From Peoria, IL, to Alton, IL: the Illinois River to the Mississippi River

Morning light over the Illinois River from the IVY Club’s harbor.

Wind and rain kept us in Peoria at the Illinois Valley Yacht (IVY) and Canoe Club, an extra night. Love to hear the rain on the roof, but it is always much better to be moving out on the water than waiting for it to clear. So, it was great to rise on Tuesday morning to a beautiful sky and a nice forecast. We left the dock at the IVY Club around 7:15am. We followed a boat named Escapades out the channel and we met a boat called Lemonade entering the channel for fuel. Checking the NEBO app, I saw a boat named Mo’ Whisky, out in front of us and another boat, Sisu, leaving the dock behind us. This group of four others became our traveling partners for the next two days. Between the depth meter not working, David’s reinjuring his knee, and my own anxiety, it was a happy surprise to have a small flotilla surrounding us, allowing us to reference them for depth, radio barges for the group, meet us at docks to catch our lines, and more. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.

Following Escapades under the bridge in Peoria.

The Illinois is a big river and it is also relatively shallow. This time of year, anchorages and marinas don’t all have enough water for us to spend overnight there. On this particular day it meant traveling 9+ hours to reach a place to tie up for the night in Beardstown, IL, at Logston Tow Service’s barge “wall”. The boats ahead of us pulled up, one by one, then Irene pulled up the rear. We left a little space between us and the other boats so David could get in and out at boat level. Turned out perfectly as Lemonade squeezed into (pun intended) that space when she arrived around sunset.

Tied up to a tow in Beardstown.

I really enjoyed being tied up right on the river. In the middle of the night I sat up top and watched a couple of really big barges pass by. The weather changed and by daybreak clouds covered the stars and rain was imminent. The reality was that no one wants to sit on a barge wall in the river so after a brief conversation we all agreed to depart at 8:00am for another full day of travel to Mel’s Illinois River Dock and Restaurant in Harding, IL. The first lock was only 7 miles downstream and had a barge in the chamber when we arrived. We got to wait a good 90 minutes for her to exit the lock and then as our travel mate on Mo’ Whisky said, we waited “while the lock workers had their tea time”.

An uneventful drop of about 9 feet led to a storm cloud loosing ginormous raindrops, kind of like a rain/hale descending, the river waves rose up around 2-3 feet, a strong wind hitting on our bows, and fog limited our visibility to a few boat lengths in front of us.A radio message from Lemonade mid-storm, , “This restaurant better be worth it” LOL. I discovered the Lemonade captain, Paul, is my alt ego, funny, calm, nonchalant, social, and pretty darn laid back. At one point our little flotilla was passing an abandoned brick mill building on the side of the river when they detonated something to blow part of it up. Over the radio Paul says, “Was that thunder or did that building just blow up?” Dying so funny as the sky is brown red dust and hauling ass outta there!

Waves and a strong headwind en route to Harding.

On this leg of the Loop we passed the most westerly point, Valley City, IL.

All in all, an interesting day on the river. One last moment as we were approaching the railroad drawbridge in Harding—There was a barge turning to line up to go through. We were going to hold up but he gave us the heads up pass him as quickly as possible. Irene was idling while I was get our fenders and lines ready. I got on the wheel and gunned it to catch up with the big boys. Oh, man. Irene jumped outta the water about as far as she can. I wish I had recorded that. Sparing you dear readers from hearing me use all the swear words though.

Boat gang on the yellow dock at Mel’s.

They were setting up for a Renaissance Fair on the river bank. Watched a few teepees and tents go up, saw fires started and folks in their garb drinking the modern mead. Hope their grub was at least as good as Mel’s 😳. Another rainy night shut the festivusness down around 11:00 and the rain continued ‘til morning. The flotilla folk took off independently, headed south to the place where the Illinois River meets the great Mississippi. What a beautiful stretch of water that is! No shot of mine can do it justice. Here are a few attempts at capturing it:

Just before arriving at our destination at the Alton Marina, we caught up with Lemonade.

🍋 🛥

If you ever pass through St. Charles, Missouri (the west side of this part of the Mississippi) you will see this Mother Mary, Our Lady of the River Shrine-

“After hearing the King, they went on their way. And there it was- the star they had seen at rising. It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was.When they saw the star, they were overwhelmed with JOY.”

Experience the joy friends. It’s right there under the light of your north star.

10 thoughts on “From Peoria, IL, to Alton, IL: the Illinois River to the Mississippi River

  1. kathyyost01

    Totally enjoyed all your photos and antics!  Glad you are almost at Mississippi!  George said all downhill now!  We leave tomorrow and we are both looking forward to getting home❤️ Happy that you are meeting nice people enjoying the trials and jubilation of this epic adventure.  I love your open hearted and tender words.  It makes me smile when I hear some of truth from the other side. Be safe my sweet sister.  Know that I love you and pray for you and David every day.  See you soon. All my love,  Kathy. ❌⭕️❤️

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  2. Wendy McGrath

    Jeepers! Sounds like a harrowing couple of days! So glad you made it through and found JOY! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  3. perkks

    As you continue your journey we are packing up Vermont in preparation to head south. We are going to visit Ron’s family in NH, then on to Mohegan Sun in CT. I got us tickets to see Blake Shelton. I am pretty excited for that and a little gambling. 😀
    Keith, Julia, McKenna, Kellen and Nicole are joining us for dinner tonight and our final goodbyes. Always sad to leave them.
    This morning Howard Paxman passed away. He was 91. They aren’t having any services.
    Continued safe travels. Love you! 💕

    1. betheship Post author

      Wow. That’s a lot there. I am happy for you to be living your best life surrounded by awesome folks. All my love to Keith, Julia and kiddos. I am sorry to hear about Howard and will send prayers for him and for Sue. Lord knows she will be a bit lost without him by her side. Thanks for the love and support. Can’t wait to see you in Florida xooxoxoxoxox
      PS: That concert will be amazing, no doubt!


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