At first light I paddled away from my Island camp toward the confluence of the Missouri River. I paddled into the confluence and let the currents spin me around. The power of the water is phenomenal.
Up ahead, a sign signals "Canal, All Boats". Not this boat. I had news from Jeff that the portage was easy at the Chain of Rocks, an underwater low-water dam. The St. Louis gauge was at 17.5ft and the suggested limit for paddling is 18 at the least. I didn't want to push my luck and was happy to get that portage finished and out of the way in the shade early. I made some well deserved oatmeal with protein shake powder in it and set off into the morning. The absence of commercial boats for the 9 mile stretch here was a real joy. Little did I know what I'd be up against shortly.
After the canal joins the river again, I let a downstream tow pass then continue in its frothy wake. Tall cranes, refineries, graineries and metal recycling operations line the shore. Barges are stacked 10-12 wide in some places jutting into the already narrow channel. I've found its easy to tell which boats are operational by the spinning radar unit. The wakes from upstream tows here build on the river and make for dangerous conditions. At one point the waves were taller than my head in the boat. I felt like a cork bobbing in the sea and hoped the oncoming ships could spot the orange canoe. Multiple times, I'd be avoiding a stack of moored barges when a tug would steam up the bank toward me and try to slip between me and the barges. Other times when a major tow was coming down or up, a tug would come out from behind a line or moored barges and put me in the middle of their wake. The last 5 hours were pretty intense paddling. It didnt help thst it was 105F during this heat wave.
Oh yeah, there's a giant arch here chock full of sweating tourists.