We’ve been rollin’ down the Rivers (Illinois and a tiny bit of the big Miss) for a little over a week. After Joliet, we Stopped in a marina in Ottawa IL for 2 nites and found the sculpture memorial for the “Radium Girls–America’s Shining Women” (an interesting read about early corporate America’s greed and disregard for its employees) and the Tangled Roots Brew Pub.
Next stop at the “Wall “in Henry IL also included a history lesson. The wall is part of the first lock and dam on the Illinois River. Commissioned in 1870, it’s no longer functioning in that capacity, but was a great overnight stay with new owners that are very helpful and personable. Rafts of pelicans and a flock of Pekin ducks entertained us and Zeke at dusk and early morning.
After the next night’s anchor out behind Lower Henry Island, we went on to Peoria where we tied up for a night at a free downtown city dock w/ electric service. Good food ((Blue Duck Barbecue) and craft beer (Rhodells) and live outdoor music in the evening near the dock to boot! Peoria was a very dog-friendly town…. it was a cool blustery day and Rhodells even invited us to sit inside their establishment w/ Zeke!
Later, after studying maps and taking into account the extremely low water levels in the Illinois River, we realized we’d have no more marina options available until we reached the Mississippi and that we’d be anchoring out 3-4 nights to get there. Anchoring out entails finding a safe (out-of-the-navigation-channel) location to drop anchor and spend the night w/o electric, restroom, shower, fuel, pumpout, wifi, etc services. So…. We backtracked 6 miles to the Illinois Valley Yacht Club (IVY) to get a pump out and replenish our drinking water supply, and get a shower. It was a great overnight stop and as the Club has a dining room and full bar, I enjoyed a good brandy old-fashioned (first in many months) on the precise day Tony Evers designated as “Wisconsin Brandy OF Day”!
After leaving IVY, we had fine anchorages at Quiver Island and Valley City (basically just a wide spot in the river behind a RR bridge w/ 4 other boats). The third night we were able to tie up at Mel’s Dockside Restaurant w/ two other Looper boats (no services for an overnight stay) but an easy on/off the boat to get Zeke to shore for duty and play. (Anchoring out involves 2-3 dinghy rides to shore for Zeke and lots of gray, fine mud/silt accumulating on our boat deck, dinghy and shoes). Often Zeke is instructed to swim back to the boat to clean him off a bit! Another bonus to staying at Mel’s was the extraordinary catfish fillets and fritters we enjoyed!
The lower Illinois River was surprisingly scenic with fewer barges, limestone cliff backdrops and several interesting older man-made structures that have become part of the landscape.
Tonight I’m writing this from the Alton Marina on the Mississippi where we’ve been since Sunday afternoon and will be until Friday morning. We’re staying a few extra days to catch up on some boat maintenance and avoid being caught up in an onslaught of Looper boats (20+) traveling downriver with no marina and few anchorage options for the next 3-5 days due to dredging operations and lower water levels. Because of Covid and the lock closures on the Illinois River last year, the number of”Loopers” is probably twice or more what it’s been in previous years. We enjoy the company of traveling with a few boats, but not an armada! (In the Nebo photo below each Looper boat is represented by looper flag emblem and boat name.) Many are enroute to a Great Loop Rendezvous event in mid-October on the Tennessee River or doing side river trips on the Cumberland or Tennessee River to visit Chattanooga, Nashville, Knoxville, etc. so that should spread things out a bit also. We are fully fueled now and ready to spend Friday thru Monday anchored out on the muddy Mississippi and Ohio Rivers until reaching Paducah next Tuesday.