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Home Adventure Travel Ideas Destinations Central U.S. Mississippi River with Grandpa

Mississippi River with Grandpa

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Mississippi River with Grandpa
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Down River with Grandpa
...from the journals of CW Bryant


    Join Grandpa, mom, Karen, Noka (Grandpa’s German shepherd puppy) and me aboard the 32 ft yacht, Karey Lou.  We’ll travel from St. Louis south 170 miles on the Mississippi River, east on the Ohio River for 60 miles and 30 miles south on the Cumberland River to Lake Barkley in Kentucky

June 24...
    The Algonquin Indians named the river Mississippi, “Father of Waters.”  At 2,348 miles long the mighty Mississippi River I'm headed down the Mississippi River with my Grandpa.flows from Minnesota to Louisiana, splitting the nation in two and defining the borders of ten states.  It was instrumental in the settlement and development of the region and today remains a key to the economy and survival of the area.
     Whether cruising the waterway in a houseboat or yacht, or driving along the adjacent river roads, you won’t want to miss the river’s rich history and diverse cultures preserved in its small quaint towns, throughout the countryside, and with the folk that have settled along its banks.  

    It was 2 p.m. before Grandpa pulled into the dock at Supply St. Louis to pick up mom and me.
This is my Grandpa!
    “Hi Grandpa, you’re finally here!  Wow, nice boat!  This trip is going to be the best!”  It took Grandpa longer to get here because the Mississippi River was flooded.
    We  said our good-byes to the friendly folks at Supply St. Louis and shoved off.  The rushing river was full of all kinds of logs and sticks.  Grandpa had to carefully steer around it all--we didn’t want to hit anything!
    Everybody was talking about the flood, even at Hoppie’s Marina in Kimmswick, Missouri, our first stop to gas up the boat.
    Kimmswick was settled by a German, named Theodore Kimm in 1859.  In this small town you can visit several restored 19th century brick buildings.  Kimmswick Tourist Information (314-464-6464).
    Underway again, Grandpa quizzed me, “Cody, where’s the bow?  Which side is port? If you want to be a seaman you’ve got to know these things.”
    But can you guess what part of the boat I learned first?  The head--it’s the bathroom!
 We cruised along side huge barges.   We soon docked at Marina de Gabouri in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.  Here we would spend the night.  
    Ste. Genevieve is the oldest permanent settlement west of the Mississippi River, founded in 1735 by French farmers, lead miners, and traders. Travelers find the best collection of French Creole buildings in the U.S.--upright logs set in stone or dirt, steep hip roofs supported by huge Norman trusses, with wide encircling porches.   Many of the buildings are still in use as homes and businesses, like the Old Brick House Restaurant and Southern Hotel (now a B&B) with a sum-mer kitchen behind the main house.  You can tour the Bolduc, LeMeilleur, Amoureux and Maison Guibourd-Valle Houses and see original construction, authentic furnishings, courtyards, stockades, and medicinal herb gardens.  Ste. Genevieve Tourist Information (573-883-7097).

