portfolio > gone on the river

day 43
day 43
July 11, 2022

Day 43, July 11
Measurements: turbidity 42cm at Keokuk. Nitrate between 2 and 5 ppm downstream of both the Des Moines and Fox rivers, I'd guess around 4ppm. Miles today: 21.

I spent quite a bit of time in Keokuk today, for various reasons. I slept in just a bit (until 8am) and got out of the hotel by around 9. Biked about a block and a half to a coffee shop called Java River that also had pretty good hashbrowns. From there, I biked another few blocks (all downhill, all on the main drag through town) to a hardware store to replace the bolt that went missing yesterday from the bike trailer.

All of that taken care of, I biked to the Seven Seas laundromat, which felt like quite a throwback. The machines all seemed old, the soda machine didn't work, neither did the drinking fountain. That sort of place. I did my load of laundry (which was nearly all of the clothes I have with me, plus my towel and sheet). To pass the time among other things I drew my actual route on the map as well as I could recall. It's much more specific than "down the river" at this point. Which side? Main stream or side channel? At what points did I cross from one side to another? Where did
I put in? Where did I go from the water to the road, and where vice versa? Where exactly were my campsites or motels? Some of the stretch between Minnesota and Wisconsin is already fuzzy; it's good that I'm now getting in this habit.

After everything was dry, I went to a Mexican restaurant called Chaparrita Los Tapatios. As with most Mexican restaurants I've encountered on this trip, they served enough food for my entire day. It was the first time I recall having broccoli in fajitas. Still, pretty good.

As I biked towards the river, I saw something that seemed almost miraculous: a shoe store, with men's sandals right there in the window. I stopped in, and not only did they have sandals, they have exactly the same kind as the ones that this trip has destroyed. I showed off how badly beat up my old pair was, and the sales folks laughed.

It was interesting to spend this much time in Keokuk, because the town does not appear to be doing particularly well. Lots of empty storefronts, streets in disrepair, a lot of run down buildings.

Then down to the river. But not quite onto the water yet. I'd heard yesterday that the drop in the Keokuk lock is thirty-five feet, and had to see that for myself. Today's picture is of a tow with barges pushing upstream into the lock. I'm glad I skipped it. Up on the viewing deck was an old field gun from one of the world wars, a group of people fishing, and a goose. The goose appeared to be stuck, unable to figure out how to get over the fence down to the water. One of the guys actually tried to catch it and throw it over the fence, which was something to watch.

I also noticed that there's an old steamboat up on the levee, and that it was a museum, and only charges $4. I thought, heck, let's check it out. I'm glad I did. The docent was very nice, and very informative. The boat is interesting - built in the '20s as an oil-powered rear paddle wheel tow, sort of the 'bridge' between the famous old Mark Twain type of steamboat and modern tows. It's called the George M. Verity. The docent also let me know that my sense of Keokuk was basically right: it's down from around 18,000 people to around 9,000.

Finally, then, onto the water from the Keokuk municipal boat landing. It was 3pm, one of the latest put-in times so far.

The first thing after Keokuk is the confluence with the Des Moines river. More on that later.

One of the meanings of the Des Moines river in this particular spot is that I'm now finished with Iowa, my third state in the proverbial rearview mirror. I am now traveling between Illinois on the left bank and Missouri on the right.

As is so often the case after dams, the river was moving at a nice clip. I passed the little towns of Alexandria and Warsaw. I called my mom and sister, and we had a nice long conversation as I paddled downriver.

One rather startling thing happened. I've gotten used to seeing fish jump in this river, but at one point when I was near the shore, four or five large fish - maybe four feet long? - jumped out of the water nearly all at once, right next to me. I mean close enough that the closest one splashed me.

I then came across the confluence with the Fox river, which is a pretty small stream. More on that later. The paddling was very pleasant in the evening, with the sun mostly hidden behind clouds, the temperature still pretty warm but not too hot, and very little breeze.

Along this

Eventually I hit the dam pool above lock and dam 20. I was running out of daylight and considered camping there, but the prospect of being able to lock through when the wind was so still was very tempting, so I pushed on. Unfortunately, there was a tow coming up through the lock that I had to wait for, so I spent the sunset waiting for it to lock through - though it was interesting to see the tow and its barges go past, fairly close to where I was waiting.

Actually going through the lock was uneventful, but it was now so late that I didn't dare to cross the river to where I'd intended to find an island. Instead, I put in directly downstream of the lock at the Canton, Missouri municipal campground. It's clearly intended for RVs, mostly, but served my needs just fine. A couple was nearby eating their dinner - not camping, just down there to see the river as they ate. They were engaged in conversation with a woman on a bike, who seemed to be pretty plugged into things in Canton. I ended up joining in, and we had a lovely chat. The woman who was eating asked if I eat meat, and when I said I don't, she said "I didn't think so." She still offered me some of the pork tenderloin she hadn't finished, but I politely declined. I turned in rather late again, like maybe 11pm.

Tomorrow the goal is to get past Quincy, IL, but to stop there to talk to another reporter for another local 'human interest' story.