portfolio > gone on the river

day 71
day 71
August 08, 2022

Day 71, August 8
Measurements: turbidity at Kentucky Bend (far from actual Kentucky) 18.5. Same range as usual, here.

I woke late, around 8am, and ate the leftover bibimbap from last night. Not great. But at least I also had tea, and tang, and water.

Having water that I don't have to constantly pump out of the river - and worry about being gross despite the filter, and clean the filter after every Nalgene-full - is pretty sweet.

The sun was already very hot by the time I got up and about, and even more so once I got out on the water after 9:30. Not the most auspicious start to a day where my goal is to hit 40 miles, but still potentially doable.

I was quickly dealing with tows. One from behind, then two coming at me. I also had to deal with Cracraft Chute, which had some pretty rough water even without the tows, and the tows were certainly also part of the mix. At one point I was clinging to the outside of the chute, along the shore, and the water there was flowing backwards (as part of a big swirling eddy) hard enough that it felt just exactly like an endless pool. I was paddling very hard, just to stay in one spot.

It's pretty scary, to be honest, when the water is that rough just from its own pent-up force, drop, and change in direction. Big, weird waves toss me around, not caused by any wind. Add in the bow wake and the roller wake of the tows, and it can feel quite threatening. So I try to get out of the quick-moving, turbulent water, and that leaves me in water that's much more sluggish, prone to eddies, and sometimes flowing backwards.

That whole experience convinced me to take the opposite tack at the next turn, which was also a mistake. I ended up in very, very shallow water (seriously, less than a foot deep) for a long distance approaching Sarah Cut-off. The current picked back up in Opposum Chute, where I also had to avoid wing dams on the right side.

After that there's a side channel that appears to be open, around Wilson Point - just due to the water level? I followed the main channel, too worried about getting stuck to take this shortcut. It's a major difference between the Upper and Lower rivers. On the Upper river, there are islands all over the place, and you can kind of pick whatever path works best for you then. On the Lower, the Army Corps has gone on an absolutely total island-eradication campaign, trying and mostly succeeding at cramming every island onto one bank or the other.

There was a bunch of Army Corps activity for the next few miles. Barges and tows parked on the edges of the river and anchored in the middle, smaller but still official-looking boats buzzing up and down the river (I was passed twice by two different boats, once coming upriver past me, then going back down).

After that the channel narrowed drastically, on the map. This despite the river itself not visually narrowing at all. I moved out of the channel, to the left side of the river, but not too far left, because there were a bunch of wing dams marked on the map. Weirdly, many are parallel to the river, something new to me. All were submerged, and as I approached all sounded like waterfalls - which is to say they sounded dangerous. The current was really moving, here, creating some waves just from the river itself. And then I had to deal with the roller wake of not just the tow that passed from behind, but another, much worse, coming towards me.

The roller wake is much bigger and longer lasting when the tow is going upriver, and when it is pushing full barges (the ones that ride low in the water). Empty barges? No sweat. Going downriver? Usually no sweat. Pushing a big load of low, full barges? SWEAT. I was unfortunate enough to have a little wind to push that wake into me, and I got to ride those tall, slow waves again. Not my favorite experience.

Around the next turn (past "Chinaman Light," which, my god, let's rename some of these things) the current stayed pretty strong. I was looking for a site, and not just because it was getting late and I'd nearly reached my 40 miles, but also because there were several large thunderheads around, crackling with lightning and the very far-off rumble of thunder. If I was going to get hit by one, I wanted to have the tent up and such first. But somewhat strangely, as I came to the end of the revetment (the piled rocks on shore, put there by the Army Corps to stop the river from eroding) I saw houses. I had to keep going a ways to reach the actual sandbar, and not feel like I was pulling up on someone's private beachfront property.

Dinner was the other half of the gnocchi, but with a red sauce this time, complete with dehydrated peppers and mushrooms and vegan protein ball thingies, sauteed fresh onions and garlic, tomato paste, herbs, and nutritional yeast. Very, very good. Almost no sand. Also had another of those cans of carbonated wine from Greenville, which was actually a really nice pairing. Or I'm just easily impressed out here.

The storms did not hit me, yet. But I'm still seeing a lot of lightning off to my south. And seeing rain, none of which has hit me, but some of which was lit up in a nice rainbow for me in the golden hour. That's today's picture.

Wildlife today: some fish, a handful of herons. Some geese. A single eagle. I forgot to mention the other day, I think the day I ended up in Greenville, that I saw a little squad of turkeys at the water's edge. Swifts in the morning and evening. A grasshopper that somehow ended up in the boat with me in the middle of the day. A butterfly that visited me briefly. And something crashing around in the woods near the river, which I have to assume was a deer.

The goal for tomorrow: Vicksburg. An airbnb, I think. And then maybe another paddling-free day as I see what there is to see in the Burg of Vick.