“IT’S MIGHTY EXPENSIVE TO LOOK THIS CHEAP”

Post #31 – IT’S MIGHTY EXPENSIVE TO LOOK THIS CHEAP” – Day 147 , September 27, 2014.  On board: Tom, Paul, my Dad, Jim K

After our experience with floodwaters on the Mississippi, who would ever have thought that we would soon be facing issues with low water? But that’s the case on the Tennessee River. The watershed feeding the Missouri River caused the Mississippi River flooding, but the Tennessee watershed has experienced a drought – we’ve seen only one short rainfall in the past three weeks. Thus, the water level on the Tennessee River is 4-5 feet below normal, and we’ve already been turned away by one marina due to low water in their entrance channel, despite our shallow draft of under three feet. Welcome to the vagaries of the Inland Rivers!

Regarding the Tennessee River – In 1931, a legislative bill which would create and fund a federal agency to build a hydroelectric dam on the Tennessee River to generate electricity was passed by Congress. President Herbert Hoover vetoed it, calling it a “socialist” program.  A year later, Franklin Roosevelt was in the White House pushing through the “New Deal”.  This time, a far more expansive bill became law – it created the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which Roosevelt signed in 1933. It’s charter was to construct dams and other improvements to generate hydroelectric power, enhance navigation, provide flood control, and – perhaps even more important – provide jobs, economic development, and rural electrification to one of the poorest and hardest-hit areas of the country during the Great Depression. It was hugely controversial, as opponents went to court and argued that the federal government had no constitutional authority to undertake such a project – in particular, they argued that generating electricity and in essence becoming a public utility, which would compete unfairly against privately owned utility companies, was not allowed by the Constitution. As many New Deal programs did, the case worked its way all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 1936 that the creation and operation of the Tennessee Valley Authority was constitutional. The floodgates (pun intended) were opened – the TVA has subsequently constructed a total of 29 dams and provides hydroelectricity to much of Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi, as well as portions of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. The process of constructing the dams transformed the Tennessee and Cumberland river valleys and remained controversial, displacing 15,000 families as vast regions of the river valleys were intentionally flooded (think “Deliverance”). By 1950, the TVA became the largest provider of electricity in the United States, and today remains the largest regional planning agency in the federal government. However, it is very popular in Tennessee, as Barry Goldwater learned in 1964 when he proposed selling it to private owners during his campaign for the presidency. Some of you may also recall another turning-point Supreme Court decision involving the TVA in the 1970’s: the TVA proposed another huge hydroelectric project called the Tellico Dam. In a major test case of the new Endangered Species Act, the Supreme Court blocked the project due to the projected loss of habitat of a species of snail called the “snail darter”, listed as an endangered species.

In any case, two of the TVA dams significantly impact the Great Loop experience. The Barkley Dam across the Cumberland River created Lake Barkley, and the Kentucky Dam across the Tennessee River created the massive Kentucky Lake – nearly 200 miles long, it is the largest man-made lake east of the Mississippi River. The two lakes are roughly parallel to each other, and the land between them is aptly named “Land Between the Lakes”. Generally 5-10 miles wide, it is a well-known vacation destination in this region of the country, with water sports, spectacular scenery, hiking, and a great deal of history, much of it centered on the Civil War era.

Last week, we passed through the Barkley Lock, and entered Lake Barkley where we stayed Friday and Saturday nights. After passing through a 1.5 mile canal that connects Lake Barkley with Kentucky Lake, we passed by the top of the Kentucky Dam and headed south on Kentucky Lake, which is the flooded river valley of the Tennessee River. It is a beautiful lake with large state parks at intervals along the shore. We spent two more days heading south through Kentucky, then entered our 9th state – Tennessee!  Here are some images:

Kentucky Lake, which is a portion of the Tennessee River which was flooded by the construction of the Kentucky Dam by the TVA. Started in 1938, the lake began to fill with water when the dam was finally completed in 1944

Kentucky Lake, which is a portion of the Tennessee River which was flooded by the construction of the Kentucky Dam by the TVA. Construction of the dam started in 1938, and the lake began to fill with water when the dam was finally completed in 1944

The marina at Paris Landing State Park, Tennessee. Many of the slips are empty as we are well into the Fall

The marina at Paris Landing State Park, Tennessee. Many of the slips are empty as we are well into the Fall

I hope I can still do this at 90 - we figured that it was probably 30-40 years since my Dad rode a bicycle -

I hope I can still do this at 90 – we figured that it was probably 30-40 years since my Dad rode a bicycle –

The start of training for the Tour de France...

The start of training for the Tour de France…

On our third night on Kentucky Lake/Tennessee River, we stayed in a small town in Tennessee called New Johnsonville, with a rich history that is well-presented in a small but fascinating museum. Johnsonville (as it was called at that time, named after future-President Andrew Johnson, then-Governor of Tennessee) was little more than a river landing until early 1864 when the Union Army decided they needed a new, more secure supply route using the Tennessee River to support its advances into the south. Within six months, an enormous complex of wharfs, warehouses, fortifications, housing, and support facilities was constructed and Johnsonville became a crossroads for supplying the Union army, particularly Sherman’s army as it marched towards Atlanta. An innovative Confederate General named Nathan Forrest was given the task of interrupting the supply line to try to slow Sherman’s march. With a small group of men, he attacked using artillery from the other side of the river and managed to completely destroy the entire complex, including 33 Union supply ships and over $6 million dollars worth of supplies (an enormous supply depot in those days). In response, the Union army sent an entire brigade of 15,000 men to stop General Forrest, but he was long gone by the time they arrived. The complex at Johnsonville was never rebuilt, and by 1940 the town housed only 300 residents. Along came the TVA and the Kentucky Dam – all 300 residents were relocated to higher ground further up the river bank, and Johnsonville, along with the actual site of the battle, disappeared under the rising water. Hence, the new town became New Johnsonville, as it is called today.

Back to our trip. In New Johnsonville, we stopped at Birdsong Marina, home of the only fresh water pearl farm in North America and home to, of all things, a Pearl Museum. After testing many freshwater locations, the owners found the right temperature, water quality, acidity, etc. in the Tennessee River. After investing a reported $5 million, they began seeding mussels then hanging them from baskets in the water for an incubation period averaging 8 years. The Museum includes a short film shot by CBS News a few years ago. They grow pearls of varying shapes except round – the Chinese produce round pearls cheaper then they can, so they only produce specialty shapes.

