Welcome to civilization again, if only for a short while. After barreling through “the stretch of nothing” we made it to a town to resupply, refuel and rehearse the BarrelRaftBoy story in Cape Girardeau, MO. Heading out from Hoppies fueling station, south of St. Louis, we travelled 100 miles of natural river through wilderness and, for the most part, only barges. On a single tank of gas, the 7 gallon, we putted, floated and stretched this fuel out for 75 miles increasing only our miles per gallon. Averaging 4 mph since leaving the last lock and dam on the Mississippi, we’ve been able to crush a 50-mile day and the rest 40’s as compared to 20/25 daily average through the Upper Mississippi.
The river between St. Louis and Cape Girdardeau is full of commercial business with mining, quarries, fishing, barge transportation as well as a plethora of birds and pristine white sand beaches. Many wing-dams line the now single channel river; these rock walls jet out of the water every couple hundred yards. We’ve enjoyed the sand bar refuges that are created from their backwaters. The sand has become finer, softer, whiter and retains less heat than we’ve experience previously. Although the fishing lines haven’t been in the water as much, fishing conditions are improving; behind the wind-dams tend to support pockets of feeding fish.
Barges are getting coming at us in larger configurations, tugboats are supporting 20, 24, 25 barges at a time. The larger the vessel, the more water displacement causing wakes up to four feet and thirty minute long swells. Look how choppy the water is after this barge passes. Today, we decided to hunker behind a winddam to avoid two very large barges.
Great blue heron line the river, feeding along the rocky banks. They let us get within a hundred yards, but then fly back to their trees when we creep by.
Sunsets and sunrises continue to impress us each morning and night. Our schedule follows the sun, so we are pushing off from the sandbars around 6:00am each morning and anchor down come 8:00pm. We never raft at night, and will continue not to. Barge traffic seems to increase overnight, I know this because I woke up in the middle of the night wet from their wake and struggled to push the 4,000 pounds raft off the sand after the barge washed a pontoon ashore.
Posting here in Cape Girardeau while Rob grabs groceries, on-lookers have been admiring us all day. Sharing the story never seems to get old because people respond so positively with compliments about the integrity of the raft, how far we made it “you started in Minnesota?!” and “the size of that dog.” Interesting how some overlook the wooden raft on plastic barrels and only ask questions about the dog.
Jean, Betty and Grace provided the boys with a great gift today, taking us to the gas station to refuel. Thank you guys tremendously for the ride, hospitality and saving our arms.
Cairo, IL at the Ohio River confluence await us 53 miles down river, where we hope to find even more river current speed and the Lower Mississippi!
Water clarity: about 6 inches
Skullys listening skills: Improving…slightly
Confederate flags seen so far: 3
Amount of gratitude for our supporters: TONS