What a perfectly glorious autumn day for a ride on the Mississippi River! Saturday, my husband Arnie and I, enjoyed a three-hour tour from River Heights Marina at Inver Grove Heights north past downtown St. Paul.
Our river tour was compliments of Winston Kettle. Thanks, Winston! He and his crew totally remodeled our home, La Condo, this past year.
Winston’s 25-foot boat (named Sweet Old Bob after the previous owner and friend of his) made the roughly 20-mile trip giving us a splendid view of life on and from the river.
While Winston and Arnie chatted at the helm, I was in my element — on the water with my trusty Nikon in hand. So, of course, I took too many photos — good grief, more than 500! — and have whittled that down to about 175. I’ll have another go at editing that down to, say 50. OK, well, maybe 75.
For my history and geography friends around the world, here are some basic facts about the Mississippi River from Wikipedia:
“The Mississippi River is the chief river of the largest drainage system on the North American continent. Flowing entirely in the United States (though its drainage basin reaches into Canada), it rises in northern Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for 2,320 miles to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi’s watershed drains all or parts of 31 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains.
“The Mississippi ranks as the fourth longest and 10th largest river in the world. The river either borders or passes through the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.
“Native Americans long lived along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Most were hunter-gatherers or herders, but some, such as the Mound builders, formed prolific agricultural societies. The arrival of Europeans in the 1500s changed the Native way of life as first explorers, then settlers, ventured into the basin in increasing numbers. The river served first as a barrier — forming borders for New Spain, New France, and the early United States — then as a vital transportation artery and communications link. In the 19th century, during the height of Manifest Destiny, the Mississippi and several western tributaries, most notably the Missouri, formed pathways for the western expansion of the United States.
“The word itself comes from Messipi, the French rendering of the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe or Algonquin) name for the river, Misi-ziibi (Great River).”
Now back to our boat ride. Although the colors were not yet at peak, we witnessed mile after mile of mostly beautiful sights — the regal Queen of the Mississippi, a five-tiered paddle boat decked out in red, white and blue full fan buntings with a faux water wheel in back. We passed a few other boats but my favorite was a smaller, fully restored Chris Craft beauty with its polished reddish wooden bow and upper sides.
There were bridges, bluffs, bicyclists and boats. We saw hikers, colorful kayakers, the Minnesota Centennial Showboat, caves and the cathedral.
Adults were fishing, children were playing in the sand. An abundance of graffiti also added to the river experience. Numerous flags not just on boats but also on bridges flying in the breeze added what color the trees failed to provide.
A wedding was taking place outdoors by a large building with a courtyard on Harriet Island with wide steps reaching to the river.
The Landmark Center’s clock tower was visible for a few seconds, just long enough for me to capture a photo as we motored past. It was fun to view and photograph downtown St. Paul from the river.
Winston pointed out some of the house boats on the river where people live year-around. I must admit I’ve often thought that would be a great adventure, albeit one with its share of challenges, too.
We saw several apartments and condos built in the last 10 years that have made the riverfront a popular living destination. From an aesthetic point of view, I liked the four-story yellow, green and burnt orange ones best.
There were numerous dead trees, mostly floated near the water’s edge, but many were high and dry on bridge abutments, a sign of higher waters at some point. Ever the alert captain, Winston avoided one or two logs floating in the water that could cause serious damage to a boat if hit.
It was interesting to see the different colors of the water where the Minnesota River tributary, looking a dull brownish, flowed into the blue Mississippi near Fort Snelling.
There were only a couple of not so great sights along the river: piles of rusty old scrap metal at Northern Metal Recycling that a very high fence would hide if someone cared enough to build it and one absolutely out-of-place billboard apparently owned by Clear Channel — come on, facing the river, seriously?! — advertising “Crown Royal Regal Apple — smooth to the core.”
We took our sweet time on the trip towards St. Paul, which provided me with the time to enjoy the scenery and take photos. The trip back was a fun, fast hair blowing ride.