Here are some images from our stay in New Johnsonville:

In the pearl farm, mussels are caught by divers on the bottom of the river, then sent to a local lab where they are "seeded" with an organic material of the shape desired for a pearl - contrary to popular belief, the "seed" is not a grain of sand. The mussel is then placed in a basket with about a dozen other mussels, which is then suspended from the wooden "floats" - basically pieces of lumber - then left submerged for about 8 years before they are raised again. The success rate for growing a pearl in each oyster is about 95%

In the pearl farm, mussels are caught by divers on the bottom of the river, then sent to a local lab where they are “seeded” with an organic material of the shape desired for a pearl – contrary to popular belief, the “seed” is organic and is not a grain of sand. The mussel is then placed in a wire mesh with about a dozen other mussels, which is then suspended from the wooden “floats” – basically pieces of lumber – then left submerged for about 8 years before they are raised again. The success rate for growing a pearl in each oyster is about 95%

Everyplace has a story - this sunken tour boat at the marina was docked and idle for several years on the waterfront in Memphis. The Mayor insisted that it be removed, so it was given to anyone who would take it - which turned out to be the owner of Birdsong Marina. It was then towed through the Mississippi, Ohio, then Tennessee Rivers by three separate barge companies. Shortly after it arrived and was tied to the dock, it sank as a result of a hole punched in the hull during transport. All three barge companies denied blamed the others, so it still sits on the bottom three years later while the courts decide

Every place has a story – this sunken tour boat at the Birdsong Marina was docked and idle for several years on the waterfront in Memphis. The Mayor insisted that it be removed, so it was given to anyone who would take it – which turned out to be the owner of Birdsong Marina. It was then towed through the Mississippi, Ohio, then Tennessee Rivers by three separate barge companies. Shortly after it arrived and was tied to the dock, it sank as a result of a hole punched in the hull during transport. All three barge companies denied responsibility and blamed the others, so it still sits on the bottom three years later while the courts decide

A view of the Tennessee River from the historical museum commemorating the successful raid on the Union supply depot by General Forrest

A view of the Tennessee River from the historical museum commemorating the successful raid on the Union supply depot by General Forrest

Don't shoot!! You can have the last Heinekin!!

Don’t shoot!! You can have the last Heinekin!!

The crew, from left to right - Jim K, Tom, Paul, my Dad (Hank)

The crew, from left to right – Jim K, Tom, Paul, my Dad (Hank)

 

Dinner in the gazebo at the end of the dock -

Dinner in the gazebo at the end of the dock –

Some really cool cloud patterns while running on the Tennessee -

Some really cool cloud patterns while running on the Tennessee –

Let's not forget - we ARE in Tennessee....

Let’s not forget – we ARE in Tennessee….

We wanted to visit Nashville – Birdsong Marina did not have a courtesy car, but one of the employees amazingly loaned us her personal vehicle so we could drive the 70 miles to Nashville where we spent the day sightseeing. Here are some images:

Tom, thinking he's Johnny Cash...

Tom, thinking he’s Johnny Cash…

OMG - Elvis IS alive!!!

OMG – Elvis IS alive!!!

Broadway and 2nd Avenue in the heart of Nashville are lined with pubs, all featuring fantastic Country & Western bands all day and into the wee hours. We randomly picked a place to have a couple of beers and were entertained by an extraordinary band =

Broadway and 2nd Avenue in the heart of Nashville are lined with pubs, all featuring fantastic Country & Western bands all day and into the wee hours. We randomly picked a place to have a couple of beers and were entertained by an extraordinary band

Enjoying the wonderful music at the pub on Broadway in Nashville

Enjoying the wonderful music at the pub on Broadway in Nashville

Now this is the kid of deal my son Danny needs....

Now this is the kind of deal my son Danny needs….for those not quite in touch, a “PBR” is a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer (I wouldn’t have known if Danny hadn’t told me…)

The Country Music Hall of Fame - a must see in Nashville -

The Country Music Hall of Fame – a must see in Nashville –

The famous Grand Ole Oprey -

The famous Grand Ole Oprey –

The stage at the Grand Ole Oprey, getting ready for a performance that evening

The stage at the Grand Ole Oprey, getting ready for a performance that evening

There are at least as many stores along Broadway and 2nd Avenue that sell cowboy boots for both men and women as there are that sell beer (at least it seems that way...)-

There are at least as many stores along Broadway and 2nd Avenue that sell cowboy boots for both men and women as there are that sell beer (at least it seems that way…)-

So we continued our journey south on the Tennessee River.  Here are some images from the river as well as our stops along the way:

the upper Tennessee River is marked by rock outcroppings as the river carved its way through the landscape

The upper Tennessee River is marked by rock outcroppings as the river carved its way through the landscape

One of many interesting homes along the Tennessee River

One of many interesting homes along the Tennessee River

Another interesting home -

Another interesting home –

Another sunset along the Tennessee River -

Another sunset along the Tennessee River –

So why did I take a picture of this spider? Well, on evenings that we eat cook aboard, we usually eat on the bridge about the time of sundown. This large spider took up residence at a corner of our canvass top, becoming active spinning his web around dusk.  We watched him with fascination for several nights, discussing his strategy and tactics for catching his dinner.  He's now become a member of our crew, providing entertainment and a topic for conversation at dinner on the bridge. So I thought I'd share him with you (her?)

So why did I take a picture of this spider? Well, on evenings that we eat cook aboard, we usually eat on the bridge about the time of sundown. This large spider took up residence at a corner of our canvass top, becoming active spinning his web around dusk. We watched him with fascination for several nights, discussing his strategy and tactics for catching his dinner. He’s now become a member of our crew, providing entertainment and a topic of conversation at dinner on the bridge. So I thought I’d share him (her?) with you

Finding an ice cream parlor is lways a high priority.  However, we're very disciplined - only on rare occasions do we hit two in one day -

Finding an ice cream parlor is always a high priority. However, we’re very disciplined – only on rare occasions do we hit two in one day –

Now, these are my kind of gas prices...

Now, these are my kind of gas prices…

A pleasant marina in Clifton, Tennessee - located in a small cove, everything floating with the fluctuating river level -

A pleasant marina in Clifton, Tennessee – located in a small cove, everything floating with the fluctuating river level –

So, you may recall from the beginning of our trip our saga with the toilet which resulted in Dave Luciano and I installing a brand new “man-sized” toilet in the boat. I thought my toilet woes were over forever.  Not to be. We managed to again clog the system, requiring us to spend the better part of a day trouble-shooting. Bottom line, we are having a new pump and discharge hose air-freighted to our next stop – however, since it is Saturday, we won’t get it until Tuesday, meaning we are without a toilet for 4 days. No questions, please.  Dave, help!!

So – back to the title of this post. When in Nashville, we went on a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Oprey. The tour guide told us how Dolly Parton was asked one day how long it took her make-up crew to make her hair look perfect. She replied: ” I don’t know – I’m never there when they do it”.  She went on to say: “It’s mighty expensive to look this cheap.”  The great Dolly Parton.

