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 "Stump the Riverlorian"
Pat Middleton, All Rights Reserved. Contents may not be transmitted, reposted, or republished in any way without permission.

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Steamboatin'

Martin writes from Austria: I was searching for possibilities of travelling some miles on an old riverboat. Do they still exist? I plan my summer vacation around the Mississippi area. If Your miniguide can answer some questions please send one.

Martin, if you want a trip on an "older riverboat" I suggest theJulia Belle Swain out of La Crosse, Wisconsin. She's not really old (built in the early 70s), but she was beautifully built to resemble an old packet steamer on the river. She is one of five authentic steamboats now on the river. See other comments in this section. And thanks for writing! (P.S. to all: I have no financial interest in the boats I promote in this section. They are just really fine boats, and I am happy to recommend them! --Pat)

 


Edward writes: My mother-on-law has always wanted to do a river trip down the Mississippi, but she hates the thought of a casino-toting paddle-wheeler. We are more interested in a week-long or more tour that focus on the cultural and natural history of the river. Can you point me to a resource that might list where I could find these kinds of tours.

Edward, I highly recommend any of the Delta Queen Steamboat Company tours. All three of their boats cruise the Mississippi. Their trips run 7-14 days and are very comfortable. The Riverlorian on each boat is very knowledgable about the rivers they travel. The company has held firm about not introducing slot machines or other gambling on board. Many of the trips on the Upper River are completely booked each year, so check out availability early. The next best is a trip on the Julia Belle Swain in La Crosse, WI. They offer a two day trip on a small authentic steamboat. It's a real river experience, similar to the old packet boats from the 19th century. They often offer musical entertainment. variable. Although it can be beautiful, there can also be a few snow flurries early in the month. I think the American Queen will be up north for two weeks in April . It's a beautiful boat and toasty warm There is no gambling. Overnight is at a hotel. Click the DQ link above to see earlier questions for phone numbers and a link to the DQ Steamboat Company. Thanks!


Bryan from Australia writes, "Is it possible to travel from New Orleans to St. Paul by boat (Delta Queen or the like)? We plan to be there in April and hope it warms up a little."
 

Bryan: Welcome from Australia! We lived near Sydney and Rockhampton (Qld) for several years in the early 70s. You certainly can travel from New Orleans to St. Paul by boat. The Delta Queen takes about 14 days to do that trip. What luxury! My best advice is to eat only 1/5 of the sumptous fare they offer you! New Orleans to St. Louis will be GORGEOUS in April. Trees in bloom, mild temps. The north could be , so you won't mind the weather a bit. Say hello, if I'm aboard!!! See Gary's question below for more DQ info. Thanks!

 


Gary writes: Can you send me info on the paddlewheel cruise boats?

Gary, you are probably thinking of steamboatin' with the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. 
(800 365-5359) or the Julia Belle Swain in La Crosse, Wisconsin (800-815-1005). These both offer overnight cruises on authentic steamboat paddlewheelers. The Delta Queen boats are true cruising boats with all the amenities of an ocean cruiser. They cruise many of the great rivers of America on one and two-week cruises. TheJulia Belle Swain offers two-day cruises during the summer months. Overnights are in local hotels. Almost every river town of 20,000 or more people also has paddlewheelers offering 2-hour cruises, dinner cruises, etc. My books have addresses and phone numbers for tourism information. There are also many houseboat rental companies along the upper river in the event you would like to Captain your own boat! Be watching for a guide to houseboat rentals, or email me that you are interested in receiving that list. Thanks, Gary!

 

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Adventure Travel

 

For more on Adventure Travel on the Mississippi, see our NEW Adventure Travel Bulletin Board Service!

 Newsgroups: rec.boats.cruising
pneighbors@aol.com (PNeighbors) wrote: 
I have heard a lot of scare stories about cruising the lower Mississippi River. Barges, floating logs, current, etc. There must be some people who have successfully cruised this area. I would like to hear from them.

