Embrace America's Rivers

Lower Missouri River...

Missouri River - Mouth to Hermann, MO

I wanted to explore some new water but since I was just planning an overnighter I really didn't want to drive hours to get to a drop-in site.  By now my wake has parted most of the nearby rivers so I really had only one choice, the Missouri River.

Some might wonder why I had not ventured on to the Missouri by now.  It is just a little more than hour away and I have certainly driven much farther to explore lesser rivers.  In fact, the thought of navigating the 734 miles of water between St. Louis, MO and Sioux City, IA was one of the main reasons I decided to build Therapy and the lower Missouri River chart was the first chart I purchased. But I have to admit that I had become somewhat apprehensive.  I had studied the chart and read as much as I could find about the Missouri as well as talked to a few people that had some experience navigating it.  Here are a few of the "facts" that I found: 
    * The Missouri is one of the fastest navigable rivers of length in the world flowing at speeds between 2 ½ to 7 mph. It's elevation drops about one foot in each mile and there are no locks.
    * Rather than frequent dredging the Corps of Engineers holds the 300 foot-wide channel by installing wing like dikes built of large chunks of jagged limestone.  These become submerged when the river levels rise.
    * The dikes are very numerous, for example there are thirty-five in the first four miles.
    * A popular cruising guide used to state the Missouri is "very hazardous to all boaters!"
    * Channels are not well marked  - buoys are few and far between.
    * The only fuel on the lower Missouri is seasonably available at the 82 mile marker.  The next fuel on the river is 370 miles upstream from there.

Putting these all together did make me a little nervous so I guess I had been delaying my first Missouri River voyage.  But now the urge is strong which tends to dampen the apprehension (and sometimes good judgment!).  I decided it was time to take on the Missouri.

There are some negatives but also some positives so it is only fair that I list them too:
    * The fact that there is no locks (almost) certainly eliminated the chance of long delays
    * Mile markers are very frequent, usually at least one per mile .
    * The water level was down so the dikes would be fairly visible.    
    * The Missouri carries very little barge traffic.
    * Overnight anchorages out of the current are numerous behind the many dikes.

As usual, the first order of business was to pull out the chart and a calculator to address the fuel problem. Since I had not yet been on the Missouri I wanted to start at the mouth where dumps into the Mississippi.  The problem is that the confluence is between the Mississippi Lock 26 and Lock 27.  Since there are no public ramps in this area I will have to pass through one of these locks. I had originally planned to drop in at Alton and then use Lock 26 (Melvin Price) but then I learned about another ramp at Riverview MO that would be a little closer drive.  The gentleman that does my prop repair (I see him frequently!) told me there was a nice concrete ramp with a parking lot that was regularly patrolled by the police.  He stated he uses it often to access an island on the Mississippi where he hunts.

Using this ramp will require me to use Lock 27 (Chain of Rocks) and then run about 14 miles to the Missouri.  Altogether it would amount about 23 miles on the Mississippi before I hit the confluence. In addition I calculated that because of the limited daylight the farthest I could probably make in one day was to Jefferson City (capital of MO) at the 144 mile marker for a total of 167 miles. In order to make Jefferson City I would need about 40 gallons of gas.  My tanks hold 25 and I was willing to take along 6 more in my portable tank but that would still leave me short. A cruising guide stated that there should be fuel available April through November at the 82 MM so if I could fill up there the trip was possible.  I decided to call ahead but in my numerous attempts the phone went unanswered. I decided to scale back my plans and shoot for Hermann MO at the 98 MM.  This would require about 29 gallons so with my portable it was within range. My guess was going upstream would reduce my actual speed to about 20 mph so time wise I would need about 6 hours for the mileage, another hour for the lock (Lock 27 is very good about using their auxiliary lock and getting pleasurecraft  through with minimal delay) and another hour for lunch and misc.  I would have 10 to 11 hours of daylight so it looked like I had a plan.

