Sunday, October 30, 2011

Two great rivers merge

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.  

At the confluence.  The Ohio comes in on the left side of the photo; the Mississippi comes in on the right; and they continue as one on the other side of the trees you see near the right.   An article I read said that while the two rivers travel in the same channel, it takes several miles for the blue Ohio to fully merge with the muddy Mississippi.  (Also: Notice the person without a torso.  I’m thinking he was probably just bending over, but it was a little spooky at first glance -- especially since I took the photo the Saturday before Halloween).

The observation tower is just visible behind the tree on the 
left.  In the center is the  foundation of some former 
On our way to Fort Defiance, we stopped at Paducah, 
Kentucky.  Paducah is at the confluence of the Ohio and 
the Tennessee Rivers, and is has lots of antique shops, 
quilting stores (Paducah is famous for its quilts, and is 
hometo the National Quilt Museum) and an eclectic, funky 
downtown.  One oddity: A “famous son” is Charles “Speedy” 
Atkins, who died in 1928 and whose mummified body was 
on display at a local funeral home for nearly 60 years 
(other than a short hiatus when his body was washed 
away in the flood of 1937).   And I read that during  lunch.  
If you want to read about it on Wikipedia, heres the link.


  1. Dear Bev and Jim
    I’ve recently stood right where you were standing where the Mississippi merges into the Ohio River (I am Ohio centric). I remember thinking that such a significant geological and historical spot should be honored on some grander format. Your wanderings along the rivers evoke the Huck Finn in us all, but it is you and your Jim (coincident?) that are actually on that raft. Thank you for channeling your Mark Twain for the benefit of us blog readers.
    I was sad, that you missed Metropolis Illinois. The superman statue at the court house is exactly how the hero of my youth should be displayed.
    Hoping the levelers are still leveling, Carl

  2. Carl! It was so wonderful to see the Ohio meet the MIssissippi. But you are right that beautiful view is not honored with the appropriate view point. I could hardly believe it. The leveler, your boards and the plastic leveling pads we purchased since are all working -- and we've used all of them in some form or another since we left your place. Tonight we are using the levelers alone and all seems well. As for Metropolis ... we have to save something for next time.