Readers Responded:

I went down from the Arkansas River to New Orleans in August - what do you want to know? There is no pleasure traffic at all - I saw one friend I knew coming up - but there are a few local john boats out fishing. So, there's absolutely no one to help with a tool, part, or tow. The tows are very friendly, but they can't help. So, you've got to be self-sufficient and reliable.

Greenville, MS has a nice lake (Ferguson) and fuel, but the other cities like Vicksburg have more or less turned there back on the river - no city docks at all. At Vicksburg, for instance, there is a little tour boat with a landing - with a little research, you can arrange for some places to tie up. Otherwise, you anchor behind the islands.

Pretty, down to Baton Rouge, very industrial after that. Almost no where to get off from there down - you want to try to get on down from there.

Of course, you run in daylight only, keep a lookout. The river was falling when we went, so the trees and smaller appliances were left up on the banks. No problem. 3 knot current, 10-14 in one or two places sand bars were building up - one way in a sailboat!

No big deal if 54 barge tows doesn't make you nervous (probably don't get in front of one, they might not stop...)

Gregg

 



Having accomplished this trip, and having considered the lower Mississippi route, and abandoning it in favor of the Tenn-Tom, consider the following:
 

The lower miss is much different than 40-50 years ago. Now it amounts to little more than a very wide channel between high levies. A suitable route for a fully crewed boat capable of running round the clock, your biggest problem will be finding a place to stop and rest. The towboat operators are courteous and will help all they can, but the tows on the lower river generally contain 30 barges. They are much larger than those up river. Much history occurred in the Tennessee valley. Places to stop are so numerous, that an entire season can be spent on this route, and one would miss half of the anchorages. Tows are occasional, and generally contain a barge or two. Mobile is much closer to Florida than New Orleans, and should you desire using the ICW, the entry to that channel is straight forward.
George Oprisko

You will get a knot or two from the Mississippi, which you will appreciate. Fuel is scarce, nothing south of Greenville, Miss. and anchorages are scarce enough that you need to plan ahead (or have a good turn of speed).

The Mississippi's a neat experience, but all business and no pleasure. The tow's are helpful and want to be safe, but don't count on getting parts, tows, or any other physical help - there's just no one like that around.

As a bonus, it's about 150 or 200 feet deep, so anchoring in the channel in front of 1/4 mile wide tows actually won't be a problem! Anyway, call the river stages and try to go when it's falling - the trees and small towns will be left on the banks...

Gregg

 


While on the Mississippi Queen a couple of years ago, another passenger mentioned that it was possible to ride on one of the towboats as a passenger much like you would book passage on a freighter on the ocean. Do you know anything about this? Where else might I go for info. --John D. Paul

John, my understanding is that passengers are allowed as GUESTS of the towboat company. In other words, you need to have "credentials"--maybe because you are a Mississippi River writer :-) or because you do business with the company. One must contact the individual companies to set this up. Have any of our readers done this? -- Hope this helps! --Pat

 
Volume 4, The Lower Mississippi,  Memphis to the Gulf of Mexico!

New Complete Index makes finding info easy!
Over 250 pages of river heritage, natural history, travel information and attractions!

 

 


 


Sknydprs@execpc.com (John Brownell) : I am a "River Rat". I have traveled the river from Brainard, Mn. to the Gulf by canoe, jonboat, and three houseboats. I am now 68 years old and ready to go again as soon as I find another houseboat. Your page is very interesting. When I get ready to leave again I will E-Mail you with my celluar and laptop. I will start at Lock & Dam #1 this time and tow an 16 ft. jonboat with a 25 Merc. for side trips into backwaters.

 


L. Ondell writes from Chandler, Arizona: I have an interest in traveling by boat on the Mississippi from Minn. to New Orleans and require source of nvigational maps. Enjoyed your information. Thanks.

