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Section 10 & 11

Chicago to the Mississippi River

(Photos taken between September 25 and October 9, 1999)

We think you'll find these photos very interesting since we've moved from a tourist area of cute towns to the commercial waterways of the nation.  Hope you enjoy this batch. 

This first photo shows the entry to the Calumet Sag from Lake Michigan.  It gets really industrial quickly.

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The banks of the Sag for the first 20 miles are lined with factories, plants, industrial parks, etc.  Sometimes it is difficult to  tell which way to go since there are side channels everywhere so that boats can unload.  Thank goodness for our electronic charts which show our actual current position, and the direction of the channel.

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Some of the plants are really heavy-duty.  These big cranes unload barges quickly.

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Within 20 - 25 miles, we're in pristine waters of the Calumet River.  Even though we're only miles from metro Chicago, it looks like we're in the middle of the wilderness.

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Here, a pipeline cross the Calumet River on a suspension-bridge like array.  Note the worker standing on the pipe.

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We passed a sunken tug. Scary!

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At times, the river was so narrow, we had to wait to pass barges, or in a case like this, proceed very carefully.

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Note that the river is completely blocked ahead.  We had to wait until barges could be moved out of the way before we could proceed.  A VHF radio is essential.

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Here we approach the lowest overhead on the entire trip.  We've lowered the arch, removed it from its hinges, dismantled our meteorological instrument, etc. to squeak under.   We're driving from the bridge here among the clutter of dismantled superstructure.   Bill inches Interlude forward at a crawl until we see if we'll actually fit.   By our calculations we have less than six inches to spare.

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It is a little difficult to see, but to the right is Bill's head clearing the girder by inches.  In the end, Interlude cleared the bridge by about three inches--too close for comfort, but good enough to get us home the short way (1500 miles shorter)!

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As we move onto the Illinois River we negotiate some big locks.  At this one they let us use the floating bollards which make locking easy.  We simply attach a loop of line over the bollard, cinch it up close to Interlude and float up with the flooding lock.  

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Along the Illinois are endless grain docks where barges can be filled with corn and wheat from the heartland of America.  This, folks, is one of the things that made this country great.

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We docked one night on the Illinois at Henry's Harbor.  Actually, the place for the larger boats was in an ancient lock--originally built early in the 19th Century.   We're "tied up" behind a large trawler.

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Our lines are secured to trees, and we have out all the fenders we can muster to keep us off the harsh stone walls of the old lock.  Some adventure.

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In portions of the Illinois, where the water is very shallow, Interlude churns the bottom and brings all sorts of good morsels to the surface upon which the gulls like to feed.  Hundreds followed us for hours.

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We made it to Peoria.  Like all other river towns, or so it seems, there are gambling boats lining the docks.  We've really become a nation obsessed with gambling.

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Here we wait out of harms way as a tug with 12 barges tries to work its way into a lock.  It became crosswise in the channel due to wind and was lodged there for hours.   We waited by tying ourselves to one of the federal bollards.

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The lower Illinois is very pristine and we were able to make good time.

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Here we approach to confluence of the Illinois River with the Mississippi.  The Mississippi is huge and running with 2 knots of current.

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Section 11 - The Mississippi, Ohio and Cumberland Rivers

Ten miles further on, we reach the confluence of the Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers -- two of  American's great rivers.  Now the current has increased to 4-5 knots.

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Note the beautiful cliffs along the Illinois side of the Mississippi.  On the Missouri side it is very flat.

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We stop in Alton, Illinois which is across the river from St. Louis.  We're fortunate to have Bill's cousin, Dave, his wife, Mary, and one of their children, Michael, on board for a tour.  Later we went to their home for dinner.  Dave is an Orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis.

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At Alton, this marina had to be rebuilt after the great flood of 1993.  Jan is standing next to a piling which is designed to withstand a flood equivalent to 1993 plus five feet!  Some flood...it is almost impossible to comprehend how much water passed this point.

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We approach downtown St. Louis.  The bridge in the foreground is the first bridge to span the Mississippi and dates to the first half of the 19th Century.

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Here is the famous St. Louis Arch commemorating the gateway to the west.  Note the gambling boat in the foreground.

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And the Arch with the downtown in the background.  There are essentially no docking facilities in downtown St. Louis so a pleasure boat like the Interlude simply drifts by and looks but does not touch.

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This McDonald's in St. Louis is the first and only we've seen which is a former river boat.  How about a Big Mac on the Old Miss?

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Two hundred miles south, we come to the confluence of the Mississippi and the Ohio - a water crossroads of America.  We're making the turn from the left (Mississippi) to the channel straight ahead (Ohio).  Cairo Illinois is at this point of land.   But you don't pronounce it like in Egypt, you pronounce it like the syrup - Kay-row!   If you can, try to say it with a little southern drawl, it sounds better.

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In Paducah Kentucky we finally find a marina (sorta).  This is the Big-E Marina. It's open and exposed to the river, but at least it's stationary and relatively safe.   There are only other boaters available to help you dock.

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We walked into Paducah to see the Quilt Museum.  We pass through a gate in the wall which surrounds the town.  The diagonal grove is where flood gates are installed when the water begins to rise.  Bear in mind that these walls START almost 50 feet (or more) above the current level of the river.  Floods around here are Paul Bunyan like.

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This is the gantry walkway from our marina to the parking lot level of the adjacent hotel.  See more photos below.

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Here is a view from the marina level of the stilts that support a deck at the hotel.   These legs are huge. Note the extension ladder leaning against the lower walkway.

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We spotted this craft and Jan plans to reserve it for the Salty Sisters next adventure.   It is a barge-type flat boat called the "Adventure Marine Excursions" and comes complete with barbecue, picnic table, and garden wheelbarrow.  Too much fun for words.

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Here Jan stands (in the rain) on the wire deck of the marina.  Pretty plush, huh!   But, we're safe and secure to something that isn't moving downstream.

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In our survey of rivers, we next enter the Cumberland about 60 miles up the Ohio.    Compared to the wide and industrial Ohio, the Cumberland is narrow, wooded, and somewhat mysterious in the fog and rain.  It was a treat for the eyes that was all to soon over.

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The foothills of the Appalachians makes this a beautiful trip.

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Even though we've been locking down since Lake Michigan, we're once again moving upriver, and are being locked up.  This lock, on the Cumberland River, is huge.   It raised us almost 60 feet or the height of a six story building.  Bill estimated that the chamber is flooded with more than 20,000,000 gallons of water each time it is filled. 

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