There was one problem with an otherwise perfect weather forecast, fog.  On Friday morning it was reported heavy around the Mississippi and they were predicting that Saturday morning would be more of the same.  I decided to conserve all the daylight I could so I left home early enough to reach the ramp just before sunrise.
When I got to the ramp the fog was patchy but not bad.  I backed down the long narrow incline and noticed that the last 8 to 10 feet before the water was covered with mud left when the water had receded.  This didn't thrill me but I was there and anxious to go so I decided to back on in.  I slid Therapy off the trailer with a rope attached to the bow and pulled her up beside of the trailer.  I then proceeded to TRY to pull the trailer out.  The combination of the muddy ramp and a pickup truck with no weight in the rear end allowed the wheels to just spin.  Fortunately, by rocking it back and forth I managed to drag it clear and head to the parking lot. But here I am again.  I have a problem!  If I could barely pull out the empty trailer there was no way that I was going to be able to get the boat and trailer out!  I decided at this point it was too late to worry about it.  I knew I would have to deal with the situation at some point but I might as well make the run and decide what to do on the way back.  I walked down the ramp, crawled over the bow and into the cabin.  I fired up the Honda, backed up a little and current swung the bow around as I started to ease her forward.  I was trimmed very high but suddenly felt the lower unit drag.  I trimmed as high as I could and still feed the outboard water but went nowhere.  I could tell by the feel I was on sand.  I shut it down, trimmed all the way up and pulled my trusty paddle out (the first time I had ever used it) and tried to push Therapy off.  I made a little headway but then hung again.  I messed with it for about 5 minutes before I finally decided it was hopeless I was sitting firmly on the bottom.

At this point there was only one choice and it involved getting wet.  When boating I usually wear cargo pants with zip off legs.  These are handy as they go from pants to shorts with ease.  Off with the shoes, socks and pants legs and over the side I go.  Its 52 degrees outside and the water temperature is identical so it is really not to bad, as long as it stays below the knees.  With my weight removed Therapy is now buoyant enough to float so I walk it about 100 feet to where it is deep enough for the Honda to drink properly.

Finally I am on the water.  As I make my way the 7 miles to the lock I find the fog patchy but acceptable.  The biggest problem is that the windshield keeps getting covered with mist and I have to reach around ad wipe it off now and then. As I get closer to the lock the fog suddenly thickens.  I pass along side two barges sitting dead in the water.  I too decide to slow it down.  I pass the front of the second barge and know the lock is up there somewhere but I sure can't see it.  I drop off plane and ease my way forward.  Slowly it appears from the mist.  I call the lockmaster and he tells me I can enter the small chamber as soon he opens the miter gate.  As I enter I hear him talking to the tow captains.  They want to enter the main chamber but can't see the front of their barges much less the lock so they are sitting and waiting for the fog to lift.

I lock on through and head down the canal towards the Missouri.  Visibility is fairly good at first and then goes completely sour.  In fact, it suddenly get so thick I loose sight of both shorelines of the narrow canal.  I jerk back the throttle and ease my way to the starboard watching my dept sounder (I did take time to set the bottom alarm this time).  I find that I have to get within 15 ft of the riprap-covered shore before I can see it and then I can only see it out the side window.  Out the windshield I can see nothing but gray.  This is the thickest fog I have ever experienced.  I continue on very slowly. My only positive thought was that any tows would be sitting still so at least I won't get run over.

The fog thins just a little and I suddenly I see movement of some kind out the windshield.  I cut hard to the port away from the shore.  As I pass by I find two young men in about a 16' aluminum jonboat rowing towards the lock.  They have two mountain bicycles mounted on a rank on the transom and a small makeshift mast and sail standing in the front.  I note some angled plywood backrests fabricated on the two flat seats.  I wave as I go by. It really wasn't extremely close but certainly close enough to get my heart pounding.  After I calmed down I wished I had stopped and asked about their journey.  Obviously they were making some type of a run but I am curious as to the details.  I really didn't see a lot of gear and it is mid November.  In 3 or 4 days the temperatures could easily be below freezing at night.  But there is no way I am turning around and going back in this fog just to satisfy my curiosity.