I've run across a source for navigational maps: Marine Navigation, Inc., 615 South La Grange Road, La Grange IL. 708-352-0606 (Tell her you "saw it on the Internet :-) )

 


Peter writes from the U.K: I am planning a forthcoming Missisippi River expedition and have found Pat Middleton's first volume, "The Upper Mississippi" so useful that I know that Volume II will be indispensible to my preparation. Please send it to the above address in the U.K. Is there yet a Volume III from St. Louis onwards?

Peter, thank you! This is my favorite kind of letter! Volume III, St. Louis to Memphis will be released late summer of 1996 by Heritage Press. To reserve a copy of Volume III, or for order info on Volumes II or I, please Click Here and email your snail mail name and address to the publisher. Or sign ourGuestbook. Thank you, again!

 


The home page is nice. I was actually looking for information on the possibility of rafting down the Mississippi on a Huck Finn type trip over the summer. If you have any information you could send me - that would be great. I was just wondering if anyone has ever done it before, how long it would take and whatever else that could be useful. Thanks! Mary Khatibi, IL

Comment from River Author: Mary, there was recently a rafting trip from St. Louis to New Orleans. Click here to follow the Clark Lake Spirit rafters down the Mississippi from St. Louis to New Orleans. You might also look up DAVE'S CANOE TRIP in the river link section (Personal Journals). He has recorded a canoe trip during the Flood of 1993.

 


Joe writes: Just found your page tonight. We (family of 4: me, musician/producer, wife: teacher/writer;kids 9,10 yrs old) plan a trip on the Mississippi next year and need to find out about boats for hire, places to enjoy and/or stay away from, cultural resources, and more. This page looks promising.

Joe, Thanks for writing. I hope you DO find the page helpful. I'm adding all the time so do come back. Look up the information on my books DISCOVER! AMERICA'S GREAT RIVER ROAD. $14.95 each includes shipping. Volume one goes from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Dubuque, Iowa (Field of Dreams). The 2nd Volume goes from Galena, Illinois to St. Louis. They are considered to be the definitive guides to traveling the river. I even have one for the kids: The Mississippi River Activity Guide $5.50. You'll find all of these invaluable for planning and taking best advantage of your trip. They are easy to order. Just mail your check or credit card info (Visa/Mastercard) to the publisher, Heritage Press, at Rt. 1, Stoddard, WI 54658. They will answer all your questions noted below.

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Links to more Stump the Riverlorian qestions!

 

[Houseboat Rental] [Historical Questions] [Adventure Travel] [Steamboating] [Powerboats, Sailboats, Kayaks, and Fishing] [Help Me Find...] [Biking, Camping and other Recreational Resources] [Natural History Questions]

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Powerboats, Houseboats, Sailboats, Kayaks, and Fishing

JOE is looking for feedback on living fulltime on a houseboat--perhaps some of our readers can help him out??

I am thinking about selling my house and buying a houseboat to live aboard on the intercoastal waterway. Is there someplace where I can find information about others who are doing this? --Joe Reed

 


Lisa writes from Milwaukee: This is my first visit. I'm looking for info on Houseboat rentals for the river.

 From Pat to Joe and Lisa... please click over to our Houseboat Travel Insight Features at http://greatriver.com/waterwaycruises/

 

 


Ken writes, "We plan to ship our 27ft house boat to St. Louis and then travel down the Mississppi River to New Orleans in time for the Mardi Gras in 97. We live in Edmonton, Alberta, and have never been in the area. We are looking for any and all info regards to boating, ports, places to stay, recreation, volvo marine engine repairs, laws & gun control, and detailed river maps.

Ken, what a great adventure! The Upper Mississippi is truly beautiful, safe, and historic. The lower river is more of a challenge for sheer size. You'll need a marine radio, good river charts, and Quimby's harbor guide. Check out some viewer observations in ADVENTURE TRAVEL, above.

Check out some of my links, and have fun planning! If you intend to put in at St. Paul, Minnesota, you have to put in early enough to get to St. Louis, Missouri, by the end of November. If you plan to ship your boat south, it should arrive somewhere south of Quincy, Illinois, or St. Louis, Missouri, early enough to make it to New Orleans. Depending on our winters, the river can freeze as far south as St. Louis. By the way, I was unable to mail you a copy of the free miniguide you requested. It was returned to me each time. Email me again!

