The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail

St Louis

178.3 LBD Cahokia Power Plant

Cahokia Power Plant, Sauget, Illinois. This iconic brick & concrete power plant stands tall and dark with gothic austerity against the otherwise drab Illinois landscape, a monument to old style steam generation. Paddlers get the best view from the river, otherwise from land it’s off limits. Its six towering smokestacks make the retired Cahokia Power Plant one of the city's most distinctive landmarks, yet most residents rarely see this stupendous building up close. Its 52-acre site alongside the Mississippi River in Illinois is private property and closed off. Reaching the river bank on the opposite side in St. Louis requires navigation of lengthy dirt roads and underbrush. The Union Electric-operated plant first came online in 1923; it was built in stages and completed in 1939. Designed to burn Illinois coal, it was the largest power plant in the Mississippi Valley when it opened. Its boilers consumed a ton of coal every 30 seconds , and over 600 million gallons of water per day. Underwater cables fed the electricity produced to the thriving city across the river. The plant later converted to oil burning. By 1976 the plant had been replaced by newer facilities and was decommissioned. Union Electric sold off the property in 1979. Extensive asbestos insulation used in its construction remained a problem for at least a decade, acerbated by careless salvage work. The site today is home to Cahokia Marine Services, a multi-modal transportation business run by SLAY Industries; it functions as a bulk commodity transfer site, loading river barges. The site offers a large volume of indoor storage, presumably referring to the power plant building.

(Built St. Louis)


176.8 LBD Best Emergency Sandbar in St. Louis Harbor

Best hidey-hole emergency stop in the area, but sometimes hidden behind acres of fleeted barges. Several hundred yards long. Steep bar, but wide enough to find slanted camp on up to flood stage. Medium sized sandbar at low/medium water with great protection from N, E, SE or S wind and storms. This is the best possible protected stop place within St. Louis Harbor/Industrial reach, and is usable for picnic or campsite at all river levels up to high water 25 SLG, and then becomes a functional emergency stop or camp up to FS 30SLG. Secluded location with little chance for visitation from the land.


176 RBD Anheuser Busch Brewery

The Anheuser Busch Brewery creates its own little city of red brick buildings and smokestacks up on the top of the Missouri hills right bank descending. When the winds coming out of any westerly quadrant you can enjoy the aroma of fresh toasted barley and hops. Breathe deep, is quite refreshing and might work up an appetite for fnding your campsite dosntream. Maybe you prepared for your first camp by purchasing a 6-pack of St. Louis’ finest before departure. When you get safely to shore for the night, pull them out, crack the top and toast the maker, the great creator, and the big river flowing in front of you. A fitting tribute to your safe passage down the Gauntlet would be to give the river the first drink.


176.8 LBD Cahokia Church of the Holy Family

(Access from sandbar at LBD 176.8) Paddlers wanting to stretch their legs might enjoy a 2-mile round trip walk into Cahokia to visit the Holy Family Catholic Church, the oldest church between the Alleghenies and the Rocky Mountains. The route is not marked, but will be fairly obvious. Bushwhack through the shrubs above sandbar (watch out for poison ivy!) to Cargill Elevator Road. Follow road SE to Cahokia. Cross Hwy 3 to get to church. Constructed of black walnut timbers in the traditional French Colonial style, the Log Church is only one of five built in this style that still exists in North America. Holy Family Catholic Church, 116 Church Street, Cahokia, IL  62206-1852, Phone: (618) 337-4548.


On the way back, pick up some hot food to go from the Brandy Inn, W 1st Street and Hwy 3 in Cahokia (618) 337-1101. Brandy Inn has pizza, burgers, chili, and cold beer. River rat heaven.


176.9 RBD US Army Corps of Engineers Service Base Dock


176.9 RBD US Coast Guard

St. Louis Sector (314) 269-2500

As you paddle downstream the big river you might see a pipeline spewing crude oil. You might notice toxic chemicals being dumped on the side of the river. Your vessel might have capsized, or you might witness someone else who needs assistance. Who do you call? The US Coast Guard! To report polluters or in case of maritime emergency call the USCG (314) 269-2500. From their website: The Sector is the parent command to three Marine Safety Detachments, five River Buoy Tenders and their Shore-Side Support Detachments, and a boat forces unit with 5 response boats. Together, the Sector and it's subordinate units directly support the Coast Guard's five main mission areas; including maritime security, maritime safety, protection of natural resources, maritime mobility, and national defense across a geographically expansive area of responsibility encompassing the Upper Mississippi, Illinois, and Missouri Rivers and their navigable tributaries.


176 - 174 LBD Marquette Transportation Fleeting

As it flows past the Coast Guard Station the channel crosses over to the Missouri side of the river RBD, and you will want to do the same to avoid the giant Marquette Transportation fleeting area on the Illinois side. Every Marquette tow bears the insignia of a solo paddler on its smokestack. This is a depiction of the Father Jacques Marquette of the Joliet-Marquette Expedition, paddling a solo canoe. Or maybe it is the number of canoes run over by this particular company? They are known amongst canoeists and kayakers as not being paddler friendly.


175.5 - 173.5 LBD Arsenal Island

Best possible camping below Mosenthein Island, but only during low/medium water. Highest bluff of sand is located within protected bankside elbow at 173.6 (this location would be protected from south winds). Goes completely under around 25SLG, but you might find enough shelter for one tent up to flood stage 30 SLG.


During low water expansive sandbars open up along 2 mile stretch of river here below compound angle wing dam at 175 LBD. Camp only in calm weather with no threat of oncoming storms. Check the weather forecast, and put a moistened finger in the air for a second test. If you set up a tent here and a surprise storm hits you might be chasing it across the sandbar and into the river!


The view from Arsenal Island is one of the reasons we paddlers do what we do. No one besides us will ever enjoy this special perspective. Add on a roaring fire, supper in the making, and a fresh Budweiser. Not the best room in the best downtown hotel could ever equal this experience! Spectacular view upstream into the thickets of industry with long views of oil tanks, refinery plumbing, the Anheuser Brewery, surrounded by working-class neighborhoods, and the Great Arch barely rising above it all. (You are now about six miles downstream of the Arch.

174.8 RBD Iron Worker’s Cross/Diver’s Legs Sculpture

Below the Great Arch the Missouri shore is littered with refineries and non-stop industry until the deep muddy river channel rubs its belly against some short cliffs topped with a selection of beautiful homes (Mt. Pleasant area along S. Broadway). One of these homes features a female torso and a 20 foot tall pair of legs with knee high red-and-white striped socks diving into a coral blue concrete pad. The diver’s ultramarine blue swimsuit tightly hugs her cute butt. This is one of the Middle Miss tow pilots favorite monuments.

174 LBD Cahokia Chute

Cahokia Chute is the remains of a Mississippi River meander. At low water, it is made inaccessible to paddlers by the sandbars that form on Arsenal Island.   A wrecked barge emerges from the sandy wasteland in low water conditions, towards the bottom end of the sandbar. However in high water paddlers could dive into the mouth of Cahokia Chute for quick escape from the wind, or a private place to make a landing. A small blue hole is found on the south shore of the Chute not 100 yards up from the Mississippi. Cahokia Chute cuts across the middle of Arsenal Island Sandbar at low water creating a series of sandy wetlands favored by minnows, some crustaceans, and waders like pelicans and herons. Bigger fish get trapped in muddy holes as the river drops. Eagles sometimes drop in for a visit and usually leave with a claw-full of thrashing fish! Follow Cahokia upstream to Prairie duPont Creek and then aptly named Dead Creek. It is all severely channelized.