portfolio > gone on the river

Day 60, July 28.
Measurements: turbidity at Forked Deer Dikes: 30cm. Miles today: 37.

I got a slow start today, due to the rain that started in the wee hours of the night and continued through the early morning. It only really let up after around 9am. Rather than getting up and getting everything wet, I decided to let myself sleep in, which was very welcome.

I'd created a very rich breakfast for myself - overnight oats plus a bunch of coconut cream that I'd used a bit of for last night's noodles It was almost too rich to finish, but the calories were welcome.

After yesterday's uncomfortable situations with barges, I decided today to just stay out of the channel where possible, and started that early, skirting through a hole in a wing dam (scouting it pretty thoroughly first to make sure it wasn't a threatening rapid, and wouldn't leave me stuck somewhere like Angelo Towhead near Cairo). I took the inside of most bends, which is both slower and more turbulent, anytime a tow was anywhere nearby. I even tucked into the still area between two wing dams to let a tow pass, but his progress was so slow upstream that I decided after a few minutes to cross the river instead.

After the Plum Point Dikes, I had a little time with no barges, so followed the current and made some nice time. The wind was also much less obstreperous than yesterday, and I had cloud cover much of the day as well. All in all, a pretty ideal day for paddling.

Over and over again on this stretch of river, I'm in a channel with the same state on both sides. Sometimes Arkansas crosses the river from the right bank to squat on the left for a bit, sometimes Tennessee crosses from the right bank to gobble up a bit of the left. These are all places where the main stream of the river used to go the long way around an island, and when the states were first mapped that was the line between them. But either the river chose a new path on its own, or the Army Corps chose to push the main stream through what had been a smaller chute, and these once-islands are now pretty effectively part of the shore. I find myself paddling down a river that for a brief stretch is labeled something like "Sunrise Towhead Chute." I can often see the places where the river used to go, where in high water there is likely a small stream that diverts, making an island again.

Down near a place called Richardson's Landing, there are some interesting high bluffs of what looks like sandstone. They remind me of Dayton's Bluff, a bit, where I grew up, except the vegetation is much thicker, more lush. That's today's picture, that bluff.

In the evening, I pushed it to about 7:30, and pulled over on a very tall sandbar on the left (Tennessee) bank, essentially on the inside curve of Reverie Bendway. When I say "very tall," this sandbar is maybe 20-30 feet up out of the water, and very flat on top. There was a little shelf right at the water where I pulled the boat out entirely and tied it to the food tub, which I set out on the sand. There's not much else to tie to out here, much of the time.

I set the tent up near the edge of the plateau, which I found to be covered in ATV tracks. I made dinner, a passable but not great millet and lentil dish, and it was lightning fast with the fixed stove, which felt pretty great. I almost but not quite got in the tent before the mosquitoes rose up at dusk, and had to kill at least fifteen of them inside the tent.

I was completely out of cell range, which feels much more isolating than I would ever have thought. No calls, no texts, no internet, nothing. It's pretty lonely, and also feels a bit precarious.

I went to sleep early, planning to get up as early as possible to get to Memphis tomorrow.