The great, grey steel gates slowly swung open and a blast of a horn cleared me to go. I made made way down the long tub of the lock and past the gates. I was immediately thrown into the swift and turbulent current of the downstream flow from the dam. I was out though, passed the last lock and dam on the Mississippi River. The river now flowed freely for 1,100 miles emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.
I had set off from the Alton Marina just a mile and a half upriver from the lock. When I arrived I could see a barge(tow) coming down towards me. Calling the lockmaster on the marine radio he informed me it would be a couple of hours until he could get me through. I haven’t been on the river a half hour so I impatiently looked for ways around the dam or through the spillway. No luck so I sat on shore or next to the lock and waited. Three hours later I got through.
Just 5 miles past the lock was my next challenge. The Missouri River Confluence. The Missouri begins in the Rocky Mountains in western Montana and after 2,400 miles across the west it meets the Mississippi here. It is muddy brown, flowing swiftly, with a volume equal to the Mississippi and pushes violently into its clear waters. I move to the point of confluence and ride atop the churning and swirling. Whirlpools form and disappear larger than my boat and strong enough to spin me around. bubbles 20 feet across rise below me and spread out. It takes almost a half mile to clear and I take my time and enjoy without any real danger.
Next up the Chain of Rocks. These are the rapids I scouted out yesterday from the bridge. (previous post) I knew what line I wanted to take and lined up with one of the old stone water intake towers. I drop over a ledge about a foot then passed though some choppy waves and was out. I was lucky the river was high enough I never even saw any rock. This was one of my big concerns in prepping for the trip and It turned out to be fun and easy.
Looking back at chain of rocks bridge after passing through the rapids
Stan Musial Veterans Bridge and the St louis riverfront
I reached the Eads bridge and pass slowly under it. The Gateway Arch stands just after the bridge and right on the river. I go close and pass slowly but do not stop. A stern wheel paddle boat just docked and the tourist were waiting on the rail as I passed. “Where you going?” asks a older woman. “New Orleans.” I shout back. “Oh my.” “See I told you.” I heard her husband say. It gave me a little boost and I puffed out my chest and tried not to crash into anything as they all watched.
Once past the busy river front I hit the even busier stretch of the port of St Louis. Barges, tow boats and other commercial craft went up and down and across the river constantly. Time to be serious and I picked my way 10 miles down and found a wooded place to camp for the night. I ate, rested, slept and was satisfied with the first day back on the river. Whew!