The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
St. Louis Riverfront (Mark River Reminisces)
Growing up in St.Louis, one of the highlights of the city was its riverfront. In elementary school, the field trip of the year was to visit the Arch and take a ride on the Admiral. The Admiral was a sold out attraction. You had to reserve your trip months ahead of time. The Admiral had a signature song called the “Hoky Poky” in which everyone sang at the top of their lungs . It was the main event and conclusion of the field trip.
As I got older, my dad would take us to the St. Louis Cardinal baseball and football games. The ritual was, get there early and spend some time by the River before and after the game. Busch Stadium was only a modest walk from the Arch and Riverfront, so many made the park part of the day. Laclede’s Landing was the food and beverage district where everyone visited before and after games.
Coming into my teenage years, we would express our independence by spending many nights sitting on the Arch stairs gazing into the River with our favorite girl. We would walk from the Arch through the Riverfront, through Laclede’s Landing , and do it over and over. We didn’t have much money, so it was the thing to do. During the high school football season, the playoffs where held at Busch Stadium, so if your team did well, you got the chance to play in the stadium. Over the years they landlocked the Admiral and it went from a McDonald’s to a Burger King, eventually being removed for good.
The music scene in St. Louis was vibrant when the nightclub, Mississippi Nights, hosted up and coming bands on there way to stardom. They had a under 21 section so we could see great bands and watch the mischief that went along with coming of age. It has been closed since the 90’s , but everyone remembers the iconic club.They also had a club called Muddy Waters that hosted blues bands from all over. St. Louis is still a blues town.
The Riverfront is also the location for the VP Fair held every year during the week of the 4th of July. The host bands from all over for a free week of music and sun. Boats fill the port and it’s one of the biggest gatherings of its kind. During the summer months, every weekend they have free music. It is the place to be in St. Louis. -Mark River
180.2 – 179.2 RBD St. Louis Waterfront (Cobblestone Landing)
The mile-long cobblestone landing along the St. Louis waterfront makes the ideal place for paddlers to push off, make landings, picnic, and take a break to visit the arch and other St. Louis sites. Put-ins are easy. Most times of the year you can exit the road above (S. Leonor K Sullivan Blvd) through one of many gates and drive right down the cobblestones to the water’s edge. Take out is the same way, if you happen to be ending your daytrip from North Riverfront Park here, or maybe your overnight from Columbia Bottoms (the Missouri River Confluence), or maybe your expedition down the Upper Mississippi, or lastly maybe your odyssey down the entire 2500 mile long Missouri River. This is probably the most popular end points for long distance expeditions coming out of the north or west. Just tell your pickup driver to find a place close to the water below the arch. It’s all public parking unless there is some special event or it’s in flood. If all of the parking is taken, or the river is flooding and there is no parking, that’s no biggie either. Simply paddle as close as you can get, unload you canoe, and carry it to your vehicle over the fence or through one of the gates.
One precaution, however: you’re more likely to be inspected by the US Coast Guard, or St. Louis Fire Dept Water Rescue Unit here. It’s a high visibility place, and locals are always looking to the river and quick to alert authorities if they see someone on the water who looks “out of control.” No worries in this regard, though. Simply make sure you have life jackets for all on board, and you are paddling a sea-worthy vessel. It might be an intimidating experience, I’ve been through it more than once at this location. But ultimately no one can tell you can’t paddle on the Mississippi — as long as you have the right equipment. And lastly, you should have the right vessel and pfds anyway. It doesn’t hurt to have a little shakedown at this point to keep paddlers on their toes. Or better said: the possible hurt is nothing compared to the hurt of not having the right equipment and getting into trouble somewhere because of it!
The St. Louis waterfront is one of the most beautiful and enlightening places along the river (even compares to the most beautiful wild places). In this short mile you will experience more stunning architecture, more history and more living culture than any other mile of the river. From the Martin Luther King (MLK) bridge past Laclede’s Landing to the Ead’s Bridge to the Arch to the Poplar Street Bridge, filled with locals, American visitors, international tourists, pilgrims of all sorts making their pilgrimage to the great river, most just to see it, but some want to touch it, some want to wade in it. And a select few like yourself, some want to actually get in it, or paddle down it in a human powered vessel. It’s a miracle mile.
As with any landings, be sure to secure your vessel. Maybe there was a day when private property was respected. But it’s long gone and there is no reason to bemoan the fact. Add a lock and chain to your list of expedition essentials. And then lock it up — or carry it away. On the river, if it isn’t locked down it seems to be fair game. Here on the cobblestone riverfront you can lock it up to one of the steamboat iron anchor rings, or to one of the gates along the fence above the river. Carry any of your valuables with you, or find some place to stash them while you make your walkabout.
180.4 Union Electric Light and Power Company, Ashley Street Powerhouse
An enormously-scaled generating station, whose classical detailing stands in surreal contrast to the rusting industrial accoutrements projecting beyond its pilasters and false pediments. (Built St. Louis)
180.2 Martin Luther King Bridge
The Martin Luther King Bridge (formerly known as the Veterans Bridge) is a cantilever truss bridge of about 4,000 feet in total length connecting St. Louis with its sister city East Saint Louis. MLK would probably approve of this namesake designation if only the people of both cities let the structure also bridge the racial divide.
180.1 RBD LaClede’s Landing
LaClede’s Landing and the cobblestones below the Arch are the two best landings in downtown St. Louis to take a break, have a picnic or meet your shuttle. Usable in all water levels up to flood stage. At high water the cobblestones and parking lots might be under water, but you can paddle to whatever good landing you can find still above water and make that your rest stop. Numerous shops, bars and eateries (some with WIFI) are found in the touristy neighborhoods above you here, but no grocery stores. You could refill water jugs at the nearest friendly establishment, and get a good lunch somewhere close by. But otherwise you won’t want to spend much time here. No camping. Don’t leave your vessel unattended. Send a team-mate up for lunch or supplies, or lock your gear and vessel up to some of the nearby ironwork.