Mississippi River

Random comments about the Mississippi.

There is barge traffic between Minneapolis and Venice. Above St. Louis the tows are generally no bigger than three barges wide and five long as most locks are 110’ x 600 and individual barges about 35’ x 200’ and you can get though in two passes with the aid of a tug. The tows move very slowly, about 5 mph upstream and 10 mph downstream.

Below St. Louis the tow size gets bigger and can be as large as 6 wide and 7 long. The tows were never a problem for me. They don’t generate much of a wake. You can get an interesting ride by cutting behind the tows that you meet. In relatively shallow water when they are pushing loads the big tow boats can create a series of big rollers behind them that can be 6 - 8’ tall.

After Baton Rouge the tows get smaller and sometimes faster with towboats pushing only a few petroleum barges at what seem to me to be a faster pace.

Tows can be a pain going through locks. It can take them a couple of hours to get through. The locks operate at the convience of the tows. The lockmen and tow captains all seem to know each other. They will delay you for hours to keep from inconviencing a tow.

The tows are very predictable. They usually stick to the channel. Exception are when they pull over to meet another tow.

Contrary to what I had read/heard, the tows are very quiet. The bowwake makes about as much noise as the exhaust approaching because the exhaust faces to the rear. You can see the tows coming a long way off because the pilothouse is four or five stories above water level and usually painted white.

At first I had trouble figuring out if I was in there path or not. On an approaching tow all you see is a line of barges with a pilothouse sticking up behind. I finally figured out that if the pilothouse was centered on the line the tow is heading directly for me. If the pilothouse is on my end of the string the barges are headed away from me and if the pilothouse is on the fare end of the string his path will cross mine.

Tows going the same direction (downstream) as me were a bigger problem. I couldn’t hear them very well. On one occassion I nearly wet myself when I suddenly heard whitewater. Turned out to be the bow wake of a tow going my way that had snuck up on me. I was out of the channel and out of danger but it scared me a little any. I usually tried to stop and turn the boat around about once a half hour to check for tows behind me.

Growing Up On the Mississippi…
…in Cape Girardeau I often fantasized what it would be like to follow it downstream. Occasionally would meet people at our fishing spot making the trip. Back then, '60’s-70’s, it seemed it was always teachers doing the trip. Never had the time, maybe one day. Great grandmother spent 3 decades on the river and told me many a story. I envy your journey and can’t wait to read the full report. Have you read Eddie Smith’s book on his Mississippi journey? WW

have you seen joe on the miss??

Joe forrester i think is just ahead of you on the river.

he should be in new orleans in just over a week.

hope your trip is good.