The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
St. Louis to Cairo
Middle Miss: 195-0
168.6 Jefferson Barracks (JB) Bridge
Last bridge for paddlers to float under in the St. Louis area, and a fitting exit to the city with its two elegant steel arches rising gracefully in a gentle half moon curve 268 feet above the water (at medium height). The main channel swings towards the Missouri shore here. If there is no approaching tow traffic you can do the same and follow whatever line of travel suits your fancy. However, if tows are pushing upstream (or coming downstream) give them plenty of maneuvering space and stay far right or far left. Far right if you are continuing downstream. Far left if you are looking for landing on the Carroll Island below. Even though the tow pilots have 850 feet of width to work with between the main piers, all bridges present serious challenges to tow pilots. Whenever you can make it easier for them by giving them full berth. As with all bridges, be wary of the turbulence swirling around the piers Once you get under the JB Bridge, you can pat yourself on your back with your paddle and let go a sigh of relief, you’ve made it safely through “the Gauntlet,” the St. Louis Industrial Reach! The bridge marks the end of the harbor, but you’ve still got a few hazards coming downstream, namely Bussen Quarries RBD one mile downstream.
Consider the Atchafalaya
Now that you have paddled safely beyond the St. Louis harbor, you can take a deep breath and let go a long sigh of relief. Congratulation paddler! You did good if you are still in one piece and still have on board most of the gear you started with from the confluence. Everything will get easer downstream from here, with a few minor intrusions (and of course whatever whims of weather and wind you experience). Everything will be easier, that is, until you reach Baton Rouge. When you reach Baton Rouge you will have more of what you just experienced coming through St. Louis. But about 10 times more of it! Instead of just 20 miles of intense industry you will have to paddle about 235 miles of it from Baton Rouge through New Orleans to Venice. But take heart. There is a peaceful alternative awaiting your passage: the lovely Atchafalaya. Gulf-bound paddlers might consider the possibility of this wonderful alternate route 845 miles downstream. The Atchafalaya route will take you down through the 1.2 million acre largest river swamp in North America, the famed “River of Trees.” This is by far the most beautiful possible completion of your epic adventure down the biggest river in North America.
Instead of more industry and very dangerous river conditions through Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Venice on the big river (including poor campsites with toxic air and water conditions), consider taking the Atchafalaya River through its paradise of wild variegated bottomland hardwood forests, tupelo gum swamps, and marshy coastal plains. It also coincides with the heart of cajun country. To be completely honest, there are some pipelines, and a few small oil storage and processing installations, but they are few and far in between. Almost 1/3 of the Mississippi River is diverted here as a way of protecting the City and Port of New Orleans, creating the 4th largest and the shortest big river on the continent. Why not go with the flow, and take the Atchafalaya? You have almost a thousand miles to mull over this delightful opportunity. We wanted to alert you to the possibility now so that you have plenty of time to debate your choice.
168 -167 LBD Carroll Islands
Best camping below Mosenthein Island is found left bank descending (against the Illinois shore) below the JB Bridge, at the top end of the Carroll Islands (two consecutive islands, each similarly shaped and about a mile long), where a generous bluff of creamy white sand is found thrown up against the edge of the forest with a large flat sandy landing area below, and sometimes huge logs tossed onto the beach in high water. At low/med water go wherever the sand looks best to you, usually found on at the top end of the second island, but sometimes at the top of the first, closer to the traffic and the bridge. Each highwater has a different effect on the sandbars, and there is some fluctuation in some places as to where the best bluffs and campsites will be with each subsequent flood. As the water rises the top of the lower island goes under, but beautiful open forest parks with sandy bottoms can be reached at the bottom end of the upper island. At bank full the lower island is mostly underwater, but the top island doesn’t disappear until flood stage above 30 SLG.
168 RBD Bussen Quarries
The only downside to camping on the Carroll Island is the traffic on the bridge and your loud neighbors across the river at Bussen Quarries. Aggregate is big business on the Middle Mississippi; this quarry is the first of another dozen or so that you will paddle past until leaving the bluff country behind at Commerce.
The Bussen Family started mining limestone at their Jefferson Barracks location in 1882 when Johann Gerhard Bussen purchased a 10 acre parcel of land along the Mississippi River just south of the Quarrentine Grounds and began mining limestone from the hillside. Mining started out slow as the drilling was done by hand and the rock was hand sorted and moved by mule cart. Crushing was originally done by hammermill crushers that were powered by steam wagons. In 1929 the first stationary crushing/screening plant was built and greatly increased production. This plant also had spurs from the Missouri Pacific Rail Road under the bins for easy car loading which in turn increased product distribution. The normal production out put being around 100 tons per hour.. But the enterprising Bussens didn’t stop and removing an entire Mississippi River bluff to help build St. Louis. Like many successful capitalists, they know how to make money from all parts of the pig. They sold the rock. No they are selling the space once occupied by the rock. Today their 600 acre site also provides terminal services for drygoods, and underground warehousing in giant caverns that they carved out of solid rock. Their website states that these cavernous offerings “provide climate control and utilities savings for comfortable working conditions year round. 140,000 square feet of buildout space is still available so call for a quote today on your custom warehouse…”
Although modifications and updates were done to the original plant over the years by the early 60’s the need for faster production brought about plans for a new crushing plant. A Missouri-Rogers 56-60 rotary impact crusher was to be the new primary with an average 500-800 tons per hour. In the summer of 2014 Bussen added a Hazmag 1822 rotary impact crusher with a 1600 ton/hour capacity to their production.