Fortunately, as I reach the mouth of the Missouri things have much improved and I have no problems entering.  As advertised I find the current strong and rock dikes everywhere.  I have the chart out and am following closely as all the dikes are indicated.  Also, it shows the suggested sailing line so I can tell where I should be relative to the shorelines.  A few times the fog rolls in again and I have to drop off plane for a while.  The dikes make me nervous when I can't see both shores. But I take it easy and concentrate on keeping up with the chart.

I continue upstream and things are getting better.  I slow now and then to snap a picture or two of interesting structures.  Also, deer season is open this weekend and there are quite a few hunters camping on sandbars along the way (photo at right.)  I see a few jonboats but they are all pulled up along the shore.  The water is smooth as there isn't a breath of wind blowing.  The Honda hums away and by the difference between the speedometer and the GPS I figure the current is about 3 or maybe 4 mph. The Missouri bends back and forth as it snakes its way across the rural countryside. At mile marker 27 I approach the first town, St. Charles, MO.  I have been there many times but this is my first view from this vantage point. Frontier Park is located along the waterfront but unfortunately there is no easy access from the river.  Also, a little farther downstream is the Ameristar Casino one of the two riverboat gambling establishments in the area.

Leaving St. Charles I pass under the Interstate 70 (Blanchet Bridge) and at about mile marker 31 I pass the Harrahs St. Louis Casino on the port side.  As the miles flowed by the fog completely dissipated as the sun burned through.  The wind stayed calm and although the water was smooth I couldn't call it glass smooth.  The current was always apparent as the water swirled and formed small whirlpools almost everywhere I looked.  The Mississippi does this in places but not nearly as pronounced as the Missouri.  In fact every once in a while I would hit a pothole!  Suddenly the boat would just bounce up and down a little and I would hear a dull thud.  The first time I experienced it I thought I had hit something submerged but I just didn't feel or sound right.  After a few more times I realized it was just the turbulence in the swirling water that was thumping the hull.  I had never run into this before.

Around the 46 MM I noticed people walking and bicycling along the river even though it was a completely rural location.  I looked closer at the chart and realized that they were on the Katy Trail.  Although I have never had the pleasure to investigate the trail, I do know a little about it.  It is touted as America?s the longest Rails-to-Trails project as it is situated on a former railroad bed that was abandon in 1986 by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad (better known as the Katy). It spans 200 miles from East of St. Charles, MO to west of Sedalia, MO.   For about 150 miles of its length it follows nearby the Missouri Rivers northern shore before crossing at Boonville and heading a little more south.  Because it is a converted railroad bed it is fairly flat which makes hiking and bicycling pleasant as it passes through some of Missouri's most scenic bottomlands, by limestone bluffs and through numerous small towns. Today is an absolutely marvelous day and many people seem to be taking advantage of the trail.

I continue my westward journey and at mile marker 68 come to Washington, MO (photo at right). Unlike many so-called river towns Washington is situated right on the riverbank.  There is an excellent boat ramp and parking lot and behind that are well kept century old buildings housing various businesses. There is a small boat dock at the ramp but a sign is posted offering only 15 minute mooring for loading and unloading. By now it was around noon and I have been watching my fuel fairly close. I would really like to find someone that might have information about gas availability farther upstream. There is a narrow channel formed by a small barrier island/dike with several docks on the shore.  I idle down it a ways to take a look and perhaps find another boater. With no luck I turn around and head back but as I do notice a car moving very slowly on the street parallel to the river.  It isn't far away and I can tell the driver is interested and taking a good look at Therapy.  As I continue on he slowly shadows my movement.  By now I am sure this is a hardcore boater.  Only people like us show this much curiosity in a transient watercraft.  I swing the bow towards the dock and sure enough he pulls up in the parking lot and walks down.

