The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
Bacon & Egg Supper with Norm Miller
I was camped here at the North Riverside Park Boat Access in 2006 with Mike Clark and Norm Miller, after paddling the Missouri River in dugout canoes in the Scott Mandrell/Churchill Clark Lewis & Clark Bicentennial II “Then & Now” Expedition, or “Now We Paddle for the People.” It was our last night on the river, and we were going through the last of the provisions, which included 2 dozen eggs and a pound of bacon.
“…I slipped down the trash-littered ramp and around a pile of bed frames & some big muddy logs, and then down a one-lane path through the tall weeds below and found Norm & Mike with a fire going. “Ahoy,” I yelled, “I come bearing gifts – red wine and eggs & bacon!” It was all I could quickly locate, but it hit the spot. We cracked the ½ gallon bottle of merlot Keith Locke gifted me, and started frying a pound of bacon in one of Mike’s pots. Ooh-whee! To be on the river with a fire and food coming, the water happily slapping the docked canoes, the raft rubbing bank nearby, Norm’s Verlen Kruger canoe-yak pulled up above, all of us river-worn and happy to be alive, to be together on this last evening, to be camped one last night on the edge of the river, the best place to be (if you asked any one of us) in all of St. Louis, even for Wanbli Mike, who lives there, and for me, whose wife is camped nearby, this was our night for sharing and celebration, we had done our work and the river had blessed us with a beautiful evening, storms receding in the distance, downtown St. Louis glowing behind Mosenthein Island, the bacon sizzling & popping, a fire warming our cold fingers and muddy feet, endless glasses of wine taken in the only vessels we could find, the recycled plastic water bottles I had cut open and employed as paint-pots for my water colors, which had cupped painting water from St. Helen’s Oregon to Livingston Montana to the confluence, and so it was a fitting vessel for a celebratory drink, in one swallow we tasted the Columbia, the Yellowstone, and the Missouri from our one-night hovel on the Middle Mississippi, we toasted once, and then again, and again, Norm kept saying, “I can’t believe I’m here on the edge of the biggest city in the Missouri Valley” and then “I can’t believe I’m here with you guys, I’m so glad I met you guys. Can you believe how this all happened?” More wine. More driftwood for the fire. The bacon crispy, I cracked two dozen eggs two at a time popping into the pot without removing any grease, swirled the concoction until it firmed, and then pulled it out of the coals to cool. 8 eggs each. 8 slices of bacon. We ate it with the last of the Ukrainian Rye Bread John Moore had brought us at Taylor Access, and washed it down with red wine & water. Norm later commented, “Yeah that bacon and egg supper spiked my blood cholesterol from 98 to 560. But it was worth it!”
For the rest of this adventurous return to St. Louis, including a descent of the Chain of Rocks by dugout canoe, go to Rivergator Appendix “Over the Chain of Rocks with the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Re-enactment of 2006”
187.8 RBD Big Muddy Adventures (Primitive Mud Ramp)
Big Muddy Adventures is located at 539 Scranton, just a short walk over Riverside Park and up the bluff behind the sprawling (and abandoned) cement factory. Call Big Muddy Mike in advance if you need expert guiding, shuttling, food & water resupply, equipment, or any other needs in the St. Louis area. Big Muddy is the go-to and can-do guy. If he can’t provide it, he will know someone who can.
Owner Big Muddy Mike Clark has become something of a gatekeeper at the Chain of Rocks for long distance expeditions coming down the Missouri and Upper Mississippi to or through St. Louis. He will give your vessel a pre-Coast Guard inspection, and will provide valuable assistance as to what you will need from here on downstream, and what you should leave behind. If he takes a liking to you he might accompany you over the waterfall. Otherwise, you would do well to hire him for the service, or expert advice as to where and when to run.
About Big Muddy Adventures
Big Muddy Adventures is an insured professional river guiding and outfitting company, located in St. Louis MO just downstream of the Confluence of the Mississippi River and the Missouri River. BMA offers custom guided river trips by canoe and kayak, including St. Louis area daytrips, full moon floats, and multi day canoe camping trips. BMA’s guiding and outfitting territory extends from Hannibal, MO to Cairo, IL on the Mississippi River, from Jefferson City, MO to the Confluence on the Missouri River, and from Hardin, IL to the Illinois River and Mississippi River Confluence. BMA is affiliated with Quapaw Canoe Company of Clarksdale, MS, Helena, AR, and Natchez, MS, extending the guiding territory all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
BMA was founded by Michael Clark, a veteran urban educator from Chicago, who moved to St. Louis in 2001 and began the business as an alternative way of teaching, from the river. Clark and two other educators began a learning adventure project connecting a live expedition by canoe with virtual elementary and middle school student partners. They paddled the entire length of the Mississippi River and engaged nearly 10,000 students.
A fateful meeting occurred on this inaugural learning adventure expedition. Clark met John Ruskey of Quapaw Canoe Company in the middle of the Lower Mississippi River. Ruskey and Clark quickly forged a friendship and partnership. The following year, 2002, they completed the second BMA learning adventure project, a complete navigation of the Missouri River, again engaging thousands of students as virtual partners. During this expedition, it became clear that the virtual access to the river was great, but there needed to be opportunity for true hands-on experiences too. Ruskey was already established with his Quapaw Canoe Company and he assisted Clark in opening up the guiding and outfitting business in St. Louis. Today Big Muddy Adventures is the preeminent if not only outfitting and guiding operation on the Middle Mississippi River and the Lower Missouri River.
BMA founder, Mike Clark, is on the board of the Mississippi River Water Trail Association, the Lower Mississippi River Foundation, and a professional member of the American Canoe Association, the St. Louis Canoe and Kayak Club, and Missouri Floaters Association. All BMA staff have first aid training and certificates.
187.7 RBD Cementland Dock
After genius sculpture artist and engineer Bob Cassilly finished the City Museum he found his next pet project in the abandoned Portland Cement Factory, which sprawls over the side of the bluff in a phantasmagora of industrial waste, giant mounds of earth, vacant warehouses and concrete silos. Big Muddy Adventures is located directly behind on Scranton Avenue. Cementland is a public art exhibit under construction on the 54-acre site. The brainchild of sculptor Bob Cassilly who also created the City Museum, it contains giant concrete sculptures and obsolete machinery, and is to have navigable waterways, among many other features. Much of the landscaping is built on dirt dumped by local construction companies, who used the land as a dump before Cassilly purchased it and now pay him for the privilege. Cassily was funding the construction of Cementland himself; the free material and income from the dumping helps underwrite what he says would “otherwise be an unaffordable project.” The site, outside the city boundaries in the village of Riverview, provides a view of theGateway Arch. “In the afternoon, when the sun shines on the city, you get this nice reflection. You don’t see all the trash and stuff. It’s the best view of the city,” Cassilly said.