Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hoppies, Kaskaskia, and Little River Diversion Channel

First of all, I need to correct some comments in the last blog.  Based on our 2 times on the Mississippi River BELOW THE OHIO RIVER INTERSECTION AND DOWN TO NEW ORLEANS, we were expecting to see the large tows of 42 barges again.  That is not the case thus far, we assume because this upper Mississippi River stretch seems to be much smaller and narrower than the lower half.  Most tows are 20 or fewer. Having made that correction, we departed Alton Marina early morning after confirming with the lockmaster 2 miles away that we would have no delays.

If there's any doubt in your mind whether or not we are in towboat and barge territory on the Mississippi River, this should answer the question. These are the towboats sitting on the banks not moving traffic at the moment!  And note the size of these - huge.

Speaking of huge, this may be the largest dredge we've ever seen.

There's a split in the Mississippi just above St. Louis.  The actual river hangs a right and the water drops via a dam.  It's important to read the sign, take the left turn here, and use the diversion canal through the lock!  Right, Jonathan and Brooke???  LOL

One of the nice things about the two locks between Alton and St. Louis is that both of them have 2 chambers.  In both cases, barges were in the larger chambers, but we had no delay getting through the smaller chambers.  The other nice thing about them is the wonderful and courteous lockmasters.  WOW, we felt like we were getting a welcome and info from a tour guide, and the better of the two was our first-ever lady lockmaster! So, here we are in the last lock with Mooring Dove.  The upstream gate on this one was pretty cool - had a bit of a sci-fi look to it as it rose up out of the water rather than the standard swinging gates.

And here's a shot of the dual chambers, side-by-side, with a barge exiting about the same time as us.  Don't worry, they are pretty slow, and we were way out of the way before them.

Here's our first view of St. Louis as we rejoined the regular body of the Mississippi River.  You can see the arch in the distance behind the bridge.

Lots of bridges on the north side of town.

Yes, Wilson is still with us, and he's pretty excited about seeing the arch for the first time!

And here's the arch.  Pretty cool, this thing is huge!

St. Louis has no easy access or marinas close to the city, so we continued on down the river to a well-known stop (at least well-known to Loopers and travelers of this part of the river) - Hoppies.  Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins took over this business 40 years ago from his father. It's nothing fancy, just a few barges together on the side of the river, but a critical stop for many boaters, especially for refueling. 

And let me take this opportunity to introduce the infamous Fern Hopkins.  Make no mistake about it - Fern runs this place.  She tells you what she wants and how she wants it!  She tells you how to drive the boat, and they handle all of the lines and even placement of fenders.  If you want it a different way, you better wait till Fern leaves and change it without her knowing it! She told Rhonda and Becky that some men don't like taking orders from a woman. They told her that Galen and I are used to it!  And we love it too, right Galen????

Fern gives a briefing in the afternoon to anyone interested in the details of traveling the river, offering recommendations for anchoring, areas that need some caution, etc., etc.  While there's nothing fancy about the place, it's a tradition to stop here and we had lots of fun.  Also, we knew we were in good company - these folks wear GIT-R-DONE shirts!

But wait, there's much more just around the corner and up the hill in the town of Kimmswick, MO. Although it was Monday and they knew the WHOLE town would be closed, Rhonda and Becky decided to take a walk into town to check it all out.

Here are a couple of the establishments noted above.

While there, they met a local alderman and, of course, they wanted to know all about the town. Originally, the town was known for its salt deposits and as a vacation spot for residents of St. Louis. By the 1970's the town was beginning to run down. The 7-UP heiress (they did not remember her name) decided to buy up the whole town (about a 4-block area). She then sold homes to people who restored the homes and started businesses in them. Today, all of the businesses open from 10:00 to 4:00 (5:00 on the weekends) and they all agree to be closed on Mondays. The normal population of Kimmswick is 125, but during their annual apple butter festival over 100,000 people show up for the weekend. They also have a strawberry festival in the spring, but it only attracts about 30,000. The revenue from these events fund the town so that the locals do not have other taxes!     

While Rhonda and Becky were sightseeing in Kimmswick, Galen decided to walk to the next town. Actually, he never really intends to walk, he always gets a ride.  In this case, one of the locals, Joe, picked him up, took him to the next town, and then brought him back to Kimmswick.  Later in the evening when all 4 of us decided to take an evening stroll, Joe joined us.