Pat Bowen introduces himself and it only takes a minute to tell he suffers the same addiction to boating. We spend so time talking about Therapy (the design is so foreign to the Midwest it always seems to attract attention.) and our boating experiences.  I am delighted when he tells me he has traveled the entire length of the un-dammed Missouri River from Yankton, SD to the Mississippi.  He explained that it was done in sections over a three year period mostly in a 16? aluminum jonboat with a 40 hp outboard. I envied him as this is on my list of ?boating things to do.?  In fact, my trip this weekend is the first step in completing the same journey. I asked him about fuel availability upstream and he told me it was questionable. There is small floating marina 14 miles ahead at New Haven but it may be closed for the season.  He mentioned that the owner was quite and interesting character and had even received some notoriety by being mentioned in William Least Heat-Moon's book River-Horse. The book was the driving force and my spiritual guide as I built Therapy.  The manuscript documents Heat-Moon?s 1995 transcontinental boat trip across the center of the United States using rivers, lakes and canals. It started on the east coast at New York Harbor and ended at the Pacific near Astoria, Oregon.  He covered 5,288 miles across MidAmerican in a 22? C-Dory.  A few portages were necessary but the distance was kept to about 75 miles total. If you like boating, particularly river boating this book is a must read.

At this point I had fairly well decided that Jefferson City was beyond my grasp.  Not only was fuel going to be a problem but also I still had the situation back at the ramp to deal with.  I decided that coming in late Sunday evening would be a mistake. The alternative was to make my way to Hermann at the 98 mile marker.  Pat offered to take me in his car up about 7 or 8 blocks to a gas station where I could fill my portable tank.  Although the calculator estimated I should have plenty of fuel on board I decided to take him up on the offer.  The old adage "Better safe than sorry" is quite valid when concerning river travel and I have previously mentioned my aversion to running out of fuel. With the full portable onboard I thank Pat for his hospitality and ease away from the dock.  One thing I can seem to count on with these trips is finding fellow boaters that are always willing to help. Thanks again Pat.

I once more point the bow upstream and ease on the throttle.  I make my way towards New Haven staying ever so aware of the dikes while following along with the chart. The 14 miles pass quickly and as I approach New Haven and see the small building atop the floating barge tied off to the shore.  Two fuel tanks are situated on the backside and a sign announces that gas is available but as I approach I find no activity.  Indeed it appears it is closed.  No big deal since Hermann is now my destination.  I continue on. A little farther upstream I notice an unusual disturbance in the water in the middle of the channel.  I am not sure what it is but obviously by the serious ripples on the surface there is something there.  I steer clear and as I pass by I catch a quick glimpse of a ring about 3' in diameter occasionally breaking the surface.  I know what it is and the thought sends shivers down my back.  It is an almost totally submerged channel marker! On the river there are a lot of things that a boater can hit.  On this trip the rock dikes come first to mind but still they are charted and fairly visible. There are always floating debris to watch for and even more stressful logs that are partly water logged and float hidden just below the surface. But these are wood and free to "give" as they are hit. They can cause damage but usually thump hard and cause only harm to your nerves. But channel markers are large steel tanks usually a foot or more in diameter and 5? tall.  They are firmly anchored to a huge chunk of concrete to hold their position against the current.   They are designed to withstand the occasional hit by a barge.  I dread to think what would happen if Therapy tangled with one of these but it is safe to say that the buoy wouldn't be breached.  One the other hand it again has me thinking about how thin 3/8? plywood really is!  I punch the GPS to create a waypoint and mark the location.  On the return trip tomorrow I want to know exactly where this "mine" is located.