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SEE YOU ON ONE WHISTLE

Post # 30 – SEE YOU ON ONE WHISTLE – Day 141, September 21, 2014 – On board: Tom, Paul, my Dad, Jim K

The Mississippi continued to flex her muscles and let us know who was boss the entire 218 miles of our time with her. In fact, another danger surfaced in addition to the debris, the strong currents, the turbulence, and the ubiquitous tows – we encountered a half dozen or so buoys that were pulled under the surface by the high water and the fast currents.  At one point, we were approaching a red buoy, looked away, then a moment later, it was completely gone. At first we couldn’t understand what had happened, then suddenly it popped back up in front of us.  Others were completely under water, the only evidence being extreme turbulence on the surface of the water, somewhat like the turbulence that a barely-submerged rock makes in the rapids of a swift-moving creek. Making matters more dangerous, the locations of floating buoys on the Mississippi are NOT marked on the charts because they need to be moved so frequently to mark the shifting channel, so there is no way to know where one might be other than extreme vigilance looking for signs of them underwater.  Further, many have been moved randomly out of position by the floodwaters. One of these, obviously, will ruin your whole day if you hit it, since they can tear the propeller out or punch a whole in the hull.

Some images from the Mississippi:

Hard to tell from the picture how fast the current is running, but this is the type of large steel buoy that were pulled completely under water by the high water and strong current, just waiting to punch a whole in someone's hull

Hard to tell from the picture how fast the current is running, but this is the type of large steel buoys that were pulled completely under water by the high water and strong current, just waiting to punch a whole in someone’s hull

Some of the debris from the river that has been pushed ashore - this shows the size of some of the stuff that we' dodged every day while on The Big Muddy

Some of the debris from the river that has been pushed ashore – this shows the size and magnitude of some of the stuff that we dodged every day while on The Big Muddy

An added challenge one morning when we left at first light was morning fog on the river - we had to navigate by radar until the sun burned off the fog. It was that much more difficult to see the debris in time to avoid it, so poked along at a very slow speed

An added challenge one morning when we left at first light was morning fog on the Mississippi – we had to navigate by radar until the sun burned off the fog. It was that much more difficult to see the debris in time to avoid it, so we poked along at a very slow speed

A day after we passed a town called Chester, a tugboat sank at that location at about 1:00 in the afternoon. We spoke to one of our fellow loopers who passed through shortly after the boat sank. He monitored the radio as helicopters hovered overhead and as the Coast Guard discussed whether or not to close the river to traffic. He slipped past, and a short time later they closed the river to boat traffic since they could not locate the sunken tugboat in the muddy, fast-flowing water. A light oil slick from the tug’s 3500 gallon fuel tank then accompanied him the rest of the way down the Mississippi.

So our four-day run down Old Muddy was difficult and downright scary at times. Many boats that did the same 218 mile run damaged their propellers or worse during this stretch. One got a large branch wedged in his prop and had to limp along on one engine until he reached an anchorage off the river where he could dive below and remove the branch. Everyone’s opinion of the Mississippi River run was the same – the most difficult segment of the trip and glad to get off the river.  That being said, it’s important to note that the conditions were far from normal and were caused by very unusual flood conditions far upstream. I don’t know what the Mississippi would be like under normal conditions – obviously much more benign than we encountered, but likely still a challenge due to the volume of water from its huge drainage basin.

Contrast the experience running down the river with our overnight stays along the river. We spent our second night tied to the wall of a lock on the Kaskaskia river, about 100 yards from where it empties into the Mississippi. It was a quite, calm, secure place to stay, and was a welcome respite from the chaos of the Mississippi such a short distance away. Here are a few images:

Tied to the lock wall on the Kaskaskia River, about 100 yards in from the Mississippi - three other boats were tied up with us

Tied to the lock wall on the Kaskaskia River, about 100 yards in from the Mississippi – three other boats were tied up with us

Out came the chairs, some snacks, and some spirits for an impromptu happy hour dock party with our new acquaintances from the other boats tied to the wall

Out came the chairs, some snacks, and some spirits for an impromptu happy hour dock party with our new acquaintances from the other boats tied to the wall. Interesting stories, as one guy was a former airline pilot and another was a helicopter pilot. The guy on a boat we met earlier along the trip was an F-4 Phantom fighter pilot in the Viet Nam war

Our third night on the Mississippi was spent anchored a short way up the mouth of a creek called Little Diversion Creek. It was a beautiful evening with warm temperatures and virtually no wind. Here are some images:

The Joint Adventure anchored in Little Diversion Creek. The Mississippi is in the background, through the opening in the trees

The Joint Adventure anchored in Little Diversion Creek. The Mississippi is in the background, through the opening in the trees

Two other boats entering Little Diversion Creek to anchor for the night as well

Two other boats entering Little Diversion Creek to anchor for the night as well

Tom and my Dad in the dinghy in Little Diversion Creek - we went exploring up the creek later in the afternoon

Tom and my Dad in the dinghy in Little Diversion Creek – we went exploring up the creek later in the afternoon

If we're not near a town, a restaurant, or other place to visit, we often watch a movie on board, either streamed from Netflix or one of the 50 or so DVD's we have on board. this evening, we played cards for a change of pace - I lost (as usual). Left to right, Paul, Hank (my Dad), and Tom

If we’re not near a town, a restaurant, or other place to visit, we often watch a movie on board, either streamed from Netflix if we have internet service or one of the 50 or so DVD’s we have on board. This evening, we played cards for a change of pace – I lost (as usual). Left to right, Paul, Hank (my Dad), and Tom

Another image of the Joint Adventure at anchor, taken from the dinghy.  Notice the tug pushing its barges in the background, heading up the Mississippi

Another image of the Joint Adventure at anchor, taken from the dinghy. Notice the tug pushing its barges in the background, heading up the Mississippi

Incidentally, these tows run 24/7. When we’re in a location along the river’s edge, such as tied to the barges at Hoppies as described in my last post, we’re sometimes startled by an enormously bright light illuminating the entire cabin.  It’s one of the two huge spotlights from a tow shining forward searching for buoys, the shoreline, and other landmarks as they navigate their way slowly up or down the river in the darkness.  It is surreal, and a sight to behold.

After we left Little Diversion Creek, we resumed our march south another 50 miles, where we finally completed our run down the Mississippi and turned eastward up the Ohio River. It was like a different planet. As soon as we turned the corner, the water was clear, there was no debris whatsoever, and the current was a comparatively calm 1-2 knots. We ran 60 miles up the Ohio to the mouth of the Cumberland River, where we anchored for the night in a small cove in Kentucky:

Happy hour on the bridge after the anchor was set, celebrating our completion of the Mississippi River run

Happy hour on the bridge after the anchor was set, celebrating our completion of the Mississippi River run

Sunset over the Ohio River - from our anchorage, looking west over the Ohio

Sunset over the Ohio River – from our anchorage in Kentucky, looking west over the Ohio

On Friday we left the Ohio and headed up the Cumberland River, our fourth inland river on our march toward the Gulf. When we reached the town of Grand Rivers, Kentucky, we finally re-joined civilization after our 250 mile, 5-day run with no shore-based services. We decided to stay a couple of days – the town is on Barkley Lake, a vacation/resort area formed by a monstrous dam on the Cumberland. We are definitely in Kentucky:

Tom & my Dad, pretending to fit in with the Good Ole Boys, who rode in on their motorcycles.

