Locks, Dams, Barges, Bridges, and Bluffs...CannonTour - Wisconsin's West Coast

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, Oct 5, 2006.

  1. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    40,205
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    #1
  2. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    40,205
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Covered about 900 miles over three days. Started out near Milwaukee and began the "tour" in Dubuque, IA. Traveled up the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River and crossed over to Minnesota at Red Wing. Traveled back down the Minnesota and Iowa side to Mcgregor, IA. Crossed back into Wisconsin and followed the Wisconsin River east to Merrimac where I ended the "tour" and headed for home.

    [​IMG]

    Starting out on a bluff in Dubuque overlooking lock and dam #11.
    [​IMG]

    Turkey vultures swooped and sailed along the edge of the bluff. Big, nasty looking birds. . .
    [​IMG]
    #2
  3. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    40,205
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Dubuque is a great town. Lots of interesting stuff to check out.

    I noticed an incline railway on one of the bluffs so I went to check it out.
    [​IMG]

    In the late 1800s Dubuque was an "hour and a half" town. That is, at lunch time things shut down for 1 1/2 hours. A banker worked in town below the bluff but lived several hundred feet above atop the bluff. He liked to spend 1/2 hour eating lunch and then take a 1/2 hour nap. Since it took him 1/2 hour to run his horse and buggy the long way around to get up the bluff, he never had time for a lunch time nap. Finally he put in a steam powered lift to give him a short cut between work and home. Eventually it came to this in the present day . . . ($2 round trip - Fenelon Place Elevator)
    [​IMG]

    Like so many other Mississippi River cities and towns, Dubuque needs flood protection. It is either dikes and harbor gates that can be closed . . .
    [​IMG]

    . . . or else it is this . . .
    [​IMG]
    #3
  4. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    40,205
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    A good reason to start this tour in Dubuque is that they host the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium.
    [​IMG]

    This is a pretty good museum of "all things Mississippi River" and serves as a great orientation to anyone planning to ride the Great River Road.

    Lets cover a few facts about the river.
    The river is 2350 miles long. It drops about 1500 feet along that distance. It drains about half of the continental US.
    [​IMG]
    #4
  5. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    70,797
    Nice!!

    WTF happened here?!! :ear :huh :huh :eek1 :eek1

    [​IMG]
    #5
  6. frewhl

    frewhl daily rider

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2002
    Oddometer:
    8,728
    Location:
    gulf region
    I will jump to the end.Does it go thruogh about 23 states.
    That water is murky when it gets to the La.coast.I hope you can come up with a good satelite image of the river water hitting the gulf.
    #6
  7. river_rat

    river_rat Perplexed

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2006
    Oddometer:
    729
    Location:
    Appleton, WI
    big rock broke off the bluff and rolled into the building :evil
    #7
  8. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    70,797
    So why is the retaining wall unscathed? :scratch
    #8
  9. Ultralights

    Ultralights Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2005
    Oddometer:
    417
    Location:
    Sydney Australia
    now a good architect would make that boulder into a lovely feature of the house!
    #9
  10. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    40,205
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Inside the museum they have many fine exhibits.

    Here is a tow boat simulator that you can operate. By the way, tows really push barges - they have not towed barges for decades. Pushing barges cabled tight to the tow gives better control. The name "tow" stuck though. Anyway, this simulator allows you to operate throttles and rudders to steer the barges. It is more complicated than it looks as river current is a strong factor coming out of a lock or trying to make it under a bridge.
    [​IMG]

    They have a fine aquarium with species from the river. Here is a catfish. Cats will eat about anything - including muskrats or diving ducks - or so people have found when they butchered cats they caught. . .
    [​IMG]

    They have a tank full of otters - always interesting to watch. I do a little fur trapping. Last year I got a notice that the government had inserted some transmitters into some otters in the region to study them. A single pair of otters can cover a huge area of shoreline. They are pretty good at fishing. . .
    [​IMG]

    Here is a wood duck. Sorry about the picture quality - it was swimming around pretty fast behind some glass. Not only are wood ducks beautifully colored, they are tasty too. A little oil, garlic powder, a strip of bacon around the breast, cook it on the grill . . . good stuff. Oh yeah, get rid of the feathers before you grill it.
    [​IMG]

    Wood ducks nest in hollow spaces in trees. They are agile as they fly through the woods. Here is a picture of some resting in some brush further up the river.
    [​IMG]
    #10
  11. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    40,205
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    They also have some of the snakes found along the river. We don't have water moccasins this far north, but I do run into these common water snakes a lot.
    [​IMG]

    They still have timber rattlesnakes along the bluffs in the region but the population is spotty. Wisconsin used to have a bounty on rattlers so people would find den sites and clean them out to collect the cash. This really knocked the population back. No more bounties - in fact they even protect the Massassauga rattler (swamp rattler) as an endangered species.
    [​IMG]


    At one time clamming was a huge commercial business on the river. Clammers would drift their flat bottom boats downstream across clam beds. The clams, whose shells were open facing upstream to catch food, would clamp down on the metal hooks the clammers drug along the bottom. A clammer could get up to 800 lbs of clams a day this way. They would later steam the clams open looking for pearls and then sell the shells to button factories along the river. The button factories cut buttons from the shells and discarded the rest as fill for roads (where these holed shells still turn up sometimes). In the 40s we got plastic buttons which killed the clamming industry. But in the 60s the cultured pearl industry found new uses for clams to there are still clammers working today.
    [​IMG]
    #11
  12. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    40,205
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    They also have an old dredge that the US Army Corps of Engineers used on the Missouri River to keep it open to navigation making it possible to ship war supplies on the river during WWII.
    [​IMG]

    This dredge had a different kind of dredge head.
    [​IMG]

    There is a dredge for the Upper Mississippi based in Fountain City, WI that uses a cutter head like this one that can eat its way through trees if it needs to.
    [​IMG]

    When the locks and dams went in during the 30s, the Corps had to build a dredge to maintain the channel where sandbars might form. They built the William Thompson in the 30s. The Thompson is on it's last year. They just built a new $6M sleek jobbie that they are having a little trouble with right now. . .
    [​IMG]

    Dredges pump a liquid slurry of water and sand through pipes to a site on an island or shore where it later must be recovered and shipped away. Here are some dredge piles.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #12
  13. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    40,205
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Moving on . . .

