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Author Topic:   The Mighty Mississippi
mateobosch posted 04-01-2009 10:21 PM ET (US)   Profile for mateobosch   Send Email to mateobosch  
Yesterday afternoon while traveling on my voyage from Fort Collins, CO to Zeeland MI the thought occurred to me that I could kill some time and boat out on the Mississippi for a few hours. Seeing as it was a body of water I had crossed many times on the bridge I figured it would be fun to do while I had my boat with me for a change.

I debated the adventure for several hours as I was approaching because I was monitoring NOAA from my truck and knew that rain was in the forecast for later in the day. When I got to the river the sky looked clear so I went for it. I put in at a city launch site on the IL side of the river just off Interstate 80. To my surprise with all the flooding to the North, the launch site was shallow and I had to be careful not to get stuck in the mud just off to the side of the ramp. I donned my neoprene life vest and tethered off my portable VHF radio to my vest. I also secured the kill switch lanyard onto my vest and attached a thirty foot rope to the bow eye in case I fell out and needed to rescue myself.

After negotiating the shallow water successfully it was smooth sailing. I saw several large river barges on there various destinations across the country and was amazed at how big those things are up close. The river was moving at a tremendous pace and with opposing winds gusting to 40 MPH; waves were in the 2-3 foot range in places. The size of this river when you are out on it is amazing and should certainly command your respect.

After traveling several miles South on the river I saw a large dam ahead. I knew that this lock and cautiously headed into the channel. A few lock workers waved and I pulled along the tall cement structure to say hello. Before I even knew what was happening the gate behind me started to shut and the lock was lowering me down the “water stairs” of the Mississippi. The guys operating the lock were very nice and even gave me some books and pamphlets about the river and locks. The locks are part of the Department of the Army and many of the workers happened to be veterans as well. They were curious to know about my adventures and deployments overseas and were eager to share some of their war stories as well. It took about five minutes to get down approximately 6 feet in water level. I have to say it was an exiting thing to do for my first time.

The water outside the dam is extremely dangerous and is known as the drowning machine for good reason. Water is churned in this area with an enormous force that makes escape with even a boat almost impossible. I was happy to have the 115 E-TEC for the extra power navigating though those intense currents.

I headed about four miles farther south and decided that the water was a little too choppy for a comfortable ride. At this point I had stuffed a few waves and my dog, Italy, was not enjoying the bumpy ride as much as I had hoped. Besides, I needed to get home and see my family while everyone was up.

I radioed into the lock and let them know that I was approaching northbound. The dock master told me to standby for about 20 minutes as a river barge was entering into the lock from the North. I got about a half mile away from the lock to watch the huge barge lower into my side of the river. Soon the gate opened and the barge was underway. The dock master contacted me on the radio and said I was clear to enter the lock once again. The wind was ripping at this point and it was difficult to hang onto the ropes along the side of the locks. I eventually moved a rope under my side railing for a little extra leverage and that made things a bit easier. I small talked with a few of the workers again and they said that some people even go through the locks on kayaks and canoes in the summer. I would not try that personally but I thought it was an interesting fact. A few minutes later and I arrived back up to the correct level to depart the locks. I said thanks, waved and then headed out. About fifteen minutes North and I was back to the dock to recover the boat and finish out the final leg of my trip. I made it back to my home in MI at 23:30 in time to catch my mom and dad up for a quick hello and then some much needed rest.

So, with all that said, if you ever are traveling across the country and need to kill some time, I recommend putting in on the Mississippi for a few hours and checking it out.


David Jenkins posted 04-02-2009 06:10 AM ET (US)     Profile for David Jenkins  Send Email to David Jenkins     
That is an interesting trip report, Matt. Thanks for sharing it with us.

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