June 25...
    The early morning fog hung over flooded Gabouri Creek--it looked like a ghostly bayou.
    Suddenly I heard Noka barking.  He was suppose to be going potty on the bank, but he found it more fun to chase grasshoppers!
    Noka has these big puppy ears.  Grandpa jokes, “If we should ever run out of gas, we can put him on the bow and use his ears for sails!”
    We cast off for Cape Girardeau, our next fueling stop according to Quimby’s River Guides.
Grandpa and I watch for debris in the flood-swollen Mississippi River.
    Mom explained, “Quimby’s River Guides list the marinas on various rivers that provide gas, food, overnight docking, marine repair, and such.  Telephone numbers and radio channels are listed, too.”
    Underway, we were all on deck, again helping Grandpa steer aro
und the drift and debris in the river.
    “Ka-Chunck!”
    “We just hit something!” yelled Grandpa, “Must have been a submerged log.  I bet we spun the hub on the starboard engine.  And, the nearest repair is
at Lake Barkley.”  
    We could only go 10 mph otherwise, Grandpa said we might heat up the other engine.  Since the boat can’t plane at that speed, it will be pushing water and drinking lots of gas, he explained!
    10 miles north of Cape Girardeau, Missouri along the river are wooded hills and bluffs making up the Trail of Tears State Park.  Here there’s a portion of the Trail of Tears, the route used by the Ch
erokees on their forced march to Oklahoma.  Interpretive Center (573-334-1711).
    At Kidd River in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, a gas hose was draped over the 20 ft flood wall to the dock below.  Gas was then pumped from the tank
truck on the other side.   We hadn’t been able to get drinking water at our last stop, so we grabbed plastic gallon jugs and hoofed it up over the wall into the town of Cape Girardeau.  Noka and I escaped from the hot afternoon sun under a huge shade tree at a nearby park.  
    In 1733, Jean Baptiste
Girardot founded a trading post here.  Cape Rock Park, the original spot of the trading post overlooks a swift moving Mississippi River and jutting out was once a rock that formed the only in-land cape in the country.  Historic homes and We often had to wait for bridges to open so we could continue motoring down river.buildings are seen here--like the Civil War’s Union military headquarters and prison, General Ulysses S. Grant’s temporary headquarters, and the Victorian-style Glenn House.  Murals depicting the history of the city and state appear on the flood wall and on buildings around town.  Cape Girardeau Visitors Bureau (800-777-0068).
    The flood wall around Cape Girardeau is really cool.  Mom explained “Remember the the rock quarry we saw yesterday?  North of here the banks of the rive
r are limestone cliffs and steep wooded bluffs, they act just like flood walls.  HoweveIn places the flooded river bank looked like a bayou.r, the land here and down river is flatter, the river towns need flood walls or levees to protect them from the flooding waters.”
    “The guide shows that the next fuel stop is at Lake Barkley--about 140 miles!” added Karen.  “We’ll need to find some fuel in between.”
    “Look at the size of that barge tow!” I shouted.  It was six barges wide and seven barges long.  Whoa, you want to stay out of its way!
    The paddle wheels and steamboats of the 19th century made settlement to the region possible by carrying in supplies, mail, and passengers.  You can relive those days by cruising the rivers in elegantly restored steamboats, operated by the Delta Queen Steamboat Company (800-543-1949).  The steamboat is no longer used for commercial purposes, replaced by
the river barge, a large, flat bottom, non-powered boat that carries bulk cargo of oil, grain and coal; it’s pushed up and down rivers by a small powerful tugboat.  Barge tows are single barges locked together.

    We were coming into Cairo, Illinois, where the Ohio River flows into the Mississippi River.  
    Because the rich, fertile river land o
f this area reminded early settlers of the Nile River delta in Egypt, they named it Cairo.  Fort Defiance Park at CThe sunsets were awesome.airo Point overlooks the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and was a strategic Union Army outpost during the Civil War.  Cairo is also the navigational midpoint on the Mississippi River--mile marker 00.0.  North of Cairo is the Upper Mississippi and south is the Lower Mississippi.  Southern Illinois Tourist Bureau (800-248-4373).
    With cell phone in one hand and radio in the other, the Coast Guard directed us to Economy Boat Storage in nearby Wickliffe, Kentucky.
     Just down river of the convergence of the massive Ohio and Mississippi rivers lies Wickliffe, Kentucky, once home and ceremonial grounds of the Mississippian Indians.  You can visit the Wickliffe Mounds Research Center and see ceremonial mounds and excavations.  Much learned about these Native Americans is on display in the Interpretive Center.  Wickliffe Mounds Research Center (502-335-3681).
    From Wickliffe Grandpa headed the boat north fighting against the strong flood curre
nts of both the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.  We motored a ways up the Ohio River and decided to anchor for the night in a small inlet--out of the channel and away from the barge traffic.  
    Since the first fur trader of 1692, the Ohio river has played a major role in the settlement of America.  From Pittsburgh, PA to the Mississippi River the river
travels some 981 miles and borders 5 states.  The Ohio boasts a colorful history, is a boater’s playground and carries freight bound barges.
    We didn’t find an inlet, instead a bank of trees half underwater! Grandpa worked to get the anchor set in the swift current.

     It was a hot and humid night. Frogs were loudly croaking, probably excited about all the water!
    While Noka and I tried to fall off to sleep, I could hear the distant drone of barges carrying their heavy cargo up and down the river.  Search lights swept back and forth across the river, sometimes shining through the window above my bed.   



 

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