Another state line crossed which means Paddle Forward is one state closer to New Orleans! After our fantastic welcome and stay in Montrose, IA the crew, in addition to our friend and guest paddler Kristen Schulte, once again took to the water and paddled to lock and dam no. 19 which we had been told had up to a 58ft drop. In actuality it was only a 38ft drop which in our eyes was no less impressive. We entered the 1200ft long chamber to the cheers of our many friends from Montrose who had come to watch us lock through. Usually, we are thrown 12-20ft long lines to hold as we are lowered into the lock but in no. 19 we were told to hold on to a dropping pin which lowers the 38ft with us to the bottom. The great doors lifted up out of the water and we began to sink. It felt a bit like the trash compactor in Star Wars… After the lock we found a lovely island to camp on, built a fire and slept.
After a full day of paddling we got to Quincy, IL where we stayed in a marina not far off the main channel. It was a great early birthday present for Nick whose birthday was the following day. The better present though came the next day in Hannibal, MO. While all the other paddlers found a local haunt for dinner, Anna and Erika walked about the town, white washing Tom Sawyer’s fence, seeing his old house and meeting a few of Hannibal’s residents. They ran across the Hannibal History Museum put on by Lisa and Ken Marks of Hannibal. After much deliberation, Anna and Erika decided to go on the 7pm “Haunted Hannibal Trolly Tour”. It was a fun filled, spooky evening learning about all the haunted places in Hannibal. If you are ever passing through, I would definitely recommend that you stop in to the museum! The tour ended with Lisa Marks, our tour guide and coincidentally, the caretaker of one of Hannibal’s many mansions, offering to let 11 strangers stay in Cliffside Mansion. (It wasn’t haunted, by the way) We gratefully accepted! Cliffside is a 9-bedroom, 6-bathroom mansion complete with servants’ quarters and original chandeliers. Hannibal became a huge lumber city in the early 19th century because of the transport and power the Mississippi River provided for the industry.
We found our “campsite” the next night after paddling roughly 42 miles. We camped at a boat launch in less than ideal conditions but were rewarded with breakfast in the morning from John’s parents on their drive, moving from Tennessee to Minnesota. With two locks to paddle and 44 miles ahead of us for the day we paddled hard through beautiful foggy mist making the river seem like a white wonderland. After paddling through lock and dam. No. 27 we pulled out at our home for the night, the Living Lands and Water’s Garbage Barge. The Barge is a tow of four barges, 3 for garbage and one that has been transformed into a modern living space and floating classroom. Living Lands and Waters is an organization that travels up and down the River and works with communities and school groups to collect trash and educate people about the river. The next morning we got a chance to talk with Kim from the Army Corps. of Engineers at the National Great Rivers Museum in Alton, IL. We also had the privilege of a tour of the Melvin Price Lock and Dam. We then headed back to our boats and paddled thirteen miles in the pouring rain to meet up with Big Muddy Mike (Michael F. Clark) and fellow St. Louis paddlers Perry and Dave. We were invited to stay with Big Muddy who is in the process of establishing a bed and breakfast for peddlers and paddlers along the Great River Road and the Mighty River. Self-proclaimed “river angel” he wants to make the river more accessible for small craft paddlers.
We stayed in St. Louis for two nights, replenishing on supplies and picking up boxes and gear with the help of Joel Tully, our gracious food drop collector. We also got to explore the St. Louis City Museum, which we all highly recommend if you are ever in St. Louis!
We said goodbye to Big Muddy Mike and St. Louis and for the next few days made serious miles to Cape Girardeau, MO, where we were welcomed into a “friends-giving” dinner night by Sarah Schulte, sister of guest paddler Kristen, and her friends Abbie, Will, and Joann. We greatly enjoyed the excellent food and even better company.
The next night, November 5, we arrived in the dark at the confluence of two mighty American Rivers: the Ohio and the Mississippi located in Cairo, IL. Since then we have been averaging ~43 miles per day blasting through New Madrid and Caruthersville, MO and countless beautiful islands and sandbars. At this point, if we maintain a speed of 40 miles per day we will reach New Orleans by November, 26th!
‘Til the next time!
Written by: Erika Gotcher