I approach Hermann and find it to be another old German town built right on the river bank separated only by the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.  There is another good ramp here but not quite as nice as Washington.  I note a small dock on the east side but it is mostly sitting on silt with only about 3' projecting into the water.  I idle around to the west side and find a small area of what appears might be a sand/mud combination (no rocks) and decide to nose Therapy up on to the shore for a look.  I have plenty of water at the transom but when I walk around to the bow I find the landing is mostly mud and will not support my weight without sinking to my shoe tops. I pull away and head back to the small dock.  I really didn't want to tie up there as I wanted to spend sometime walking around town and I would be blocking the only decent boat access to shore.  Even though I had seen only one other boat on the river all day I really hated to be in the way if someone else did decide to use the dock. After weighing the situation I decided that there was one way that might work.  On all my boats I carry a device called the "Anchor Buddy" bought from Overtons for about $26.  It consist of 50' of 3/8 polypropylene rope with a 12' piece of heavy surgical tubing inside.  It forms a bungee type cord that will stretch from about 15' to 50'.  The idea is to attach one end to the stern and the other to the anchor.  Proceed to about 30' off the shore, drop the anchor and then continue on to the bank or dock stretching out the line.  Secure the bow line holding the boat in place until everything is off loaded and then pay out the line and allow the boat to be pulled back towards the anchor.  Once a comfortable distance from shore tie off the bow line and the boat will now stay in place out of harms way.

This works very well on my boats (all under 20').  I use it often when pulled up to sand bars or rocky shorelines as it saves a lot of wear on the bottom of the hull.  If large wake from passing boats is a problem I will even use it at a dock to back it away and keep Therapy from getting beat up. Again, I said it works well but with Therapy two people are really required as one is needed to power up to the shore while the other hops off to hold the bow line.  Being by myself complicates things.  I will need to drop the anchor and then build some forward momentum, cut the throttle, climb around the cabin and berth with rope in hand and step off on to the dock and catch Therapy.  No problem, right?  Well to complicate things just a little more there was enough current that was causing Therapy to be pushed to the port during the process. I had to try to time the forward movement and correct for the drift in order to have the boat end up at he dock as I walked around.

The first time I was low on speed and didn't make it to the dock.  I added a little more power with my next attempt and everything looked good.  I scampered out and around.  On Therapy walking around the cabin is no problem as I have handrails on the top.  But when I move past the berth it is a bit more precarious as I have no hand holds.  This has not been a problem before as I usually just lean in with a hand on top the berth and walk on to the bow. But now I am in a hurry.  The dock is quickly approaching and I realize I have over shot. Therapy's bow is going to drift sideways and hit the side of the dock.  The dock has nice bumpers installed so it really shouldn't hurt the hull but I would rather catch it.  I stand up straight and quickly move past the berth trying to keep my balance.  But I'm too late.  Therapy's bow smacks the dock and her sideways movement comes to an abrupt stop. This wasn't to bad except my sideways movement continued!  MAN OVERBOARD!!  It all seemed to happen in slow motion. I knew I was going in so reached out and grabbed the dock with one hand and the bow cleat with the other.  All I needed was the bungee line to pull the boat out where I would have to swim to get it.  Fortunately, the water was only about waist deep so I stood there and secured Therapy to the dock before dragging my soggy butt out of the water. The water was about 52 degrees but really don't even remember thinking about the cold. I climbed out and looked around to see if anyone had witnessed this fiasco.  I can see the headlines "Hot Shot River Boater Manages To Fall Overboard" film at 11...    I didn't see anyone nor could I hear any laughter so maybe my embarrassment could be contained to my own thoughts.  Pretty humbling though. I made my way back around the cabin leaving a trail of water and mud.  I changed into some dry clothes and chuckled to myself at what a sight this must have been.  I then realized the one extra item I did not bring was a spare pair of shoes.  I had on a heavy pair of white cloth/leather walking shoes and water and mud oozed out with each step.  I tried to rinse them off in the river but they were still a dingy dark gray color. Oh well, I grabbed my camera and made my way up the ramp with my shoes sloshing with each step.