It turns out that Kimmswick had another wealthy resident from St. Louis and Joe gave us lots of detailed information about Mrs. Anheuser, the great-granddaughter of the Anheuser-Busch family. Joe's job was to drive her around town and his wife worked inside the home. Joe said she was a wonderful lady, and she told him lots of stories as they drank tea on her back porch. She left her estate and a hefty endowment to the town of Kimmswick. The town rents the home for weddings and other events so that they use very little of the endowment. The stable and riding area are an equine therapy center, often used and available for autistic children.


Here's the Anheuser home from the front and back.

It sits at the top of the bank of the river with a beautiful deck and great views in all directions.

 Across the street is an unusual rock wall (and a pretty good-sized tree).  Kimmswick has some German stone-cutter history also. 

This bridge was originally built in 1874 but has been in use only for pedestrians since 1930.

It's amazing how much history you can find along the banks of America's waterways.  Here sits one little small town with so much to offer.  We have had lots of fun getting to learn about so many of these little towns along the Loop.  However, it was time to move on the next morning with 40 miles to our next stop.  On the Mississippi River, you have to plan your stops, distances, and travel times by what's available.  We could cover lots more distance, especially with the 3 to 5 miles of river current, but we didn't want to risk not being able to get to some of the other "possibilities."  Our "for-sure" stop was a lock wall at the Kaskaskia Lock. On the way down we saw several rock quarries, and it looks like business is pretty good!  Lots of barges, trains, trucks, and activity everywhere.

Lots of folks don't realize there are lots of sandy beaches along the Mississippi River (we didn't either until our first trip down in 2008), especially with the low water levels exposing much more shoreline than normal.

Every now and then you'll see some people stopped to enjoy the beaches.

And here's our stop for the night.  The Kaskaskia Lock is inland about a mile off of the Mississippi River. The lockmasters allow overnighting here as a courtesy and it is a great stop - you don't want to be anchored out on the Mighty Mississippi vulnerable to the current and the barge traffic. That's Jonathan and Brooke aboard "Salty" in the foreground, then Galen on "Mooring Dove" and "Help Me Rhonda" on the end.  We fired up the grill and grilled chicken and bratwursts with potatoes and salad on the side.  It was a very pleasant evening and a good time was had by all.

Here's the view looking out toward the river.  By the way, that view was non-existent the next morning - serious fog and no visibility, but that was OK, we only had 70 miles to travel and left around 9 AM after the fog lifted.

Next stop, Cape Girardeau, MO. There was not much different to see on the way there than what we've already shown you.  There was this one huge rock, known as Tower Rock.        .

Cape Girardeau has a flood wall similar to Morgan City, LA (Wow, that was a lot of miles and months ago!).  They have a section of it painted nicely and the gate is open while the water is down - way down I might add. Unfortunately, there is no place to dock here either, so we did not get to walk around Rush Limbaugh's hometown.

About 3 miles downstream is the Little River Diversion Channel.  Randy and Kristin aboard "Kristin Says" had checked this out the previous night and let us know that they found no less than 7 feet of water.  It was a little tricky getting in to with the narrow entrance and swift current but a welcome spot for the night.

It wasn't much, but like I say, you take what you can get on the Mississippi!  After everyone anchored, Jonathan, Brooke, and Becky took "Salty" over to the beach on the eastern shore while we enjoyed some guests right here by the boat!  You can barely see Salty in the distance in the middle of the picture.

Adam and Jen, please be sure the grandkids see these.

In closing, TOMORROW IS A BIG DAY FOR US!  As a reminder, the Great Loop Cruise is a continuous circle route, and when you return to the starting point, the term "crossing your own wake" is used to note the closure of the circle.  The distance for us has been almost 8000 miles.  So, we'll be crossing our wake tomorrow when we make the left turn on to the Ohio River.  We were last there on April 30th, 2008 on a trip from our home in Athens, AL on the Tennessee River to Muskogee, OK to manage a new marina after we had retired the first time in 2005.  It's been lots of miles and 5 1/2 years (including another lengthy out-of-the-way stop for 2 years in Galveston, TX after Muskogee).  We left Galveston in November of 2012 to earnestly pursue finishing The Great Loop and we are almost there, 49 miles to go.  Pretty exciting stuff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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