You need to get a copy of Quimby's Harbor Guide. You might also like a set of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers river charts. You can order the Army Corps charts from the St. Paul office. You also need to get copies of Discover! America's Great River Road. Volumes 1-3 will get you all the way down to Memphis. DISCOVER! will add interpretive material on heritage, natural history, and recreation in the small towns and state parks that you pass. The easiest way to order is to write or call the publisher, Heritage Press and charge to a Master Card or Visa. EMAIL me if you need addresses or phone numbers. You can call 800-678-7006 or Heritage at 608-457-2734. Thanks, Ken!

 

 


Is my first time on the MRH page...is very interesting...I was initially attracted to this site as I am tentatively planning a kayak/canoe trip from the headwaters of the Missouri to the LA delta of the Mississippi (scheduled to take place in the spring of 1997) any information on river navigation would be a great help!!! thanks for everything...there is much valuable information...continue the good work! --Milwaukee, Wisconsin Guatoma@aol.com

 


 

Jim writes, "Is there decent sailing on the river, say, from Winona to Dubuque? Do you see many sailboats on the river or almost none?"

It is certainly possible to sail in the large "pools" above various locks & dams. There is a sailing club on Lake Onalaska, just north of La Crosse. The LARGEST fresh water small boat harbor on the Upper Mississippi is a little north of Winona, on Lake Pepin. Lake Pepin is a TRUE lake, formed by a natural dam across the river. It is deep enough for keeled sail boats to enjoy excellent sailing.

The rest of the river and pools are fairly shallow, or unpredictable except in the main channels. Therefore, most sailboats one sees are actually motoring down the main channel.

Small boats with keels that can pop up over stumps and shallow water can be fun to sail and these are what one mainly sees in the pools and on Lake Onalaska. It's vital that the keel and rudder can be adjusted.

A few things I've learned from experience:

Following swells occur quite often on these broad shallow pools. Lake Pepin can develop very marked swells even when there are no waves. There is no worry about whirlpools or some of the problems below St. Louis. A wind or squall can pop up quite suddenly and turn a placid pool into one of raging waves. Keep an ear on your weather radio so you have some advance warning!

Currents can be very strong in the high water periods. I've had occasions when it was not possible to tack back against the current. The current swept me down river faster than I could sail back up. That is usually only in the early spring.

A friend of mine on pool 8 had a day sailor moored off shore when a storm came up, flipped his boat and impaled the mast in the mud! He had one heck of a time getting it out again. Hope this is helpful!
Pat


 


Just found the Mississippi River Home Page through article in Scuttlebutt Times (at Mpls Boat Show) We have a boat at Afton, MN, on the St. Croix River and have made numerous trips as far as Grafton then on to Chicago and Lakes Michigan & Huron. --BEN MCPHEETERS, MN

 


I would also like information, if available from yourself or by reference, regarding the feasibility of traveling on the Mississippi between Prairie du Chien and St. Louis in a 16 foot Boston Whaler. My wife and I would like information such as the problems, if any, associated with island camping, overnight transient stops en route in terms of boat security and quality of accommodations, hazards to anticipate, etc. We already have Quimby's but are looking for additional information.

