Life on the Mississippi

The Mississippi River is the most famous river in the United States. You might think the river looks the same everywhere, but the Upper Mississippi (above St Louis) is very different from the Lower Mississippi (below St Louis). What you might ask is the major difference? Well, starting just below St. Anthony Falls in Minneapolis, the lock and dam system begins and continues until you reach St Louis. There are also areas of high bluffs that flank each side, which have been carved away over the centuries, and offer fantastic views, too.

The locks and dams have created a series of pools between each other, with the dams being placed at a shallow spot on the main channel in order to raise the low water level to nine feet or more. Contrary to some rumors, the dams were not built to control floods. Actually, when the water is extremely high, all dam gates must be pulled completely out of the water!

What we now have is one main channel for navigation and a system of backwaters in which you will find some great fishing opportunities. Any time of day you will be able to see barges traveling up and down with their goods, and maybe even catch one in a lock. Since the river can vary in depth, a system has been created to show barge captains and boaters where they should travel. Red floats will always be on the east side of the river, while green floats are on the west. Sometimes, where the main channel is close to shore, a diamond marker will be located on the shore for visual navigation. Stay between these floats unless you are very familiar with the pool you are in.

What makes the river fun is the ability to visit small river towns. Most have a marina where you can dock for a short while, get gas, and explore. There are also many spots available to lay anchor and enjoy the day on a beach or sand bar. Overnight camping is allowed in most places and is a popular past time during holidays.

Whatever you do, be sure to have a great time, whether it be fishing, boating, camping, or exploring. Just remember to enjoy the beautiful landscape nature has given us and be safe at the same time. The river has many hidden dangers so be prepared with life jackets and a first aid kit. On the mighty Mississippi, you might learn just how mighty it really is!

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