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Alton Marina was super nice, shallow but nice, and within eyeshot of Lock 26, the Mel Price Lock. When making reservations the marina said they weren’t taking any vessels with a draft over 4 feet because even though the water is high on the river the marina gets silted in. Go figure. Luckily, we draft about 3 ½ feet so were able to slip there.
Our game plan was to spend the night and then head to Hoppies in Kimmswick, MO Friday. We were told in Grafton that there were issues with Lock 27 – The Chain of Rocks Lock and that they were only locking thru from 9am – 2pm until Oct. 9. We also noticed about six barges staged to go down river and when talking to the harbor master at Alton he confirmed that Lock 26 was busy and to definitely call before we left the marina to try and lock thru. Keep in mind that recreational vessels take a backseat to the barges and commercial traffic, so you can be stuck at a lock for a very long time waiting if they have barges to push thru. Average barge takes about 2 ½ hours.
As it turned out, we called the lock master at 26 and he said “bring her on down, I’ll lock you thru in the small chamber”. So we were able to lock thru both 26 & 27 (YEAH, OUR LAST MISSISSIPPI LOCKS!!!) by 11am yesterday. All the staged barges on either side were stopped because 3 miles below Lock 27, they were shutting down the river, not the lock, so they could put an underground line across the river in St. Louis. Barges weren’t locking thru because they needed safe staging areas, but you can believe right at 2pm when they opened the river it was business as usual for the barges.
Below is photo of the Chain of Locks Canal that takes you to Lock 27. It’s about 9 miles long and runs parallel to the Mississippi. All river traffic has to go this way. It was a quiet canal and we enjoyed the ride down before we locked thru 27. On the other side of 27 we dropped anchor for 3 hours waiting for the river to open back up. We could see the St. Louis Arch, just barely and we couldn’t wait to float by.
In our last three locks we were the only boat. They were bollard locks, but the Lock Master told us to float in the middle. So we did ;)
It was definitely worth the wait! Now on to Hoppies Marina!
Tom & Sue Slightam
Read along as we circumnavigate the eastern half of the United States and southern Canada on the Great Loop on our boat BELLA, a Cruiser 460 Express.