 


We very much enjoyed your article in Heartland Boating, and plan to visit Trempeleau when the weather allows. --John Lough, Wisconsin 53122-1731

 


I have been an avid reader of Heartland Boating and have just recently started using the internet. In the Feb?Mar '96 issue of Heartland Boating, I read the article " Trempealeau, Wisconsin: The True Garden of Eden". I have been boating all of my life, 53 years, in and around KY Lake, and have a boat docked at Green Turtle Bay, near Grand Rivers, KY. I was pleased to see a web page on the upper Mississippi River as I plan to visit there in the near future. Thanks for you work in providing information on this area. My only concern now is how I am going to take my computer on my boat to keep up with all the information on the internet and the Mississippi River. Thanks again for the Mississippi River Home Page. Sam Carneal KENTUCKY

 

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[Houseboat Rental] [Historical Questions] [Adventure Travel] [Steamboating] [Powerboats, Sailboats, Kayaks, and Fishing] [Help Me Find...] [Biking, Camping and other Recreational Resources] [Natural History Questions]

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Biking, Camping and other Recreational Resources

 Pat: Is there any place to rent bicycles along the Great River Road Bike Trail? My children are old enough to ride 10 speed bikes. Also, thanks for the mini-guide. - -Robert E. Patterson

Robert, you might call the Trempealeau Hotel. They are very close to the trail and do rent boats and Canoes. See them in our Travel Directory.

 


Fred writes: Hello Pat, I've chatted with you before when I first started out browsing about a month ago. My Adventure Camper Co. Homepage is nearly finished (Well, I should say my first construction effort). Can you tell me again how I can sponsor one of the pages at your site? I enjoy your homepage, it has a nice feel to it! Congratulations on a great job ! I was talking to a person at the DNR here in Madion this week and they are working on a WI state parks homepage. I think this might be nice for you to have as a link.

Thanks for writing, Fred. Click here for information on commercial sponsorships. We sure do welcome them! Thanks for the tip about a Wisconsin DNR link. I'll look for them! Good luck with your new homepage!

 


Click here to access information on the Inaugural Trail Ride on the new 185 mile-long Great River Road Bike Trail between Reelfoot Lake and Memphis, TN.

 


Naomi writes, I have been searching without success - can you find any information about camping near the beginning of the Mississippi River - Lake Itaska, in the Itaska State Park of Minnesota. I am interested for this spring and am afraid it may already be booked. Thank you!

Naomi, go to AltaVista.Com and type in Itasca State Park. It will come up with a list of entries you can check out on your web browser.
I found:
Lake Itasca State Park
Report on the Lake Itasca Youth Hostel
More on the Youth Hostel
 

You can also inquire of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at:
(Lake Itasca State Park, Lake Bemidji State Park)
2115 Birchmont Beach Road NE
Bemidji, MN 56601
(218-755-3645)
Good luck!

 


Paul writes: "Although I now live in southern California, I was born and raised in Wis. As a child, I remember trips with my dad on our bicycles along the Elroy-Sparta Trail. Is it still open to the public?

Yes, Paul, it is. In fact, the three railroad tunnels have made it one of the most popular bike trails in the country! In addition, it now connects with several other trails, so one can bike from Sparta to Perrot State Park. The Great River Trail portion is especially nice as runs through the Black River bottoms between Midway and Trempealeau.

 

Links to more Stump the Riverlorian qestions!

 

[Houseboat Rental] [Historical Questions] [Adventure Travel] [Steamboating] [Powerboats, Sailboats, Kayaks, and Fishing] [Help Me Find...][Biking, Camping and other Recreational Resources] [Natural History Questions]

Visit the Grand Saloon to meet some of your fellow river travelers. Check out our Guestbook Comments from around the country and the WORLD!

 


 

Historical Questions

 Kenyon writes: Here's the story. Several years ago I dug up a small copper medallion inscriped "TRANS MISSISSIPPI EXP'N". This copper object is slightly larger than a penny and oblong in shape. I have been trying to determine the origin & significants of this item for some time. When I discovered you web site I thought I might have a break. I uncovered this object while digging around an old Quaker Home site in Florida. The home on this property was built sometime prior to the American Civil War as near as I've been able to determine. I have several other items ranging from button hooks to medicine bottles from this site. What was the Trans Mississippi Expedition, When was it and Who participated? Thank you for your response.
--Ken Carter

(8-12-96) The Trans--Mississippi Exposition was held in Omaha, NE, in 1898.
Regards, Marc "Marcus W. Koechig", M&M Books

 

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