Tom & my Dad, pretending to fit in with the Good Ole Boys, who rode in on their motorcycles.

Yes, we are definitely in Kentucky -

Yes, we are definitely in Kentucky –

We rented a golf cart to get around – they can be operated on the public roads within a limited area, so we could get back and forth between the marina/resort and town:

The local news reported four escapees from the local nursing home on the loose and attempting a get-away....

The local news reported four escapees from the local nursing home on the loose and attempting a get-away….

Not sure how they found us - our cart blended in perfectly with other vehicles parked at the local ice cream parlor...we never thought they'd look for us there.

Not sure how they found us – our cart blended in perfectly with other vehicles parked at the local ice cream parlor…we never thought they’d look for us there.

On Saturday night, we bought tickets to a performance at the local Performing Arts Theater of a folk/county group from Nashville consisting of three sisters, called Carter’s Chord:

Two of the three sisters in Carter's Chord - the other was seated behind the piano, so isn't in the picture. The performance was excellent!

Two of the three sisters in Carter’s Chord – the other was seated behind the piano, so isn’t in the picture. The performance was excellent!

I never could quite figure out what to ask for - too bad I didn't see this sign years ago...

I never could quite figure out what to ask for – too bad I didn’t see this sign years ago…

So what’s this about “One Whistle”?  In the early days of river navigation, there were, of course, no radios.  So a set of conventions developed in which the captains of ships approaching or trying to pass one another could communicate their intentions to each other audibly using the whistles on their ships.  One whistle meant “I will pass you on my port side”, and two whistles meant “I will pass you on my starboard side”. The other vessel would respond in appropriate fashion to confirm the understanding. Old habits die hard.  When radios came into common use, the captains at that time were used to whistles – so instead of actually using their whistle, the captain would tell the other captain over the radio the number of whistles he would have sounded to convey his intention – thus, instead of saying “I’ll pass you on my starboard side”, he would simply say over the radio “One whistle”. The convention continues today – so when we are approaching or asking for instructions to pass a tow, the captain of the tow will say simply “One whistle” or more typically the convention has become “I’ll see you on one whistle” or simply “I’ll see you on the one”. The captain expects you to know what that means – and you’d better know!

 

 

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THE BIG MUDDY

Post #29: THE BIG MUDDY – Day 135 , September 15, 2014:  On board:  Paul, Tom, Hank (my Dad), Jim K

Wow!  What a river!  The Illinois River was awe-inspiring, but it did not prepare us for this monster of a river – at least not for the Mississippi when she is flexing her muscles. As you undoubtedly have seen on the news, the Midwest has been pounded with enormous rainfalls. Kansas City reportedly received 9″ of rain in a short period of time, and many other areas have had similar monsoons. We experienced two massive, lengthy thunderstorms ourselves.  As a result, the Mississippi is today (Monday) cresting at a height of 26.5, just 3 1/2 feet shy of flood stage – it’s normal height is about 11 feet. The consequences are threefold: (1) the current is very fast – now running about 5-6 knots with a lot of turbulence, particularly in places where the river curves sharply (2) anchorages are unusually deep, requiring much more anchor line to be deployed and therefore requiring much more area to swing, and (3) most significantly, huge amounts of debris are being washed down the river – from small branches to entire trees, and including, so far, a stop sign and a huge truck tire & wheel. The debris is so thick at times that avoiding it is like driving a bumper car. The river also fully deserves its nickname The Big Muddy – the water is thick and brown, with zero visibility. Some pictures of the angry river:

Debris flowing down the Big Muddy after being washed into the rising waters

Debris flowing down the Big Muddy after being washed into the rising waters

More debris in the river, picturs can't capture the enormous amount of debris flowing down the river, nor the enormous size of some of the trees and logs -

More debris in the river; pictures can’t capture the enormous amount of debris flowing down the river, nor the enormous size of some of the trees and logs –

Debris that has collected in the lock near St. Louis - we toured the Mississippi River Museum at the lock and took this picture from the top of the lock

Debris that has collected in the lock near St. Louis – we toured the Mississippi River Museum at the lock while in Alton and took this picture from the top of the lock

 

The Mississippi is the third largest watershed in the world, behind only the Nile in Africa and the Yangtze in Asia.  Forty percent of the land area of the U.S is drained through the Mississippi watershed. Because of its length and its reach, taming it to provide a navigable waterway and to control flooding has been a constant work in process for over two centuries. As a result, 77 million tons of goods valued at over $17 billion are shipped on the waterway each year. When shipping by truck, one gallon of fuel can move 1 ton of freight 59 miles; shipping by Mississippi barge, that same ton using that same gallon of fuel will move 514 miles.

However, the river is very different today than it was 200 years ago as a result of the Corp of Engineer’s attempts to tame it. And like most major projects, many of the efforts were controversial and involved significant politicking, and many caused unintended results. In particular, the Corp’s flood control efforts have, at times, increased flooding – dikes were built to protect adjacent lands.  The dikes confined the river within a narrow area, preventing it from spreading out. That caused the river to rise even higher, causing more damage when it overtopped the dike. So the dikes were built higher, which confined the river even more. And so on.

Here is a picture of the dike near St. Louis:

In order to control flooding, the Army Corp of Engineers has constructed massive levies along both banks of the Mississippi. The people walking on top of the levee provide some scale as to the height of the levees. One negative aspect of the levees is that it completely cuts off the river visually from the surrounding landscape, whether you're on the land looking towards the river or you're on the river looking towards the land

In order to control flooding, the Army Corp of Engineers has constructed massive dikes along both banks of the Mississippi. The people walking on top of the dike provide some scale as to the height of the dikes. One negative aspect of the dikes is that they completely cut off the river visually from the surrounding landscape, whether you’re on the land looking towards the river or you’re on the river looking towards the land

In recent years, efforts have been focused more on adding flood plain space for the river to spread out rather than trying to contain it.

Although there have been scores of floods along the Big Muddy, two stand out. The Great Flood of 1927 swept across an area roughly equal in size to Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont combined – imagine that entire area under water!  Immense human drama and political debates resulted – in order to save New Orleans, a huge breach in the dike would need to be opened with explosives – wiping out entire villages, thousands of homes, farmlands, etc.  Who, if anyone, has the legal authority to order or approve such an action?  Who is liable for the resulting damage?  Who pays for what?  What are the moral issues – saving a city of mostly wealthy people by destroying the homes and livelihood of mostly poorer, rural folks?  There is a superb book that not only describes what happened but also the moral and legal debate and the political implications of what was done – “Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America” by John Barry. As explained in the book, the aftermath propelled Herbert Hoover into the White House. It is fascinating and reads like a story – I highly recommend it.

