In which we cross three bodies of water

I don’t know if we took the most direct route from Walnut Shade to Mammoth Cave, but I’m sure it was the most fun, the most scenic, and for me, the most exciting. Somewhere a few miles east of Wilson City, MO (population 110, area 52 acres), out in the total middle of absolutely nowhere and surrounded by soybean fields, U.S. Highway 62 does a most amazing. As we came around a tight bend with warnings about narrowing lanes, there suddenly rose up in front of us a slim, elegant, arching “Erector Set” (as we called such when I was a child) bridge. Over the Mississippi River!!! Oh my! How glorious! I have since learned that it was completed in 1929, and I can’t imagine what all it took to build it. Here’s the view we had as we approached the bridge, compliments of Wikipedia.

As we crossed the Cairo Mississippi River Bridge, we could actually see the Ohio River emptying into Mississippi. Wow! The far end of the bridge landed us on the very southern tip of Illinois, but only for about a minute, as the road angled right and then crossed the Cairo Ohio River Bridge, a spring chicken of a bridge, completed in 1937. Here’s a Wikipedia photo of that one.

Two incredible bridges over two major rivers, back to back! And none of that boring flat concrete stuff. These huge spans had character. They looked dignified, like any good, self respecting bridges should look. I was just about beside myself with joy. (Well, Scott was beside me and has been for thirty years; an even better reason for joy.) Those two sequential crossings meant that in the space of five minutes, we were in Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. MUCH more exciting than that Four Corners stuff in the American southwest.

I’ve been making a list in my phone of all our great 30th Anniversary Trip experiences I want to blog about. The list is LONG and growing almost hourly. We’re having the time of our lives! So, having written about those two unforgettable crossings, I’ll return to my chronological narrative back where we left off, after our super fun late afternoon ride down and (walk) back up on the Mammoth Cave National Park bike trail.

On Saturday afternoon, as we’d been driving through the park toward the Mammoth Cave visitor center, I had seen a sign about a ferry. Now I do have a special fondness for ferries. Just ask Katie. Ferries are rare birds these days, much like endangered species, and I feel somewhat of an obligation to avail myself of any ferry that presents itself. To this end, I had asked Scott if perhaps we could scope out the ferry on Sunday afternoon after our second cave tour, and he had seemed willing. So after our first cave tour and aforementioned bike ride, with dusk approaching, he turned down the road with the red warning sign: “Ferry closed to all trailers.” A mere half mile later, we were face to face with the Green River, the stream that formed Mammoth Cave either six thousand or six million (depending your age-of-the-earth perspective, but let’s not go there tonight) years ago. Now the Green flows more or less next to Mammoth Cave, and I think the two rivers that flow through the lower levels of the cave, Echo River and the River Styx, ultimately converge with it… ? Anyway, the Green River is not huge and neither is its ferry. In fact, with a maximum capacity of three cars, it’s the smallest ferry I’ve ever seen!

I thought the side-mounted porta-potty was a nice touch, and no, I didn’t try it out! There are two cables strung across the river, and the ferry is pulled across along them, via two cables on each side of the boat. One is visible on the right front corner of ferry at the right end of the yellow bar. And here’s one of the connections to the top cable.

We rode over and turned right around and rode back, just because we could, and it was free. Below Scott’s turning the Durango around at the top of the hill, while I inspect the very long metal “tape measure” mounted in the ground beside the ferry approach. I think it shows the water depth…?

You’ll be pleased to know that The Green River Ferry operates every day except Christmas, weather and water conditions permitting.

This whole experience made me smile big for a very long time!

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