The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

St Louis

Rivergator:

St. Louis

St. Louis Gage (SLG)

Extreme Low Water: -6 to 4

Low Water: 4-12

Med Water: 12-24

High Water: 24-30

Flood Stage: 30

Extreme High Water: 30 to 50

1993 Flood: 49.58

 

The Mississippi River never gets too low for paddlers. Unlike western rivers, you can always find enough water for your adventure on the Mississippi. The worst case scenario on the Mississippi is when the ramps “bottom out” i.e.: they don’t reach the river at all. This is no big deal for paddlers. Giant pools of mud might sit in places that used to be easy access.   You might have to portage your canoe or kayak across mud, gravel or sand. But for the seasoned paddler this is no problem.   While you can paddle in any low water conditions, high water presents a much more dangerous challenge. As the rivers rise, they go faster. Fast water creates dangerous situations around buoys, docks, wharves, anchor points, chevrons, wing dams, dikes, and fleeted barges. Paddlers should avoid the river in any water levels above 30 SLG.

 

Water Levels and paddling through St. Louis

(and downstream to Chester, Illinois)

Extreme Low Water: -6 to 4

At extreme low water below 4SLG you will find giant sandbars, gravel bars and mud bars. The river will be sluggish. You won’t have difficulty finding dry ground to camp on, but it will be tricky finding protection from the wind because of the long distance to the forest. Dike walls can make good substitutes for wind breaks in certain situations. Most landings will be muddy messes. The Chain of Rocks will require a portage. The channel will be narrow and constricted in places with towboats and fleeted barges. You will not have much room to maneuver around towboats in some of the tight places, and might need to go to shore to await their passage.

 

Low Water: 4-12

At 4 foot SLG the flow averages two to three miles per hour, and all back channels are inaccessible. At twelve feet the flow is a steady 3mph and most back channels are   becoming accessible but with slow flow that might require some maneuvering through sandbars and rock walls of the dikes, chevrons and wing dams. You might need to drag your vessel over some rock barriers, and other sand or gravel shoalings. Short portages might be necessary. The Chain is a deadly ten to fifteen foot drop over rock, concrete wreckage and steel reinforcement. Expert paddlers might find a route far bank right, but everyone else should stop and make the portage. The shortest portage is bank left, but be very careful not to overshoot the pull-out.

 

Medium Water: 12-24

At 12 SLG all back channels are open but flowing slow. The Chain is a dangerous waterfall that should be portaged. At 16 feet SLG or above advanced paddlers can negotiate the Chain of Rocks, staying in the board central tongue of flow found to the right of the old intake structures (which look like 2 isolated castles standing in the middle of the river). At 24 feet SLG anyone can run the Chain with only slight disturbance. All back channels are open and flowing strong. River speed in the main channel averages 5mph. Most sandbars are covered.

 

High Water: 24-30

At 25 feet SLG the river is bank full, there is no sand on the top end of Mosenthein Island, or any of the islands downstream except Moro, Marquette, Rockwood, and Brown’s Bar, but the forests on the highest parts of most islands are still dry. All of the back channels will be open and flowing strong which makes for great exploration and getting away from towboats and industry. You can find small shelves of sands, and small dunes up to 30 foot SLG in isolated places, but otherwise you will have to camp and make landings wooded places. Swiftwater conditions exist around all of the docks, wharves and bridge piers in the St. Louis Harbor, watch for strong whirlpools, eddies, and turbulent waters, especially after the passage of tows or work boats.

 

Flood Stage: 30

Above flood stage 30 feet SLG paddlers are advised to avoid the river if at all possible. The Rivergator will not make any recommendations nor detail any of the landings, islands, and features at or above flood stage.

 

Extreme High Water: 30 to 50

 

1993 Flood: 49.58

 

St. Louis Gage (SLG)

http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=lsx&gage=EADM7

 

Water levels according to the St. Louis Gage

Low Water = 4 to 12 SLG 

Medium Water = 13 to 24 SLG

High Water = 25 to 30 SLG

Flood Stage = 30 SLG and above

(SLG = St. Louis Gauge)

 

Flood Stage Warning: above 30 SLG paddlers are advised to stay off the river. Limited access. Most landings and approach roads will be underwater. Most islands will be gone. No easy camping. All sandbars will be covered. Fast waters with many hazards. All islands and landings will be surrounded by flooded forests full of snags, strainers, sawyers and all other dangerous conditions associated with floodwater moving through trees. Docks, wharves, dikes and any other man-made objects will create strong whirlpools, violent boils, and fast eddies. Towboats will create large waves. The Rivergator will not describe the river and its islands at any levels above flood stage.



Comments
Date Submitted:10/19/2015
Comment:
Mile 180 RBD says at writing time (Dec 2015) the statue had been moved. It actually is supposed to be in its new home by Dec 2015 but I have not heard that it is on the schedule to be done yet. Also on p 19, Continental Grin Elevator should read Grain Elevator. It may be labeled Cargill now but I am not sure. Mike would know.
Date Submitted:10/19/2015
Comment:
Under "Mark River..." the last paragraph states that the riverfront is the site of the 4th of July Fair. It has been moved to Forest Park for the last few years and I hear that it will be in Forest Park for 2016. It may come back after the reconstruction of the riverfront.
Date Submitted:10/19/2015
Comment:
Under the heading of "Viewing the Great Arch...) the last paragraph refers to River des Pere and should be River des Peres.
Date Submitted:10/19/2015
Comment:
the second to last paragraph under mile 190.5 refers to I-274444 but should be I-270