Day 75, August 12
Measurements: turbidity at Hardscrabble Revetment: 22cm. (This is down slightly from yesterday, and the first day in quite awhile to reverse the trend of the water getting steadily clearer.) Nitrate at the same location: 2-5ppm, closer to 2. Miles today: 36.
I woke early, a bit after 6am. It's really striking how much my sleep schedule changes between when I'm on the river and when I'm in a town. I was asleep by 10pm last night, which virtually never happens when I sleep in a bed.
I'd intended to eat last night's leftovers for breakfast, but there were none. Whoops! So I had a Clif bar and some peanuts instead, and I was out on the water by around 8am. Pretty much just exactly the kind of morning I hope to have.
It was a bit foggy in the morning, which was quite beautiful. Lots of dew on the tent as well, which I tried to dry off but was certainly not completely gone by the time I packed up.
The first part of the day was absolutely gorgeous. Good strong current - I think for awhile I was going well over 6mph - next to non-revetment shoreline. That means I could see sand and trees and grass right down to the shoreline, rather than a big pile of rocks or a mat of concrete pavers. I went past the confluence with something called Bayou Pierre, which was lovely and also had a couple of boats full of people fishing, even that early in the morning.
I continued to hug the left shore as two tows came up towards me, and hit the outside of a turn, which means revetment. This was mostly okay, until this odd projection of the revetment out into the flow of the river. This kind of thing has two reliable impacts. The first is to pile up the flow of the current into a big, fast-moving, choppy mess. The second is to create a flat, smooth eddy area closer to the projection itself, where the water flows in a big circle rather than straight downstream. The bow of the canoe caught that eddy line, and quickly spun me around so I was facing backwards, and also moving backwards slowly. I got turned back around the right way, and paddled hard until I got past the turbulent area. It's so irritating: why is that projection there? What purpose does it serve, other than to fuck around with people trying to paddle the river? It's not reflected on the map in any meaningful way, which indicates to me that the Army Corps doesn't actually care about it very much, but they clearly built it. And it has an outsize impact on people like me.
Not long after that, the river opened up a lot and the current died away. I had to move out closer to the middle to avoid a set of wing dams on the left side, at least two of which were visible as lines of turbulence on the surface. Around the next bend things sped up a bit again as I went past the confluence of Coles Creek and a set of large islands over on the right side. I noted that I'd gone twenty miles by 11:30, or more than halfway.
Then the flow slowed way down, but that was okay, because I could already see Natchez down the river in front of me. It took another three hours to actually get there, but that was alright - it meant I arrived at around 3pm.
I walked up the boat ramp to Natchez Under the Hill, or what's left of it. It's really just one side of a street, but there are some wonderful historic buildings there, including a saloon that was built before 1830. (They don't know how long before 1830, because that's when the original courthouse burned, with all of those kinds of documents inside it.) I tried to get a room in one of the guest houses right down there, but they were all full. I also had a great conversation with a guy named Brian, who clearly comes to this saloon a lot and has seen many people paddling the river. He told me he grew up in Port Gibson, MS, which is just inland of the Grand Gulf nuclear plant I saw yesterday. We talked about my route, and he gave me some advice about how best to get to the Atchafalaya, which confirmed what I'd thought: I'm looking for the third dam at that confluence (or de-confluence?), effectively.
I found myself a cheap motel, not far from the top of the bluff, and then went back down the ramp and converted everything to road mode. That ramp was steep, and I paused briefly outside the saloon. A crowd gathered in the time it took me to go get the bike from the water's edge, including Brian. They all exclaimed and took pictures, saying the normal sort of stuff like "I've never seen anything like that before!" And then I rode off.
And made it about a block before I had to get off the bike and push up the hill. It's an incredible hill, really. I'm not sure what the elevation is, but it feels like it must be over a hundred feet above the water.
The road to the motel was not particularly pleasant, but also didn't feel quite as dangerous as the stuff around Vicksburg. The motel itself was very cheap, and not very nice, and I really just couldn't care any less.
After getting settled in, I took off to get dinner and see the town a bit. Dinner was at the Guest House, a place that has some Southern cuisine and some Mediterranean cuisine. I had a nice lentil soup and Greek pasta salad, and a Manhattan. Then I biked around looking for historical plaques and finding quite a few, including one near the place where a lot of civil rights protesters were arrested and held near the community center in downtown, before being put in Parchman Prison - which Jesse and I had read about in the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. There are lots of very old buildings, including one on Ellicott Hill, where the area was first claimed for the US.
There are a lot of plaques near the wall above the river. And the view itself was pretty amazing. That's today's picture.
Another really notable thing down here is just the flora. It's so very, very tropical now. Lots of moss and even some sort of fern growing all over the limbs of huge old oaks and other trees. Large rubber trees, I think. It would be very interesting to see this place in the winter, to really lean into the difference between here and where I'm from.
After riding around for awhile, I went to the Natchez Brewing Company and had a couple of beers while working on updates. They had no stickers, unfortunately. And then to a place called Rolling River Reloaded, for a pretty good Beyond burger and fries, and then back to the motel.
Tomorrow, the goal is to get about halfway to the Atchafalaya, which is about 60 miles away. Seems eminently doable, even if I spend a few hours in Natchez getting breakfast and whatnot in the morning.