burgeetree.jpg (15266 bytes) The Adventures of Lynn and Les on "Cottonwood"

   The River System South
wheel.gif (3486 bytes)9/25/2004 to 1/20/2005

   Sept. 25th, we left Chicago and got another view of the city. The landscape changed briefly to the industrial riverfront one might imagine from Carl Sandberg’s poem about Chicago. Railroad terminals and yards, cement plants, refineries, and other smell producing plants lined the riverbanks. Soon we came upon the locks once more, altho’ these locks are huge, about 150’x 600’. They have to be to handle the big barges that traverse the river. The barge captains were pleasant and helpful over the radio to aid us in passing them. The tugs push as many as three barges wide by five barges long at one time and they take up practically the whole river and make a tremendous wake and undertow behind them. Often we had to wait at the locks since the barges have priority, and there were no walls to tie up to so you just had to hover around for a half hour or more. 

   As we proceeded downriver, the beauty of nature returned. Blue heron, which we hadn’t seen for a long time, returned to greet us. Cicadas hummed loudly in the trees, and we saw a herd of taupe colored sheep with black faces leaping and begging to be counted. Once Les shouted to me to grab the binoculars to view a bald eagle atop a nearby tree. One decrepit marina we stayed at was made beautiful by wildly jumping fish in the water and a glorious golden full moon overhead. We tied up to a park wall in Joliet for one nite, but didn’t go into town. The places to anchor in the Illinois River are few and far between and the marinas are practically nonexistent for a boat of our size and draft. 

  All of the charts of the rivers in this area do not show the water depth at all outside of the channel so you have to, first of all, find a safe spot, and then determine if you have enough depth by inching your way over to the riverbank.  We saw many docks for small craft and approached a few seemingly good spots only to back off as the depth sounder alarmed. We have to stop each evening because it is just not safe to travel at nite within the confines of the narrow river with its unlit buoys and barge traffic. 

    Just as we weighed anchor we spotted another trawler coming up the river behind us. We don’t often see other trawlers, just smaller gas driven boats, so as is our custom we made note of the boat name and hailed them on the radio to find out their destination and chat. They were also sporting a Great Loop Cruiser’s Flag so that made us curious. Our flag is so shredded we had to take it down. We are also wearing out our second American Flag. Anyway, we chatted and learned they were live-aboards with family in Michigan and they were headed to FL for the winter. We both stopped at a restaurant with a dock for the nite and shared a meal with the couple, named Jim and Joanne Wickam. We traveled down river and became good friends with the Wickhams.

   Next stop was Alton, IL on the Mississippi River, the site of the start of the Lewis and Clark expedition. There was a Riverboat Casino nearby, not our cup o’ tea, but the casino did send a shuttle to the marina which took boaters into town. The marina was partially under a big cabled suspension bridge over the Mississippi River. We couldn’t get a satellite signal because of the interference of the bridge, but it made for a pretty sight particularly at nite when it was all lit up. .

  Oct.3rd, we passed St Louis with a good view of the Arch. We were surprised to learn, from our reading of the cruising guides, that there are no marinas or docks in St. Louis along the Mississippi.  I guess it must have something to do with the flood plains along the river here.  There are only commercial docks for the barges.

  Our next stop was Hoppies, in Kimmswick, MO, one of the only marinas we encountered on the Mississippi. The owners, the second generation, of the marina were very nice and helpful. They sat us all down with our charts and pointed out the anchorages and dangers along our route. This was very helpful as few are marked. This is invaluable info and a great service they provide for boaters passing thru.  We ate at a place called The Old House Steakhouse built in 1770, which had been moved there from another town in MO. It had previously served as a trading post, a tavern, and a stagecoach stop frequented by Ulysses S. Grant.

   We had an adventurous time anchoring at Cottonwood Bar ( no joke, that was it’s name). Jim and JoAnn, who have a faster boat, arrived ahead of us and had anchored already.  We got hung up on a bar in the side river, but eventually got off and anchored.

  Our next anchorage was near Cairo, Mississippi. Some of the tow captains pronounced it Karo, like the syrup, but they had very southern accents, so we continued to call it Cairo and did the “walk like an Egyptian dance” every time we said it. Apparently they had a bit of a challenge naming towns along here because another is named Madrid.

   On Oct. 6th we crossed from the Mississippi over to the Ohio River and anchored for the night in Davis Creek. This was a pretty anchorage and we shared it with “Long Haul” as well as several other boats, both power and sail. The sunset and sunrise were very beautiful.   

  We specially enjoyed a trip through Kentucky, as the fall was changing the leaves on the trees as we arrived. Kentucky Lakes and surrounding areas were spectacular. We finally reached our fall destination of Demopolis, Alabama, where we are to have our boat hauled, surveyed for insurance, and maybe get a little painting done.

  It has been raining practically every other day since we got the boat hauled out of the water on Nov.18th. We are like the Swiss Family Robinson in a treehouse up here. We use ropes to haul up the clean laundry and haul down the trash. Some boaters have been stuck here several weeks because of the high water levels and debris in the river making it unsafe for them to travel south to get home for the holidays.

  We had a devil of a time getting the prep work done for painting. On a brighter note, we get along amazingly well and work well together, too. We had quite the system going taping and covering up everything, which was a two person job. All the marina personnel continue to be delightfully helpful and are truly wonderful people.

  While in Demopolis, we experienced the annual "Christmas on the River" festival. The end of a week-long celebration. It was coincidental that just a few days ago I saw a feature special on this very festival on the food tv channel. Imagine my surprise to look up at the tv and see the water tower with "Demopolis" written on it right on the screen. That caught my attention! Anyway, there was a BBQ cookoff, lighted floats going up and down the river with various Christmas themes, a stupendous, long fireworks display, and a creole dinner for we boaters sponsored by the marina personnel. Alabama is a great state filled with very sweet, charming people.

  We did take some time at Christmas to take the train home, through New Orleans as a side trip. Great fun, but you can't be in a hurry! We met lots of interesting people on the long train ride. We spent 3 days in New Orleans in a hotel named, “The Cotton Exchange”, a few blocks from the French Quarter, lots of fun, food, etc.  Had a new adventure on a 4 hour tour of New Orleans on a “Segway”. A Segway is a one person, stand up, 2 wheeled electric transportation system. Our visit home for the holiday was wonderful and busy. We needed to see our family very badly and it was just what the nurse ordered.

  When we got back to the boat in Demopolis on Jan. 13th, it was still not finished with painting! We stayed there, still up on blocks, for 2 more weeks waiting for it to be finished. We then headed south to the Gulf and arrived in Mobile, Al., on Jan 20th, just in time to watch the “W” Inauguration.

Next, back to Florida, and the completion of 'The Great American Loop" for boaters.

Columbus Marina

Hyacinth Lock Clog

Demopolis, Alabama

Primed for new paint

Down the Tenn-Tom

Sunset Anchoring

Mobile, Alabama

Fairhope, Alabama

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~ Clic on Pics to Enlarge ~

Illinois River

Mississippi River

Mississippi Riverboat

Mississippi Sunset

Cottonwood down the Mississippi

St Louis Arch

Ohio River Sunset

Cumberland River

Tennessee River

Arriving Kentucky Lakes

Aqua Yacht Marina

Kentucky Fall Foliage

Leaving Kentucky

Fuel up Dock

Group Anchoring

Radar time on the River

Our Friends on Long Haul

Floating Bollard in Lock

Bollard Hitch


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