The second flood was the Great Flood of 1993, at which time the Mississippi rose to the highest elevation ever recorded. The flood caused $15 billion in damage, but the Corp claimed that their flood-control measures prevented an additional $17 billion in damage from occurring. Others claimed that the river would not have risen to new record highs if the Corp hadn’t so constrained the river with enormous dikes.

Back to our trip.  There appears to be somewhere in the vicinity of 50 – 75 boats on the Inland Rivers doing the Great Loop. Like us, most first learned of the high waters when they first arrived on the Mississippi last week. Progress came to a halt, as everyone was advised not to continue on the river past the confluence of the Missouri River (just north of St. Louis) until the water started to recede. So we stopped in Alton, Illinois from last Wednesday till today (Monday), rented a car, and started to explore. The highlight, of course, was St. Louis and the famous arch.  Here are some pictures:

The Gateway Arch, completed in 1965, is 63 stories tall - taller than the John Hancock building in Boston. The museum at the base of the arch is terrific, with a movie about the Louis & Clark expedition, which embarked from St. Louis, and another about the construction of the arch. Each side was built separately, and leaned inward due to its own weight.  In order to join the two sides, they had to use hydraulic jacks to push them apart by four feet!

The Gateway Arch, completed in 1965, is 63 stories tall – taller than the John Hancock building in Boston. When you are next to it, the scale is enormous! The museum at the base of the arch is terrific, with a movie about the Louis & Clark expedition, which embarked from St. Louis in 1804, and another about the construction of the arch. Each side was built separately, and leaned inward due to its own weight. In order to join the two sides, they had to use hydraulic jacks to push them apart by four feet!

The gleaming stainless steel skin creates different images from different angles

The gleaming stainless steel skin creates different images from different angles

Looking down from the top of the arch, the shadow makes a sculpture of its own on the ground

Looking down from the top of the arch, the shadow makes a sculpture of its own on the ground

 

The Big Muddy as seen from the top of the Gateway Arch

The Big Muddy as seen from the top of the Gateway Arch, looking south

I couldn't resist another picture of the river from the top of the arch, looking in north

I couldn’t resist another picture of the river from the top of the arch, looking in north

A capsule which is on a track takes you to the top of the arch - Tom and my Dad are in the capsule, ready for blast-off

A capsule which is on a track takes you to the top of the arch – Tom and my Dad are in the capsule, ready for blast-off

While in Alton, we went to a restaurant called “Fast Eddies”. At first, it was not my Dad’s kind of place – loud music, crowds of people, production food.  However, before long, he decided maybe we should hang around for awhile after all:

Good to know he's still got the touch...

Good to know he’s still got the touch…

Moving south from St. Louis, we’re now entering a stretch of about 250 miles with no marinas and no services – the last marina, about 20 miles south of St. Louis, is called Hoppies, and is run by Hoppie and his wife Fern. It was started in 1934 by Hoppie’s father, and is rustic and basic – it consists of 4 rusting, steel barges chained to the shore. Hoppies provides the last fuel, pump-out, and water for 250 miles, so virtually every boat heading south stops there. More importantly, they are experts regarding the river, its temperament, the best places to anchor going south in different conditions, etc.  So every boater going south sits with Fern and gets a lesson on how to navigate the next 250 miles.  Since we had time while waiting for the waters to recede a bit, we drove down in our rented car to get our lesson from Fern:

Fern in her ever-present golf cart that she uses to get around as she tends to everyone's needs at Hoppies

Fern in her ever-present golf cart that she uses to get around as she tends to everyone’s needs at Hoppies

 

Tom & I getting schooled by Fern about the river going south

Tom & I getting schooled by Fern about the river going south

The next decision – when do we continue south? There were many factors to consider – When will the river crest?  When will the amount of debris in the river diminish?  How difficult is the current and the turbulence?  With limited room in the limited anchorages for the next 250 miles, how to avoid a huge slug of boats all waiting to resume their voyage south at the same time?  Having to anchor for 3-4 nights in a row, what is the weather window during this period?  After weighing all these and other factors (and oscillating back and forth several times), we decided to go today (Monday). The downside is that the river is today cresting – thus the current is at its maximum, debris is at or near its maximum, and rain is predicted today. The upside is that heading downriver in subsequent days, the river will be receding, we will be ahead of the crowds at the anchorages, and it appears that a very favorable weather window through Saturday or Sunday is starting tomorrow. So we left this early this morning for Hoppies, arriving by early afternoon. We managed to avoid hitting anything, although entering the first lock was an adventure – the entrance was mostly blocked by debris and there was a strong current swirling at the mouth.  As a result, we nearly entered the canal going backwards – not your classic entry. But we got in without damaging our props in the debris, and we made it to Hoppies without a major incident. Here are some pictures:

The Joint Adventure tied to the dock (barge) at Hoppies

The Joint Adventure tied to the dock (barge) at Hoppies

Debris passing by the barge at Hoppies

Debris passing by the barge at Hoppies

 

Dad and Tom cooking dinner on board - pan-fried fish, rice, and broccoli - what a feast!

Dad and Tom cooking dinner on board – pan-fried fish, rice, and broccoli – what a feast! My turn to cook is next – YIKES!

The house next to Hoppies - another opportunity for Doug to renovate - this one comes with a car to refurbish - note the two extra engines for the car

The house next to Hoppies – another opportunity for Doug to renovate – this one comes with a car to refurbish – note the two extra engines for the car

So tomorrow (Tuesday) we continue south. The next 5 days or so constitute the most challenging part of our trip to date – another 160 miles south on the rain-swollen Mississippi, 60 miles up the Ohio River, then 30 miles up the Cumberland River before we return to civilization. Tuesday night, we will tie to a lock wall where we’re not permitted to leave the boat. The next three nights following that are at anchorages. We came for adventure, and we’re getting it!

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YOU BOYS LOST?

