With the Illinois river behind us we head down the Mighty Mississippi River. The power of this river is amazing. Our full attention is required navigating buoys, steering around debris, spinning in whirlpools, interacting with commercial traffic and negotiating some of the busiest locks in America all while being pushed at 4 to 5 miles an hour.
The top number on our chart plotter is our GPS speed 16.6 mph. The second number is a paddle wheel under the boat show how fast the water is moving pass our hull. 8.5 mph. The difference of 8.1 mph is the highest current push we recorded on the Mississippi.
You would think navigating on the river would be easy because it wide and deep. Many times the buoys are moved out of place by rushing water or tow barges hitting them. They may even be missing altogether.
The debris was not as bad this year as last. Its the small stuff we really need to be on the lookout for. A small stick poking up from the water could be attached to something much larger underwater (think Titanic). I bumped something twice when I was driving, no damage though. We have met several boaters who have prop damage from debris and required new props. A big tree near St Louis.
There are very deep areas on the river bottom up to 100′ deep. I can tell when we approach these because they create large boiling or whirlpools on the surface of the water. As you drive through them they will spin the boat sideways requiring some quick turning of the wheel.
Commercial Traffic rules the river. Boaters are referred to as Pleasure Craft which includes sailboat, power boats, fishing boats and anything else that is small and floats. We are just something for the Tow Captain’s to be annoyed by. Most of the Captains are very professional and great to talk to on the VHF marine radio. Down-bound (tows heading with the current pushing them) have right of way over Up-bound traffic. This photo shows a Up-bound tow pulled over on the river bank while a down-bound passes him. We had to wait until the pass was complete so we could pass the large tow with his permission.
One of the larger tows we passed on the river. Rock and gravel barges 6 wide by 4 long for a total of 24. This equals 1382 Semi truck and trailers on the road. End to end they would stretch for 58.8 miles. And best thing is if a rock bounces off the barge it does not hit your windshield.
These Captains really have their hands full driving these filled barges. Its a little hard to tell, but this set of barges is sliding sideways around a curve in the river.
St Louis has no Recreational docks for pleasure boaters. The commercial marine companies own most of the shore line.
Eads Bridge is the oldest bridge on the Mississippi river still in use. Built in 1867.
Here is a video of us making a left turn from the Mississippi River to the Ohio River. We make the turn at about 25 sec into the video. Notice the water calm down and our boat speed drops from 12 mph to 7 mph, because we are now going upstream with a 1 to 2 mph head current.
Video with sound this time.
Glow effect around the sun from our anchorage on the Ohio River.