It was now about 3 PM and I decided to stroll around town.  I have been at the helm most of the day (sans my short swim) so stretching my legs would feel good. Hermann is a popular attraction (photo at left) as it is home to two wineries, restaurants, over 40 bed and breakfasts, antique and craft shops, hotels and a museums all housed in 100+ year old building all of which are in excellent condition. Although it is mid November the streets are busy with visitors hitting the shops and enjoying the day. I also noticed that there was a gas station just a block from the ramp so fuel could be carried dockside if necessary. I wondered around town for a while and then decided to grab a bite to eat.  It was still early but I thought I would get a hot meal and then head back to Therapy.  The Riverview ramp situation was still in the back of my mind and I still had time to start back and get a few return miles behind me.  I had no idea if there would be a fog problem in the morning and as I said before I didn't want to get back too late. Also, I thought it would be a little quieter away from the town's activity. Departing the dock was pleasantly uneventful. I guessed I had about 30 minutes before sunset so I decide to see how for I could get downstream before dark. The current was now working with me and I was making good time.  As the sky darkened I found myself near New Haven and the vacant marina.  I went a little farther downstream and idled to the opposite shore were I pulled in behind one of the dikes to escape the current.  Here I found the deepest water I had yet encountered on the Missouri, 26'.  Most of the channel was about 13' but it places it was as deep as 18' and as shallow as 7' in others.

I allowed Therapy to drift out into a little shallower water and at 15' I dropped on anchor off the bow and as it weathervaned into the swirling current I dropped another one off the stern.  When anchoring for the night close to a rock covered shore I always sleep better with two anchors holding Therapy at a safe distance. Although it is completely dark now it is only 5:30 pm and I settle in for a long night in Therapy's berth.  I had brought along todays newspaper and a good book so I planned to spend a quite evening reading.  And then a blast broke the silence of the night. On my trip upstream I noticed the Katy Trail on the north shore and also an active set of railroad tracks on the south shore.  I really hadn't given it much thought although I had seen a train or two in route. But now an engineer was sounding the alarm as he approached New Haven and the locomotives horn roared.  In the windless night it echoed across the water and sounded as it were but a few yards away.  I settled back into my book and a little while later it happened again.  I didn't think much about it until the third train rolled by in a short period of time again laying on the air horn to clear the way.  I then started to time the intervals and found a train was passing through New Haven almost every 15 minutes.  In the next four hours the lowest count was three per hour (there were two tracks and the traffic seemed to be alternating in direction).  Hard to believe that I had come out to what I thought was a fairly isolated spot to spend the night only to find my self in Grand Central Station

While listen to the rumbling of the rails I started to ponder the problem I had to face back at the ramp.  The more I thought about it the more convinced I was that I would not be able to drag Therapy from the quagmire. I started weighing my options. I thought about just trying to make a run for home leaving the truck and trailer there.  Once there I could tie Therapy at the dock and have my wife pick me up. From there we could make the drive to get the truck and then back to retrieve the boat.  The problem is this would add more than 80 river miles to the trip and an additional fuel stop. I estimated it would require about 4 hours and I wasn't sure I could make it in before dark. It would be very close. The other option was to call my wife and have her drive to the ramp and pick up the truck and then continue on to Alton Marina and pull me out there.  This would work but I knew she was committed until at least 4:30 pm so it would probably be 6:00 at the earliest before she could arrive. Still, this seemed like the best choice.  I gave her a call on the cell phone and explained my situation.  She agreed that this made the most sense and I tried to give her directions to where the truck was parked.  Not easy as she has never been in that part of St. Louis before but I was confident she could find it. Now at least I could sleep a little easier.  I nodded off about 11:00 and although I am sure the trains continued to roll by I don't remember hearing a single one.