Post # 28:  YOU BOYS LOST?  Day 132, September 12, 2014.  On board: Tom, Paul, Hank (my Dad), and Jim K

So we stopped at a very local diner in a very small, very rural, very Illinois town. In typical Midwest fashion, the waitress was friendly and to-the-point. When she asked where we were from, we replied “Boston”. Not understanding why anyone from Boston would ever find themselves in this very small, very rural, very Illinois town, her immediate reaction revealed the only explanation she could imagine:  “You boys lost?”  Well, we weren’t lost, thanks to the linear flow of the river, but it speaks volumes about the remoteness of some of the terrain on the Illinois River through which we have been passing.   Scenic, much of it pristine with herons, eagles, and other wildlife, and much of it very rural. We are constantly reminded of civilization, however, with the periodic encounters with barges and tows plying the river, and the occasional presence along the way of small villages on the waterfront or old industrial plants, most of which were shuttered and abandoned long ago. All in all, floating down the river is a treat. Here are some images since my last post:

We left early (around 6:30) because we decided to make a long run (100 miles) due to a weather system coming in the following day. Because of the chilly temperature, we ran into thick fog on the river a few miles downriver. It got so dense at times that we could see only one bank of the river and that one faded in and out of the fog - we had to navigate by radar until the sun rose and started to dissipate the fog

We left early (around 6:30 AM) because we decided to make a long run (100 miles) due to a weather system coming in the following day. Because of the chilly temperature, we ran into thick fog on the river a few miles downriver. It got so dense at times that we could see only one bank of the river and that one faded in and out of the fog – we had to navigate by radar until the sun rose and started to dissipate the fog

My Dad, concentrating on his chores as Navigator, with Tom in the background. This was taken early in the morning, so as you can see by the hat and gloves, it was chilly - actually, a welcome relief after a stretch of very hot weather most of the time since we reached Chicago

My Dad, concentrating on his chores as Navigator, with Tom in the background. This was taken early in the morning, so as you can see by the hat and gloves, it was chilly – actually, a welcome relief after a stretch of very hot weather most of the time since we reached Chicago

We came upon this tow that was perpendicular to the river, completely blocking passage.  Apparently he was having difficulty because his barges were grounding in the mud. When we contacted him by radio, his first instructions to us were "Stay away!". A short while later, another tow came upriver, so he had to unhook the tug from the barges and clear a path.  After the other tow went through, he let us pass as well.  The tows rule the river!

We came upon this tow that was perpendicular to the river, completely blocking passage. Apparently he was having difficulty because his barges were grounding in the mud. When we contacted him by radio, his first instructions to us were “Stay away!”. A short while later, another tow came upriver, so he had to unhook the tug from the barges and clear a path. After the other tow went through, he let us pass as well. The tows rule the river!

An old derelict replica paddlewheeler beached along the river.  Janet, this is Doug's next project - he told me you wouldn't mind moving in while he renovated it

An old derelict replica paddlewheeler beached along the river. Janet, this is Doug’s next project – he told me you wouldn’t mind moving in while he renovated it

Our first stop after Peoria was the Tall Timbers Marina in the town of Havana, Ill. Although the town was somewhat run-down and obviously experiencing difficult times, the people were friendly and resilient. A weekend-long Octoberfest was underway, in which the whole town seemed to be taking part. We went to a local tavern for lunch and watched the Patriots play a dismal second half and lose to the Dolphins. However, the small marina was a treat – nestled in a small dug-out basin surrounded by trees, the entire marina was built on floats – the docks, the marina office, the small restaurant (which unfortunately was closed), the screened-in lounge, etc – all floated.  The owner told us:  “When the river goes up, we all go up. When the river goes down, we all go down”:

The Joint Adventure tied to the dock next to the floating buildings. Four other "loopers" were at the marina with us as well, some to the left of us in the picture

The Joint Adventure tied to the dock next to the floating buildings. Four other “loopers” were at the marina with us as well, some to the left of us in the picture

That evening, my Dad cooked dinner - we figured it was the first time he had ever cooked a complete dinner for four - a major milestone!

That evening, my Dad cooked dinner – we figured it was the first time he had ever cooked a complete dinner for four – a major milestone!

The next day, we did a 100 mile run due to forecasts of thunderstorms coming in the next day, and we wanted a secure and pleasant place to wait them out. We crossed a MAJOR milestone:

While not obvious in the picture, this bridge represents a major milestone on our journey - it is the western-most point on the Great Loop route - from here on, we gradually drift eastward as we continue south.  YYAAAYY!!

While not obvious in the picture, this bridge represents a major milestone on our journey – it is the western-most point on the Great Loop route – from here on, we gradually drift eastward as we continue south. YYAAAYY!!

Our next stop was in in the town of Hardin at a restaurant along the river with a dock where we could tie up for the night – places to tie up are becoming more and more scarce. Not everyplace we dock is beautiful – this was nothing more that a rusty steel dock with a precarious ramp, but it was a secure place to stay for the night along with quite good food in the adjacent restaurant. The town was small and very depressed.

The Joint Adventure tied to the old steel dock. Notice the end of the ramp at the bottom of the picture - the stump is the stepping-stone to get off the ramp

The Joint Adventure tied to the old steel dock. Notice the end of the ramp at the bottom of the picture – the stump is the stepping-stone to get off the ramp

Taken from a bridge across the Illinois River, the Joint Adventure is tied to the dock in Hardin. Notice the barges tied to the shore just beyond the boat, and the industrial plant on shore near the barges

Taken from a bridge across the Illinois River, the Joint Adventure is tied to the dock in Hardin. Notice the barges tied to the shore just beyond the boat, and the industrial plant on shore near the barges

On Tuesday, another MAJOR milestone – we completed our run down the Illinois River, and merged onto our second Inland River on our journey south – the MISSISSIPPI!!  We stopped in Grafton, Missouri at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers – Missouri is our eighth state, in addition to two Canadian provinces.  The marina in Grafton, which had a novel approach for a work tug:

We've seen a wide variety of barges and tugboats along the way, but this was a novel combination of a working tug/barge - the marina in Grafton was using it to dredge their basin

We’ve seen a wide variety of barges and tugboats along the way, but this was a novel combination of a working tug/barge – the marina in Grafton was using it to dredge their basin

The current in the Mississippi is noticeably swifter than on the Illinois, and the river is wider. There is also more debris floating down the river, mostly sticks, small logs, and small branches. There was a massive thunderstorm Tuesday night, and we planned to stay in Grafton for another day due to more thunderstorms forecast for Wednesday. After monsoon rains in the morning, the weather cleared a bit. However, a more important issue arose – as you may have read, there have been huge rainstorms throughout the Midwest – Kansas City reportedly received 9″ of rain. Though many of these rainstorms are hundreds of miles away, the water all drains into the Missouri/Mississippi watershed, affecting the water levels and currents all the way to the Gulf. We’re in the process of trying to assess the impact on us. In the meantime, we decided to make a mad dash from Grafton, Missouri to Alton, Illinois (other side of the river, about 20 miles downstream) before the next wave of thunderstorms hit to be closer to St. Louis and be at a marina with better facilities. An hour after we arrived, a massive thunderstorm hit, with high winds, more monsoon rains, and lightning. However, we were safely tied up with our docklines doubled, sitting on the bridge having a beer.

We’re now in the process of determining the affect of the water levels on the next leg of our journey.

