We continued our trip down the Great River Road today. The area along the river from just below the Twin Cities is unique. The ancient Mississippi River cut a deep valley through the area when the glaciers melted at the end of the ice ages. The channel gradually filled in when the melt water stopped. The valley has steep bluffs on both sides and is pretty wide. Plants and animals in this area are unique and many are not found anywhere else. The area from Wabasha to Rock Island, IL has been designated as the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. If you’re interested in “nature” this is a great place to spend some time.
We stopped at a Corps of Engineers Lock and Dam. There are some 27 or 28 sets of locks and dams between St. Paul and St. Louis. They are there to maintain a 9 ft. shipping channel for barge traffic. The Mississippi is a super highway for barges carrying commodities moving up and down stream. Each 15 barge tow carries 22,500 lb, equivalent to more than 2 100 car trains or 870 tractor trailers. Fortunately as we were at Lock and Dam 5, a barge tow was moving downstream through the lock. Sue was so fascinated with the process of locking; we hung around for nearly 2 hours watching the barge tow move through the lock. In the meantime we saw a couple of eagles soaring over the river and some commercial fishermen setting a gill net and catching fish. It was worth the time.