When I woke the sun was already rising and I looked out the portlight to see if because of the fog I should just roll over and go back to sleep.  To my surprise I found it to be overcast but only a little haze to hamper my view.  I quickly dressed crawled out of the berth. The outside of windows surrounding the cabin were dripping from the morning dew but because I had dropped the aft curtain enclosing the cabin everything inside was dry.  I went outside where I found it to be about 50 degrees and hauled in the anchors.  The Honda fired as usual on the first hit and I idled away dropping the throttle when I was sure I was clear of the dikes. As I made my way downstream I decided to handle the Missouri a little different than yesterday.  After spending most of the day navigating its ever-wandering channel with one eye glued to the chart, I thought I had developed a feel for how the river works.  There is a method to the layout of the dikes and in combination with the daymarkers and a little experience the river becomes easier to interpret. Today I made the decision to forget the chart and just read the river.  This way I can keep my eyes on the water  which should make the return trip safer and more enjoyable. Photo at left is one of the many wing dikes on the Missouri.

Heading east and watching the shoreline pass by it comes to mind that unlike many rivers the Missouri has very little industry on its shores.  I have passed one power plant and a couple of water plants but that has been about it.  I will say there has been some extraordinary homes built in various places on the hills and bluffs along its shores. With the help of the current the miles pass quickly and by about 11:30 I find my self at the Missouri's end.  Thinking about the ramp situation I decide to lock back through 27 and see if by chance I can drag Therapy out.  Again I am allowed to enter the lock with minimum delay and after about 30 minutes am on my way. I approach the ramp area cautiously as I know it is shallow.  When I feel things starting to drag I shut down and kick of my shoes and enter the water much more gracefully than at Hermann.  It appears I am a little farther from shore than before but don't give it much thought as I start to walk Therapy in.  Suddenly it drags hard and I can't move it forward.  Funny, as this is exactly were I floated her out the morning before.

Now sitting solid enough that the current wouldn't move her so I decided to take a stroll and try to determine the situation.  As I walked in the ankle deep water I looked closer at the shoreline I suddenly understood.  Overnight the Mississippis water level had dropped about 6 to 8 inches and where Therapy was a boat yesterday, today she is an anchor. I scouted the entire area and finally found a narrow channel upstream and near the shore that was a little deeper.  I broke her free and made our way to the end of the mud-covered ramp.  I walked up and got the truck but had fairly well decided it was going to be a wasted effort.  My first attempt allowed me to gain about 4 feet but then the tires broke loose and that was it. My only other thought was to create some artificial traction.  The Mississippi is blessed or cursed depending on your point of view with many large sand bars and there was one beside the ramp.  I had a small bucket in the back of the truck and proceeded to haul sand over and cover the mud slick surface of the ramp.  It took three more tries and lots of sand but I finally was able to break the grip of the river and pull Therapy to dry ground.  I was pleased and I knew my wife would be pleased not having to make the hour and a half drive to Alton. I strapped Therapy down on the trailer and headed for home.

Checking the instruments and the GPS I found that I had covered 227 miles and lightened the load by 26 gallon of gas (8.7 mpg).  I also had put my apprehensions about the Missouri River to rest. Navigating it was a little more demanding than some rivers but still and enjoyable trip as long as you are willing to pay attention. Even though my string of having an initial problem is still unbroken I am becoming more comfortable with it. I seem to be slowly coming to the obvious conclusion that the river has its own way of doing things.  It often will present problems but also offer solutions.  It gave me with a mud-covered ramp but also sand to make it useable.  It had many dangerous rock dikes but they also provide excellent anchorage protected from the current.  When I was wondering about the river ahead it sent me probably the only guy for miles that has seen it to its end. So I have come to the conclusion that as long as there is fuel in the tank and no holes in the hull there is no reason to get upset.  Here the old saying, "Just go with the flow" is not a cliché but in fact the very essence of river travel.