 

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WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE

POST # 27 – WE’RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE – Day 127, September 7, 2014.  On board:  Paul, Tom, Hank (my Dad), and Jim K

Remember Dorothy’s famous line when she first steps out of her house that has just landed unceremoniously in the Land of OZ – “Toto – I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”?  That’s what it feels like having gone, in one day, from the first part of our trip – pristine lakes, scenic rivers, crystal clear water, resort-type communities, Chicago – to the first inland river, where, on the first day, the landscape was dominated by industry, and commercial tows are king while recreational boats are an afterthought. It was a fascinating but long and challenging first day – we cast off our lines at 7:30 AM but didn’t arrive at our destination 13 miles south of Joliet until it was almost dark, at a quarter to eight.

We first went through the harbor and into the lock that separates Lake Michigan from the Chicago River. Our two new crew members hard at work:

Manning the lines entering the Chicago River: left to right, my Dad (Hank), who turns 90 next month, and Tom, co-owner of the Joint Adventure. Paul is in the background, manning the bow line

Manning the lines entering the Chicago River: left to right, my Dad (Hank), who turns 90 next month, and Tom, co-owner of the Joint Adventure. Paul is in the background, manning the bow line

I posted pictures through the City in my last update, so I won’t repeat them here. The run through the City is truly remarkable. After passing through the City, one enters the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal (described in my last post), and the landscape turns quite industrial:

One of many industrial operations along the Sanitary & Ship Canal heading south out of Chicago

One of many industrial operations along the Sanitary & Ship Canal heading south out of Chicago

This is actually a pipeline crossing the Canal. A novel method;  I don't know why they didn't run the pipe under the canal

This is actually a pipeline crossing the Canal. A novel method; I don’t know why they didn’t run the pipe under the canal

Remember the discussion in a previous post about the Asian carp and other invasive species that people are trying desperately to keep from reaching Lake Michigan? The guidebook that we use has the following warning at a location about halfway down the Canal:  “A permanent electrical barrier designed to prevent and slow the spread of invasive fish species through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal into Lake Michigan is operational 24 hours a day.  All vessels are prohibited from lingering or mooring in the area. Do not enter or put your hands or feet in the water under any circumstances.”  YIKES!. Sure enough, when we got there, we saw this sign:

We decided to stay on the boat....

We decided to stay on the boat….

The first “tow” that we encountered was a tug pushing a single barge. What’s the big deal?

Our first "tow" - a tug pushing a single barge.

Our first “tow” – a tug pushing a single barge.

So why did it take us over 12 hours to go 55 miles?  After we completed the transit of the Canal, we entered the Illinois River – the first of the Inland Rivers that will take us to the Gulf of Mexico. We quickly learned that when traveling the inland rivers, the dominant obstacles (so far, anyway) are the “tows” and the locks. Incidentally, they are called “tows”, but they are actually a bunch of barges chained together and pushed by a single tugboat from the rear. They range from one barge to a group of up to 42 barges, measuring in length over three football fields!! Forget the rules of navigation – these guys have the right-of-way by default.  Anyway, the second obstacle are the locks, the chambers of which are huge – two football fields long – and take up to a half hour to fill or to empty. However, despite the size of the chambers, the tows are still too long to fit in all at once, so they have to break them into two or three groups and lock each group one at a time. Therefore, it can take hours to get a tow through a lock – and, of course, the tows always have priority over us lowly recreational vessels. So we arrived at our first lock to find that the first half of a tow was being raised in the lock, and were told that we could go down when they emptied the lock in order to get the second half of the tow. Seemed reasonable. However, they parked the barges right in front of the entrance to the lock, leaving a narrow, winding path for us to enter the lock:

The barges that just exited the lock were parked immediately in front of the entrance to the lock. We had to pass between the concrete pier and the LaSalle, just a few feet wider than the Joint Adventure, then make a 90 degree turn to the right, then two more ninety degree turns in the narrow passage around the corner of the barge

The barges that just exited the lock were parked immediately in front of the entrance to the lock. We had to pass between the concrete pier and the LaSalle, just a few feet wider than the Joint Adventure, then make a 90 degree turn to the right, then two more ninety degree turns in the narrow passage around the corner of the barge

Another boat followed us through the maze into the lock - he scrapped the wall as he tried to pass through between the wall and the corner of the barge, on his port (left) side. Despite our wide beam, we were more fortunate and slipped through unscathed

Another boat followed us through the maze into the lock – he scrapped the wall as he tried to pass through between the wall and the corner of the barge, on his starboard (right) side. Despite our wide beam, we were more fortunate and barely fit through unscathed

A large tow heading down the Illinois River - this is just one quarter of the size of the larger tows we have yet to meet

A large tow heading down the Illinois River – this is just one quarter of the size of the larger tows we have yet to meet

The tug that is pushing the "tow" shown in the previous picture - basically it is  one enormous engine surrounded by a hull

The tug that is pushing the “tow” shown in the previous picture – basically it is one enormous engine surrounded by a hull

A tow that we just passed, taken from the stern of the Joint Adventure

A tow that we just passed, taken from the stern of the Joint Adventure

 

 

This is a tow that is three barges wide, just emerging from a lock. The barge at the center is empty, and therefore riding high in the water, while the barges on either side are full and riding low

This is a tow that is three barges wide, just emerging from a lock. The barge at the center is empty, and therefore riding high in the water, while the barges on either side are full and riding low

After transiting the first lock, we passed through the city of Joliet. There were half a dozen or so drawbridges across the river, and by radioing ahead, each bridge magically opened as we approached it, not even slowing down:

One of the drawbridges opening for us as we approached - the boat in the picture was traveling with us as well

One of the drawbridges opening for us as we approached – the boat in the picture was traveling with us as well

Major floods happen frequently on the inland rivers, including the Illinois River - newer houses are therefore built on stilts, similar to coastal homes in flood-prone areas of New England and elasewhere

Major floods happen frequently on the inland rivers, including the Illinois River – newer houses are therefore built on stilts, similar to coastal homes in flood-prone areas of New England and elasewhere

Despite the difficulty entering the first lock, we were fortunate in that the entire locking process took about an hour. Not so at our second lock. They were locking through some barges carrying chemicals of some sort so they would not allow anyone else in the lock with the barges. We waited 4 hours to get into the lock, then it took another hour to lock us through, along with the tug. While we waited, we first tied to a barge that was tied to shore awaiting lockage, until it was his turn to go:

Tied to a barge awaiting our turn...

Tied to a barge awaiting our turn…

We then tied to a wall next to a local bar (some of the crew felt obligated to patronize the place in return for their hospitality. Not saying who, but…):

Caught on film...

They even look guilty…

It was 30 minutes until sunset when we finally got through the lock, with about an hour to go to our destination –  just enough time to get in at dusk – we did NOT want to travel on the river in the dark, as the buoys are not lighted and it is impossible to see debris floating in the river, which can potentially punch a hole in the hull or damage a propeller. Halfway there, the high temperature alarm sounded – the port engine was overheating.  We had passed through a lot of seaweed and other debris over the course of the day, and the cooling system likely had become partially clogged. Rather than try to clean it while underway and end up running in the dark, we shut down the engine and ran mostly on one engine the rest of the way, arriving just as darkness was descending  – a dramatic ending to a long, exciting, challenging first day on the Inland Rivers.

