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LMRD No 394: American Bottom

Rivergator Celebratory Expedition, Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mark River Cooking Bacon over Fire before Dawn, Duck Island
(watercolor painting by John Ruskey)

Quick Update: Departing Grand Tower

The Rivergators camped last night at Grand Tower (downstream of the Devil’s Bake Oven at Devil’s Backbone Park) and are preparing an early morning start. There has been on and off rain through the weekend, and headwinds, and weirdly low water (for this time of year). But this morning the wind has shifted out of the North, and now it’s nothing but rivertime, sweet rivertime.

Thank you Colin Wellencamp and Christine Ingrassia!

Special thanks to Colin Wellencamp of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative and St. Louis City Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia for putting together the World Water Day Program under the Great Arch on Wed March 22, 2017.

Story in Riverfront Times:

Story from CBS news St. Louis:

Power Plant above Meramec River Confluence
(watercolor painting by John Ruskey)

Report from Lena Von Machui:

“there was a terrific storm this morning- I could feel it at three when I woke up. The sky was all black and beige with orange flashes on the horizon- at three! We had camped on the sandbar to stay far enough away from the eagles nest and were pretty exposed, So I packed up my stuff then and went to make the fire and coffee and watch it roll in. It sure wound up taking its time. Big white horizontal bolts first, and the air was all electric. The others felt it, too- everyone was packed up and at the fire by six when it began, at last, to rain…

“…We waited for it to be very far away again before we pushed off, and paddled I think around 20 miles in the drizzle- drying out now at the campground [Devil’s Backbone]. Grasshopper is pulled up on the beach and tied up. The creepy rock [Tower Rock] across the river looks impressive. Everyone is well and happy and I am making them wash their stinky boots [neoprene boots we have been wearing].”

Mark River Rivergator Journal: Day 5 - The Elements

The elements of weather that we deal with continuously conduct our travels on the Mississippi River. Today the forecast calls for high winds and gale-like gusts throughout the day. Usually, if the wind was at our face at over 20 miles an hour we don't take a chance on putting clients in harms way out of respect for their loved ones and out of respect for our own. Saying that, I have also made decisions to try to accomplish a destination on the river in adverse elements of weather with certain groups of experienced paddlers, but today with gust up to 40 miles and hour on one of the most beautiful, but difficult sections - it was a no brainer, we decided to stay ashore on Osborne Is. We respect the Mississippi River and all her moods.

The day before was brutal. After getting pounded by a series of storms from 4am and throughout the day, only for the healing sun to come out, only to be punished with a haymaker-like headwinds, we could use a day of self exploration, documentation, writing, and re-evaluating our plan for tomorrow. It also gives us a needed rest for a challenging section of river, with high bountiful, foliated bluffs with striations of limestone. They create uncompromising wind tunnels.

It also gives you time to recharge and give the mind time to process all the incredible beauty of this enchanting river. Pelicans soaring over at high elevations starting their mating dance. Double Breasted Cormorants taking turns diving for fish off the wing-dikes. Families of Bald Eagles fish from the tall sycamores and cottonwoods. Turkeys gobbling in the woods at sunrise. Wood-Ducks pairing up looking for a tall tree to start a family. Startling Herring Gulls following the towboats to pluck the confused fish from its wake. A lone Osprey glides in and out between the channel and the trees. It's all here on the Mississippi River.

It gives you time to reflect on the last five days of the expedition. Riding the Chain of Rocks. I grew up being overwhelmed by its ferociousness, to taking a wave from the left side that felt like a form tackle from a middle linebacker. Celebrating World Water Day with a wonderful group of river lovers and the Mayor of East St. Louis, where I was born. To getting emotional as we past by Jefferson Barracks, where my Mother Iveara is buried, as a beautiful Red Tail Hawk sits atop a tree and takes flight along with us. I have always associated hawks with my Mother. It was her watching over me.

The rains continue to fall throughout the night. I don't sleep very well worried about the chore of packing and getting on the river before the heavy winds, but I eventually dose off by telling myself not to occupy my mind with things I can't control. Even though we have tough elements of weather, it has been a monumental five days. I can only imagine what's around the bend, and I welcome it. Mark River.

Mark River's Thoughts - The American Bottom

Another long day of paddling in rainy asymmetrical unpredictable weather patterns throughout the day. They come and go so quick like western storms. Since St.Louis we have paddled along a floodplain call the American Bottom. It stretches all the way from Cahokia, Ill. to Chester, Ill. , with the Interior Highlands across the channel of the Mississippi River. These ancient cliffs where once part of the Appalachian Mts. 200 million years ago. This floodplain expands approximately 15 miles east. When it gets to the Kaskaska River confluence with the Mississippi River, it switches sides with the bluffs.

It has beautiful islands like Osborne, Calico, and Beaver, as well as producing some of the best farmland, only second to the Nile River floodplains. It also produces world class White-Tailed Deer. Massive Great Blue Heron rookeries in large sycamore trees are everywhere. The biggest population of Bald Eagles and beavers I have ever seen in the Midwest. The islands interior forest are covered with edible wild greens. At night the forest floor lights up with eyes of harmless arachnids [jumping spiders] hunting in the fallen leaves. The estuaries and wetlands are loaded with waterfowl of all kinds. The reptiles and amphibians are waiting for the spring sun to warm the water so they can breed.

These floodplains sustain thousands of species which are essential to mankind. These areas must stay natural and pristine to keep the health of the Mississippi River for generations to come. It's great that farming is good for our economy, but we must use better agriculture principals to curve nutrient pollution. Clean water is critical to the systemic health of our great river. Mark River.

Where can you find more writing and photos from the Rivergator expedition? Go to the blogs of expedition team members:

LaNae Abnet
-- Separate Boats:

Chris Battaglia
-- Village Vitals:

Boyce Upholt
-- Between the Levees:

Rivergator Partners for the St. Louis section
of the Mississippi include:


Seven Ages of Water

7th Annual Blue Mind Summit

Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Just received this morning from Wallace 'J.' Nichols, Founder, Blue Mind Life: Reconnecting People To Water:

Today is the deadline to register to attend or to sponsor our 7th Annual Blue Mind Summit next week in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. We will also share the event via Facebook Live for those who cannot join us.

Our theme this year is the seven ages of water. Bazile Panek, a youth leader from the Red Cliff Band of the Ojibwe will open the day and explain the teachings of their seven fires prophecy. When the world has been befouled and the waters turned bitter by disrespect, human beings will have two options to choose from, materialism or spirituality. If they chose spirituality they will survive but if they chose materialism it will be the end of it.