The Lower Mississippi River Water Trail
158.7 RBD Kimmswick
Once thriving river town and steamboat landing Kimmswick has become a riverfront hideout from the mass exit into the suburbs, still retaining its small town charm with quiet friendly streets and a country style eatery/watering hole, the Blue Owl Restaurant & Bar. The public landing is closed off from above, but nothing is ever closed to paddlers when they come by water. You could make landing in the vicinity of the abandoned twin ramps. That said, it would probably be safer to gain access to Kimmswick by pulling into the mouth of Rock Creek and hiding your vessel (backs up all the way to town at 18SLG), or continuing on downstream to one of the only true marinas on the Middle Mississippi, Hoppies (continue reading below).
158.5 RBD Hoppie’s Marine Service
Paddler-friendly Hoppie’s Marine consists of a series of 4 barges tied together on the Missouri shore 158.5 right bank descending just past the mouth of Rock Creek and the town of Kimmswick. Hoppie’s is owned by Fern Hopkins and her husband, “Hoppie.” Fern is legendary. She holds a meeting every day between 3 and 4 pm to inform boaters about conditions on the river. Although she’s more familiar with powerboats and not “paddle boats” (canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddleboards), Fern has the latest information on river conditions and shares it with anyone who stops at Hoppie’s. This includes the best campsites downstream as well as areas with dangerous currents.
Paddlers not wanting to run the dangerous “gauntlet” of the St. Louis Harbor can find a great start place for your downstream expedition at Hoppie’s. You could also take out at Hoppies. This would make a good end place for an overnight or long weekend from the confluence.
If you are making landing at Hoppie’s be aware of the swift currents in front of above and around the marina, so you can make a good approach. Don’t stray too far into the center of the channel or you’ll miss it! Hug the Missouri shoreline below Kimmswick and the mouth of Rock Creek. The water speeds up as the river narrows against a short limestone shelf at Water Point. A charming white house and manicured lawn sits above. Hoppie’s is directly below “Water’s Point” in a deep and vigorous eddy. Pull up to the sandbar that forms next to the boat ramp. From land access Hoppie’s Marine through Kimmswick. If you stay overnight here you will need to seek permission to camp from Hoppie or Fern. After setting up, go visit Kimmswick’s famous Blue Owl Restaurant (not open Mondays) for a satisfying meal and good beer to wash it down.
For powerboaters this is the last place to tie up with power and water until the Memphis Yacht Club, or if you are taking the Tennessee-Tombigbee route to the Gulf, Kentucky Lake Marina. Hoppie’s Marine Service, Fern and Hoppie Hopkins, 6018 Windsor Harbor Drive, Kimmswick, MO 63053, 636-467-6154.
158.5 – 157.2 RBD Dikes below Hoppies
A barren sandbar Island forms around the 2nd Dike below Hoppies, but there is no protection, and no privacy. Hoppie is complaining that these islands are encroaching upon his livelihood. At low water they grow so big that it is sometimes difficult to access the marina.
158 -149 LBD Foster/Meissner Island Dikes
Foster Island is no longer an island these days except at flood stage, having been silted in by the whims of the river and vigorous channel maintenance by man. There are about ten miles of stubby dikes placed along the shore about every half mile. At low water you will find your own personal pile of sand behind each one with a deep pool of water at the riverbank for your morning swim. At medium water the choices are more limited, but if it’s that time of day you can stop just about anywhere and find a strip of sand, close firewood and good shelter. At high water (above 25SLG) all sand disappears, but forest campsites remain. The only downside is the hazy orange light in the sky and muted roaring of I-55, Crystal City, Festus and Herculaneum, which have all become thriving bedroom communities for the big city to the north.
156.5 RBD Sulphur Springs
Sulphur Springs is a quaint little village of several streets but no river landing, A small quarry behind is located south of town. You can paddle about a mile up Glaize Creek at medium water 20 SLG for a glimpse of the narrow bluff drainage, which offers a completely different biota than what is seen close by and opposite river on the Illinois shore in the American Bottoms.
156.3 LBD Fountain Creek
You can paddle a half mile up Fountain Creek at medium water 20 SLG or higher and get a good look into the floodplain biota of the American Bottoms. Approximately 2,000 feet upstream of the confluence a small blue hole was carved over the south bank that gets renewed with each flood, and becomes a lively fish and turtle hole frequented by raccoons and storks of all sorts.
155.5 – 153.5 LBD Meissner Island Division Middle Mississippi NWR
The 78-acre Meissner Island Division is in Monroe County, Illinois is less than 20 miles from St. Louis’ southern suburbs. Former cropland is naturally returning to silver maple, willow and cottonwood bottomland. Trees such as bur oak and hackberry have been planted to provide food for wildlife. Low/med water picnic/camp sites can be found below wing dams along the man channel. Plentiful wildlife, even amongst the close-by suburbia. Mark River: “The eagles fly over as if an ordinary day, while we cruise around Foster Island (Meissner Island) enjoying the views of the bluff neighborhoods like Herculaneum. In the distance you can see a large eagles nest, giving the optical illusion of being right amongst a heron rookery. The trees are wind blown , so all the leaves blanket the landscape and the bluffs seem to blend with the trees.”
151.8 RBD Herculaneum
Industrious Herculaneum is not very inviting from the river. A busy lead mill is one of its highlights. But opposite the town is a series of small sandbars (one behind each wing dam) that at low/med water levels make for good picnicking and possible camping. While it might be noisy, the views of the bluffs are beautiful upstream and down, punctuated here and there by towers and smokestacks, and behind you is the sprawling Foster (or Meissner) Island, which is a giant flood-prone alluvial forest, a small piece of the American Bottom and a segment of the Middle Mississippi NWR.