On Tuesday night, we stayed at Harborside Marina, about a mile from the small village of Seneca, Ill. The Marina loaned us their van, so we went to town for dinner, then went into town again to the local “greasy spoon” diner in the morning for breakfast. While we were there, four old retired guys came in and sat near us – classic rural Midwest, it could have been from a Norman Rockwell painting:

Tom (on the left) fits right in rather well...

Tom (on the left) fits right in rather well…

They were amazed to hear that we drove a boat to Seneca from Boston. We told them we planned to go through the next lock, then stay at the town dock in Ottawa 15 miles downstream. We arrived in the early afternoon and tied up – 15 minutes later, two of the four old guys showed up at the boat – “We didn’t have a lot on our schedule today, so we decided to watch you go through the lock. You were already through when we got there, so we drove down here.” So we gave them a tour, they drove us to the store, and we again enjoyed the “local color”:

Bob & Dana were full of stories of growing up along the river in rural Illinois

Bob & Dana were full of stories of growing up along the river in rural Illinois

A few more pictures from our stay in Ottawa:

The Joint Adventure at the free municipal dock in Ottawa - a short walk along the riverfront park brings you to Main Street

The Joint Adventure at the free municipal dock in Ottawa – a short walk along the riverfront park brings you to Main Street

The Illinois River, taken from the bridge in Ottawa

The Illinois River, taken from the bridge in Ottawa

Now here is a motto I can live by...

Now here is a motto I can live by…

I know tourists wanting an "authentic souvenier" can be gullible, but....how many of these do you think they actually sell???

I know tourists wanting an “authentic souvenier” can be gullible, but….how many of these do you think they actually sell???

An incredible mural on the side of a long building in downtown Ottawa

An incredible mural on the side of a long building in downtown Ottawa

Henry & Henry - my Dad Henry and fellow looper Henry from the boat Dee Dee, which Henry, whom we meet periodically at various stops along the way -

Henry & Henry – my Dad Henry and fellow looper Henry from the boat Dee Dee,  whom we meet periodically at various stops along the way –

Back to the Asian Carp – in Ottawa, while enjoying the scenery, we were treated to the sight of several large (1-2 feet) Asian Carp literally jumping out of the water straight up three or four feet – I saw half a dozen and Paul saw 50-75 jump up all at once. Later, while waiting out a lightning storm, we happened upon a specially-built boat and crew from the US Fish & Wildlife Agency who were “fishing” for the Carp on an experimental basis.  They explained that the Carp jump when something startles or agitates them, and often when one jumps, it causes others to jump as well – hence a whole school of them jumping at the same time. The Asian Carp are now beginning to be fished commercially, the catch being sold to China where the Carp are eaten or used for fertilizer. Some fisherman literally drive around at high speeds, sometimes in circles, with nets sticking out in front of their boat, looking for schools of the carp. The boat agitates the fish, causing them to jump, hopefully into the nets. Others use gill nets to trap the fish.  The Fish & Wildlife guys had a specially built boat (picture below) with an electrical generator.  When they find a school of fish, they send an electrical shock into the water, which causes them to jump – they try to catch the fish in the nets as they jump. At times, they have caught up to 300-400 fish in minutes. The purpose of all this is two-old: (1) to thin the population of the carp in the northern section of the Illinois to reduce the chances that they get through the electric fish barrier, and (2) to try to develop an efficient method of catching the carp to create an ecconomical commercial fishery for the carp. Incidentally, they said that the fish is quite good to eat, but that the American public can’t get by the name “carp”. He suggested we look in local restaurants for “Mississippi silver fish” or other fancy names we haven’t heard of – it will likely be Asian Carp.

The custom-built experimental Asian Carp "fishing boat". The "wings" are the nets in an upright position - they are lowered on each side when the boat is underway

The custom-built experimental Asian Carp “fishing boat”. The “wings” are the nets in an upright position – they are lowered on each side when the boat is underway

I actually have a video that one of our fellow loopers took of the experimental boat shocking the Carp and causing them to jump.  I was unable to figure out how to add the video into the blog, however, so I’ll try to send it out separately.

Our next stop was Henry’s Marina, built next to an old abandoned lock.  A couple of pictures:

The "dockage" at Henry's Marina entailed simply tying to the rock wall of the old abandoned lock, built nearly 100 years ago, used for two years, then abandoned

The “dockage” at Henry’s Marina entailed simply tying to the rock wall of the old abandoned lock, built nearly 100 years ago, used for two years, then abandoned

Five "looper" boats all pulled into Henry's around the same time in the afternoon, so there was an impromptu "Happy Hour Dock Party" on the rocks of the old lock next to the boats

Five “looper” boats all pulled into Henry’s around the same time in the afternoon, so there was an impromptu “Happy Hour Dock Party” on the rocks of the old lock next to the boats

The next night, we stayed at the Peoria City docks, immediately adjacent to downtown. The city is perhaps twice the size of Springfield, Ma. and is clean, attractive, and has a vibrant waterfront:

The Joint Adventure tied to the city docks in downtown Peoria, Ill.

The Joint Adventure tied to the city docks in downtown Peoria, Ill.

It is the world headquarters of the Caterpillar Company, a worldwide supplier of construction equipment and diesel engines. A picture from our tour of the Caterpillar Museum:

This is a full-sized replica of the largest truck manufactured in the world, made by Caterpillar. The tires are 14 feet in diameter and it has to be shipped in pieces and assembled on site - it takes 6 rail cars to deliver all the pieces. Fully loaded, the combined weight of the vehicle and load is over 1 million pounds

This is a full-sized replica of the largest truck manufactured in the world, made by Caterpillar. The tires are 14 feet in diameter and it has to be shipped in pieces and assembled on site – it takes 6 rail cars to deliver all the pieces. Fully loaded, the combined weight of the vehicle and load is over 1 million pounds

We also went to the new Waterfront Museum which opened just a year ago, and focuses on the rich history of the Illinois River and of Peoria itself. Prior to Prohibition, the economy Peoria was centered on the production of whiskey, which was the city’s primary export.

Saturday evening, the waterfront was alive with no fewer than three free music concerts at various locations along the river. The last one that I visited was by a group called Too White Crew, which had a troupe of 12 male and female singers and dancers:

I happened to snap a picture of the female dancers...

I happened to snap a picture of the female dancers…

Peoria is about halfway down the Illinois River – halfway by water between Chicago and St. Louis. The lower half is more rural with fewer facilities as we continue south, so the next week or two will be quite interesting as we continue our journey south.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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