mile 981. I guess mile zero is Pittsburg where the Ohio forms.
Anchored on the Ohio River at Bean Branch Creek. The anchorage is protected by an out thrust of land just upstream.
It was flat calm all night
The trip down the Mississippi has been fascinating. The tows are huge, but the river is so wide there is usually no problem passing. If you meet a large tow on a bend in the river it can be pretty scary, as the tow literally takes up the entire river. Fortunately, we never had that happen. Although the tows were smaller on the Illinois, it was harder to navigate around them. The largest towboats are called Line-Haul boats. They make the long distance trips and have live aboard crews who typically work 30 days on 30 days off. Harbor tows make shorter trips and often shuttle barges around ports to make up the big tows. A line haul tow can be up to 10,000-12,000 Horsepower.
Most of the tows we saw were 15 or 18 barges, 3 across and 5 or 6 long. We did see one tow that was 30 barges, 6 across and 5 long. On the lower Mississippi I'm told there can be as many as 48 barges in a tow.
Difference in size between a line haul towboat and a harbor boat.
29 September - It was a short run from the anchorage to Paducah. The Paducah Transient Dock is a fairly new facility with good shelter, fuel and pumpout, but no other amenities. The two nights we were there were jam packed with Loopers. There is 500' of dock space available and we had 507' worth of boats, and that does not include the space between boats. They put two boats on the fuel dock to make everyone fit. The town of Paducah is very nice. The downtown area has many good restaurants and shops, and several museums, including the Paducah Quilt Museum, the River Discovery Center and the Paducah Railroad Museum. There is a flood wall along the river that is about 12' tall. There are openings in the wall to let vehicles through. There are gates below these openings that can be raised during floods. Several blocks of the wall are painted with beautiful murals depicting history of the Paducah waterfront.
Loopers crowded in at the Paducah Transient Dock. See how tall the pilings are? They need to be.
This is the ramp from the Paducah Transient Dock up to town. During the flood of 2011 the water was
5' deep in the parking lot at the top of the ramp.
The flood wall with one of the flood gates closed.
Murals on the Paducah Flood Wall
1 October - Left Paducah headed up the Tennessee River for Green Turtle Bay Resort in Grand Rivers Kentucky. Only one lock to clear, but it is huge. Kentucky lock has a 57' lift and the associated dam produces 178 megawatts for the TVA power grid. We had a 3 hour wait to lock through but we finally made it to Green Turtle Bay Resort and Marina. On the trip up the river saw some interesting sights:
Queen of the Mississippi. Not sure why she was on the Tennessee. They must stop in Nashville.
These are some of the largest Line Haul boats. These have 3 big diesel engines.
Think TowBoatUS could handle this?
Green Turtle Bay Resort and Marina
Green Turtle Bay is everything the Loopers Guides say and more. The staff is fantastic and bend over backwards to accommodate transient boats. The day we arrived they were flooded with loopers and filled to capacity, yet they managed to find room for everyone although some latecomers were on the fuel docks and the maintenance docks. There are restaurants on site, and the Commonwealth Yacht club, which loopers can frequent as guests. We had dinner one evening and it was fantastic. There is also a spa and health club and beach area. They have a complete service yard and a ships store which is the best I've seen yet at a marina. The prices are very good and they have a huge inventory. If they don't have what you need they can get it in a day or two. The town of Grand Rivers is just up the road about a mile. It's not a bad walk, or you can rent a golf cart at the marina. They have groceries, shops and very good restaurants if you want a change from the marina. I highly recommend T. Lawson's Grill. I understand why many loopers spend a week or so at Green Turtle Bay. It's a great place to rest and recoup after the trip down the rivers.
Well folks, this is the end of another chapter. We are leaving Desiderata at Green Turtle Bay for a couple of months while we fly home and take care of stuff on the home front. We've been on the water for 92 days, covered 2,241 miles and used 1690 gallons of diesel. We'll be back in December and continue the trip down the Tennessee River.