Our plan is to follow the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, and then continue south. So we had to see where those two great rivers meet near Cairo, Illinois.
Yesterday we made that trip. We stood near the southern-most tip of Illinois, looking south. On our left was the Ohio River. To our right was the Mississippi River. And straight ahead and bending around the corner were those two rivers together. The sight of the huge Ohio -- a river we’ve crossed back and forth too many times to count -- merging with the enormous Mississippi is amazing. But the place we stood while watching (and honestly, I can’t even put it into words what an extraordinary sight it was) is a mess.
The location is called Fort Defiance and was a military encampment during the Civil War. Before that, Lewis and Clark spent six days here teaching each other celestial navigation and surveying skills. (However, there is some argument about this, as the power of the two rivers continually change the shoreline.) Apparently Fort Defiance was once an Illinois state park, but Illinois had no money to maintain it. So the citizens of nearby Cairo used their own tractors, trimmers and shovels and time to revitalize it.
It’s reverted to shabby, however, and all that remains are sad-looking children’s swings, a dilapidated observation tower, the foundation of a long-gone building, a piece of sculpture ... and lots of weeds, brush, and trash.
But worth the trip.
A short video taken at Fort Defiance at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
The observation tower is just visible behind the tree on the
left. In the center is the foundation of some former