Day 69: Passing barges
Alton Marina to north St. Louis
I left the Alton marina after I packed everything up. I got rid of the heavy rope I was carrying to lighten the load on my boat. I had clean laundry and was ready to go to St. Louis. I talked to my friend, Damon, about making the trip out to see me. He had some family issues to deal with and would not be able to make it. I was bummed about it, but we will catch up soon. As soon as I left the marina, I called into the lock to get through #26. This lock allowed tourist to come out and see the process of the lock system. There were a few families up there. I told them where I was going and one lady responded I was an inspiration for her. I smiled at that and moved into the chamber. Once out of the lock, I encountered a few barges and tugs. The river was a little tighter and they were getting close, but I managed to get around them.
I passed a lot of dry docks. These are docks where companies bring their ships or barges for repairs. It is like a garage on the river. I managed to talk with a few workers at this one dock. They told me a little bit about what they do. They offered me some tips and directed me towards the channel to St. Louis. There was two options for a kayak. One was to the to the right. This was to the Chain of Rocks. The Chain of Rocks is an area that is unnavigable in low water due to an anticlinal exposure of bedrock in the river—a “chain of rocks”. I was told that the water level was low and not advised to take that route. I am glad I talked with them because I was planning on going that way for the adventure. It may not have turned out well. The other route, to the left, led to a long canal that bypassed them. I got into that and began to work my way down. There were a lot of barges lined up to go through lock #27 (the final lock). I just kept paddling past them. I passed 8 barges getting down to the lock. I called ahead and asked to lock through with a small tug boat. The lock master and the tug said they would wait for me to get in. Otherwise it would be a long wait. I saw them enter the chamber and I was about 20 minutes out. The rain began to fall, but I was paddling full speed to get in with them. The rain began to pour down, but I just dropped my head and charged forward. It was only water.
I made it in and thanked to lock master and the tug for waiting for me to get in. We cleared the lock and I was in St. Louis. Well, I was pretty close. I was in north St. Louis. I had to clear the channel to where the Missouri river joined into this party. I made it to where the two rivers met. It was a little rough, but I was good to go. I saw this fishing boat. I pulled up to it and asked about areas to camp for the night. I was looking to capture the Arch in the morning. The guide, Ryan from Showmecatfishing.com, suggested I paddle back upstream. He strongly suggested I not even think about camping near the shoreline on either side of the river. The homeless would rob me in my sleep. I had heard this and was aware of it. I had already gone down too far into the city. I thanked him and turned around to paddle back upstream. I hugged the shoreline, but it was still challenging.
I passed this construction site on the way down. I was eying some of their barges as a possible camping spot. I was not up for crossing the channel, going upstream to find an ok area. I spotted this rock barge that I could land on. It was 5:30 on a Friday night. The crews had left the site for the night. I pulled up and tied my boat to the front of the barge. I knew this was not allowed, but I figured I would risk it. I figured that the homeless would not bother me out there. I saw some barges making their way upstream to the lock. I just chilled there as they passed. I didn’t know if anyone would call me in or not. I figured that they were more concerned about moving their cargo into the correct position to get into the lock chambers. The sun was setting and the clouds were moving in. I was watching trains cross over the first bridge into St. Louis. I pulled out my sleeping pad and tarp. I needed to keep it light, quick and easy to break down if I was to be bothered. I figured I had the potential to be arrested, yelled at or rolled of the barge throughout the night. I positioned myself to hear and see if anyone was coming in the night. I slept well, but alertly.
As the sun fell, I retied my boat up. I didn’t want it going anywhere while I was sleeping. The barge was rolling with the waves from the barges. It was a ‘rock and roll’ type of bed. It was also another first for camping locations. I wrapped myself up in my sleeping bag liner and my tarp. I was comfortable and asleep by 9:00pm.