The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
The Bissell (“New Red”) Water Tower
The Bissell (“New Red”) Water Tower was built in 1885-86 from design plans by Deputy Building Commissioner William S. Eames, a founder of the St. Louis chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Constructed from red brick, light gray stone and terra cotta, the tower stands 194 feet high and is located at Bissell Street and Blair Avenue. The interior of the tower once contained a spiral staircase that led to a balcony at the top, but that staircase has since been removed.
Compton Hill Water Tower
The Compton Hill Water Tower, the newest of the City’s three towers. Located at Grand and Russell Boulevards, the tower is built on the 36 acre Reservoir Park, and was completed in 1898 after a design by Harvey Ellis. The 179-foot tower is made of rusticated limestone, buff-colored brick and terra cotta. Its walls are adorned with carvings of mythical animals and leaf patterns. Inside, spiral steps take visitors to the top of the tower where an observation deck under a bell-shaped roof of terra cotta tiles offers a 360-degree view of the City of St. Louis.
190 LBD Chain Sandbar (Low Water Only)
During low water (below 12 SLG) a long narrow sandbar emerges LBD below the Chain of Rocks extending 1/4 mile down to the first dike below the Chain. Good picnic spot, good place to re-group after making a portage or run over the Chain. Possible low water campsites, but you might have company during the night as this is a popular night-fishing spot. The parking lot is supposed to close to traffic at sunset, but this may or may not be enforced. Your best bet for more peaceful and secluded camping would be to continue downstream to Mosenthein Island, the green jewel of islands in the St. Louis Harbor, which is now prominently visible LBD about a mile downstream.
189 – 185 LBD Mosenthein Island
Mosenthein Island offers the best and most reliable camping in the St. Louis area in between the Missouri Confluence and the JB Bridge below. Once past Mosenthein (and adjacent Gabaret Island) you will have to paddle a very challenging 20 miles down “the Gauntlet,” the dangerous Port of St. Louis, to reach the next reliable (and fairly wild) campsite, which is found at the top end of Carroll Island, LBD Mile 168 below the Jefferson Barracks Bridge. Two miles below Carroll is Palmer Creek Island.
Mosenthein Island is an almost pristine river island surviving amidst the mass of industrial might and human chaos of north St. Louis. It is nearly the same as when Lewis and Clark passed by and made camp just a few miles upstream. Three miles tall with a three mile long back channel, Mosenthein’s forests are lacerated by some long shallow sloughs that run parallel to the main channel and become filled with water at flood stage. The best camping is normally found top end. Second best choice is mid-island down the back channel where a beautiful plateau of sand emerges as the river drops below 25SLG (but is sometimes muddy). At flood stage 30SLG the only dry spots will be in the woods. At low water sandbars grow around all seven wing dams emerging from the island on main channel. But the biggest and broadest and wildest sandbars will be found back channel.
At high water you can enjoy the fast water pouring over the Chain of Rocks and position yourself in the channel below for a landing at the top end of Mosenthein, which is usually the best camp/picnic spot. This will place you opposite the parking area in NorthRiverfront Park. A small sliver of sand will be visible at the very tippy-top of the island until the river climbs above 25 SLG. If you see others already camped, slide down either side to find your own place, usually the back channel has more offerings as it it has the highest forest bottoms. At flood stage 30 SLG, only a few acres at the top end of Mosenthein will be dry, and at 35 the entire island will be under flowing water.
Circumnavigation of Mosenthein Island
Big Muddy Mike operates his Big Muddy Adventures directly across the main channel from Mosenthein Island, here is his description of a circumnavigation of the island:
“Ferry cross the river from North Riverside Park Boat Access (long portage to Put-in). Paddle across the chaotic wing dike boils into the eddy they form, bringing you along the island, top side. Follow the last remnants of water flowing into Mosenthein chute, a small river channel, at times so shallow as only to be able to walk and line the canoes. It runs perpendicular to the main channel, a strong eddy effect, winding and shoaling against the bottom side of the dike. Beware, two of its off chutes run out of water, like nubbed fingers. Land canoe at best location nearest the forest on the sand bar. Long portage gear over final wing dike to Mosenthein Blue Holes Paradise.
“To circumnavigate, follow the back channel of Mosenthein and enjoy the pristine sand bars. Follow the cut bank to the bottom end and come around. Paddle along Mosenthein Island upstream, using the eddies and slack water created by the wing dikes. To cross the wing dikes, choose a suitable breach in the rocks and Paddle Hard! With good strong and rapid strokes as well as a couple of good stern moves, you can climb above the dike and into another stretch of eddy. Continue this route until you are back at the top of the island.
“The final maneuver involves using the eddies created by the wing dikes, the same ones you crossed over to get to the back channel. Continue to move upstream until you are above parallel with the North Riverfront Park Boat Access, then Paddle Hard! and ferry cross to the best landing available.” (from Big Muddy Adventures website)
188 RBD North Riverside Park Boat Access
This might be your best access to Mosenthein island and the “Big Muddy Wild & Scenic Section” of the Middle Mississippi, but unfortunately has become silted in with deep Missouri River-type mud over the years, and is never an open ramp with easy access. The only time you won’t find mud is in high water when the ramp is under water! A wrecked barge sank upstream of the landing, the carcass of which has created a lull in the flow. Maybe in future years the barge will be removed, and the ramp will be maintained as it should be. But for now its every man for himself. Take your chances if you will. Slippery slimy mud accumulates as the water recedes and makes the ramp nearly unusable. You can park and put in here, but unless the river is high be ready for an extremely muddy portage. You might have to jockey for position with fishermen and beavers. Don’t leave your vehicle overnight in any circumstances. Arrange shuttle with nearby Big Muddy Adventures.