portfolio > gone on the river

day 51
day 51
July 19, 2022

Day 51, July 19.
Measurements: turbidity at St. Louis 16.5cm. Nitrate at St. Louis between 2 and 5 ppm - and closer to 2! That's right, the confluence with the Missouri reduced the nitrate load in the Mississippi. Miles today: 38! 32 on the water, 6 on bike.

Today was great. I woke up at around 8, lazed around a bit, then got to work getting moved out of the airbnb. This included the final errand I hadn't gotten to yesterday, a trip to the grocery store. They didn't have Emergen-C, so I'll be drinking actual Tang, even though I'm not an astronaut.

I did some updates, including the videos I've been meaning to post when I had good wi-fi access, and got out of the place just before checkout time at 11am. Headed out on the bike with the canoe and everything behind me, south on Broadway. I went past the Budweiser brewery, which was kind of interesting. It's so strange to imagine my dad's young adulthood, when there were maybe, maybe four beers to drink from, across the entire United States. I remember Leinenkugels and Summit feeling like a big deal, very crafty. Now there are small breweries in most towns, and it's one of the fun literal local flavors to tap into.

Anyway, I biked down to a nice little restaurant in Dutchtown called Gooseberries, where I had their fried tofu and kale gravy over rice (delicious) and a short stack of pancakes (also delicious) and a ginger iced coffee (amazing). On the way there, an older man on an electric wheelchair who was giving an older woman a ride in his lap shouted "I want that canoe!" as I rode past.

After breakfast, feeling full and happy, I set out a bit further south, into the suburb of Carondelet. (I noticed this in part because I learned how to play the violin from a nun who was part of the Sisters of Carondelet in St. Paul). I biked to a riverside park named for Sister Marie Charles, which was still pretty high up above the water. I made my way down what felt like a very informal trail to the water, which was littered with old chunks of brick. A couple of guys came up as I was carrying gear down to the water, and one offered to help carry the canoe - so nice!

Out on the water, I took samples and measurements, put on sunscreen, and set off. I should also note that I've given up on t-shirts during the day. I think the best approach from now on is a long-sleeved shirt with nothing under it.

The stretch of the river coming out of St. Louis was a challenge. Lots of waves from all different directions, barges lining both shores, steady tow traffic. I was glad to get past it all, at around the interstate 255 bridge. (For a Twin Cities context, think 494).

The other noticeable thing was that the current was very strong. That waxed and waned over the course of the day, but mostly it was giving me a solid push. It's incredible to me that I was able to make it 32 miles today, when I put in at around 1pm. And I had a moderately strong headwind all day, to boot! This is the current I've been waiting for.

I saw the confluences of the River Des Peres, and the Meramec River. Neither seemed to have much effect on the combined force of the Mississippi and Missouri.

I passed a few suburbs, and then a few towns that felt more like standalone communities - Kimmswick, the hilariously Greekly-named Herculaneum, and Crystal City. They are mostly pretty separate from the river, behind not just the train tracks and some riverside Industry, but a fair amount of green space as well, in most cases. Also interesting: there were no real cities on the Illinois side. All of those I named are on the right, Missouri, bank.

I saw too many barges today to count. Some along the shore, some anchored in the middle of the river (one of these was a clump of thirty, five across and six long). And many were being pushed, in various combinations from one to twenty-five. Sometimes this forced me into the slower, currentless (or even sometimes weirdly backwards-running) water right near the shore, while I waited for them to pass.

I saw at least two power plants, what appeared to be coal-fired, one obvious quarry, and lots of Industry I couldn't identify.

At around dusk, I made it to mile thirty on the water, and started looking around for a place to camp. They are very easy to find here, pretty much any stretch of river has at least one suitable spot. I'm posted up behind a wing dam, in the little pool of relatively still water it creates, right upstream and across the river from, of course, a power plant. I think on this part of the river one is basically always within sight of at least one power plant.

For dinner, I had leftover pizza from last night, which was frankly incredible, and a beer. I'm turning in early, and hope to get up and at it early as well in the morning. It would be fun to try to hit 50 miles tomorrow, and it seems doable if today's rate of progress is any measure.