Tag Archives: #kentucky

Alton, IL to Paducah, KY: The Mississippi River to the O-Hi-O

Somewhere on the Missouri shore.

It’s been a while since I have had the disposition to sit down and compose a blog post. The energies are so BIG right now. Take all that cosmic energy coming at us and add it to an industrious extended stay in Alton, IL, followed by traveling for long hours on the enormous Mississippi River, navigating a few huge locks, and some very tedious winding segments; it’s likely I was opting for time in the sunshine, exploring, star gazing, and as always, taking care of Irene. Here’s a brief retrospective.

The view from the Alton Marina dock; a bridge to Missouri.

We were able to get a stanchion repaired in Alton for next to nothing, and we were there long enough to get things we needed mail ordered. It was one of those places that makes living aboard easy (i.e. wifi, laundry, cabs, sidewalks, delivery, kind and helpful people, great showers, and protection from the elements). After 5 nights however; we were desperate to get moving again.

We left at 7AM on Tuesday morning. Shorter days required running lights for the first time as we made it a short mile to our first next lock, the Mel Price Lock. It is among the largest in the world and yet, simple to navigate and ready for us within minutes of arriving. The Mississippi between Alton and St. Louis is a robust habitat for Eagles. While we have seen many on this journey, nothing compared to the volume of them in this section of the river. They were fishing off of our wake. Eagles fishing during a sunrise heading south on the Mississippi is one of the things we had never considered would happen in this dream we are dreaming, but it did, and it was amazing.

Wide water on the Mississippi River.

This section of the river is also where the Missouri River meets the Mississippi and flows into it in a place known as the Chain of Rocks. Cruisers know to turn left at this intersection or end up cascading over big rocks and losing it all. There’s a small sign on a pile of rocks with a blue arrow pointing left that says, “Lock”. Trust me, I fretted over this so much before we got there that by the time I saw the sign I was like, “Whatever”. The “man” made canal that bypasses the rocks in long, straight, and tedious, but there are eagles, and once through the lock at the end you are in St. Louis. The best part of floating past the Gateway Arch was having our friend Doug watching on the live Google Earth cam and capturing images and videos of (tiny) Irene next to the enormous arch and beside the endless line of tugs and barges. (By the way, Doug is a virtual member of our crew now and we will be gifting him our white AGLCA flag when we earn the gold.)

The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri.

All in all, the day took eight hours on the water to make it to a free lock wall just off the Mississippi on the Kaskaskia River for the night. We got to watch a nearly full moon rise and woke to a small tow and barge entering the tiny lock. David and I were the first ones off the wall for a beautiful ride to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to anchor in a little river diversion canal for the night. It was only a six hour cruise but, we had a 15-mile-an-hour head wind blowing over our bow. It takes a bit outta ya.

Tied up at Kaskaskia lock.
Early morning barge in the lock.
Night 2. Boats in the moonlight, rafted up in the diversion canal.

The plan was to take a leisurely ride down to Cairo (Kay-Row) IL, where we intended to anchor near a slew behind a bridge. The ride was filled with lonnnnggggg, S-shaped sections of river called “toe heads”. Our Huck Finn day took a turn to the north, literally. The wind was howling at the anchorage near the bridge, so we pressed on. The wind increased some more. That ruled out the other anchoring places as well. The only choice was to continue pressing on and turn up into the Ohio River. Four knots of foul current took our speed down almost by half. Cairo is also a barge staging area so the waterway was packed with barges and industry for miles.

Coal ready to be loaded.

This section of the Ohio leads to another enormous lock and dam, the Olmsted. By the time we arrived we had been traveling for seven hours. There was so much barge traffic going up and down the river and through the lock, the lock-master directed us to drop anchor until 5:30! With sunset at 6:10 we quickly realized we would be anchoring in the dark. Shit.

Sunsetting in the Olmsted Lock.
Wind calming down as sun sets and we approach our anchorage.
Wrapped up an 11 hour day in Grand Chain Reach.

I sat up top with a quilt, a glass of red wine, and the full moon, listening to the chine on the hull, and vimeoing with my spirit-led friends. Just when my tank was running low, they all loved me back into laughter, hopefulness and gratitude. It turned out to be a wonderful place in a wide part of the water. i woke up rejuvenated and made David bacon and eggs before heading to Paducah, Kentucky. Paducah has a dock with power and we have reservations. Amen.

The wind picked up again as we started back up the river. I called the dock about fuel and water levels and about the eddy at the dock. The dock-hand was so kind. He put us on the end a across from the fuel dock, so we could stay out of the shallows and still get diesel as the hose just reached Irene. Tons of wind and current at the dock but not one issue, unless you count me yelling at David. Don’t you worry dear reader, I forgave myself and him too.

Irene and her pals on the Paducah riverfront dock.


  • BIG rest at Alton
  • BIG locks on the Mississippi and the Ohio rivers
  • BIG arch
  • BIG hours underway
  • BIG barges
  • BIG industry
  • BIG water
  • BIG wind
  • BIG current
  • BIG moon
  • BIG emotions
  • BIG energies
  • BIG sigh

BIG BIG love to y’all.

Isla, age 2.2, passes her first swim test like a BIG fish 👏🏽