    Back across the river to Wisconsin. For most of the trip I rode the Great River Road. Here are the markers - easy to follow.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    I headed into lead mining country. I stopped at the St John's Mine. This is an old lead mine where a couple of guys used hand tools and blasting powder to get the ore out to be smelted. Early explorers noticed that some indians in the region had lead as part of their beadwork. It is interesting to stand at the opening of a cave (Snake Cave - as it was probably quite a den site) knowing that indians brought Perrot there to show him the lead in the 1680s.
    [​IMG]

    Here is the opening to the hand dug/blasted mine just a few yards away from the cave opening. 450,000 lbs of ore were taken from this mine.
    [​IMG]

    This gentleman gave me quite a tour and told me more about lead mining than I probably need to know. An excellent tour! Oh yeah, we killed the lights and did the candle thing like the miners did . . . very dark.
    [​IMG]

    Most of the lead shot used by the north in the civil war came from this region. In fact, some of the lead used by the south probably came from here as well. Early in his career, Jefferson Davis used to be stationed up river at a fort at Prairie du Chien. An early Wisconsin politician owned a good piece of the lead interest in the region. Somehow Jeff Davis was able to buy $1M worth of lead from Galena, IL (nearby) during the war. . . hmmmm. Anyway, lead is melted and using screens to vary shot size is dropped from a tower into water to form shot. Here is a shot tower in Dubuque.
    [​IMG]

    Lead shot made in the Dubuque tower.
    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
    #13
  14. Bimble

    Bimble In giro in moto

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    8,351
    Location:
    Apple Valley, MN
    Good stuff Cannonshot. I love the Mississippi.

    :lurk
    #14
  15. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    40,205
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    I recommend this tour head and shoulders above the two lake tours I took. It is far more scenic and interesting even though all three tours are rich in history. This would be a fabulous two up trip for someone to take along their spouse of significant other. The small river towns have interesting bed/breakfast places or old historic hotels. Many have quaint restaurants and shops. A good tour that offers something for everyone.

    I spend 2+ months on the river each year hunting, fishing, and trapping and it certainly has some unusual allure. I found this along the way and it is so true. . . (at the risk of being a romantic).
    [​IMG]
    #15
  16. Bimble

    Bimble In giro in moto

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2004
    Oddometer:
    8,351
    Location:
    Apple Valley, MN
    Cool marker. Don't say where it is, I want to find it. :D

    I'm working on some riding buddies to follow the river down to... where-ever next summer. Definitely down to Dubuque. That area we went through on the gravel ride is just spectacular!
    #16
  17. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    40,205
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    Here is a map to catch us up. The mine I visited was in a coulee just outside Potosi, WI. By the way, Ripley's Believe it or Not featured Potosi as being unique because it has the longest main street without a cross intersection anywhere I guess (3 miles). Looking at the maps you can see from the roads that there are a lot of bluffs, coulees, and elevation changes. This region was missed by the last glacier so it is much "rougher" that other areas further north. It is called the driftless or unglaciated region.
    [​IMG]

    On to Cassville. At one time, Cassville was thought to be the entryway to Wisconsin and it was believed it would be the state capitol. At the time, Minnesota and (maybe) Iowa were part of the Wisconsin Territory and Cassville was in the middle of it. You have to keep in mind that Chicago was kind of a swamp at the time and Galena, IL was a major center of commerce. Well, Cassville never made it big, but they do have a nice ferry that runs seasonally with varying hours to get you across the river to Iowa.
    You may have seen this pictured in some other rides that crossed the river. Ferry service started here in 1836. This is the oldest operating ferry route in Wisconsin.
    [​IMG]

    A mile north of Cassville is Stonefield which is a state historical society museum of agricultural life in the 1890s with the related shops and businesses. It is called Stonefield because of the many stone fences.
    [​IMG]

    You can follow the Great River Road or you can do what many of us like to do and jump onto some scenic and fun side roads. If you get a regional map that shows township roads it is a no brainer to pick out some scenic side roads that will entertain you.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #17
  18. Hellfish6

    Hellfish6 Virgin ADV rider

    Joined:
    May 20, 2006
    Oddometer:
    25
    Location:
    Chicago/Seattle/Iraq
    I always look forward to your reports. They should be turned into local history lessons for kids in the Wisconsin area.
    #18
  19. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Oddometer:
    40,205
    Location:
    SE Wisconsin
    There is a main line railroad along much of the route. North of LaCrosse there are main lines on both sides of the river. This is a high traffic route. Near where I hunt more than 50 trains/day come through.
    [​IMG]

    If anyone is looking for a career change, some of the barge companies are taking applications. 28 days on, 28 days off. Six hour shifts on the river 24 hrs/day.
    [​IMG]

    Coal in barges paused in a lock.
    [​IMG]


    One of these tows typically costs about $10M and can last 50 years. A barge costs about $300K. The tow carries about 100,000 gallons of diesel and burns about 2,500 gallons per day. They pay a $.20/gal fuel tax to help pay for the river system. They can make it from St Paul, MN to St Louis in about five days.
    [​IMG]

    For bulk cargo, barge transportation is hugely efficient.
    [​IMG]
    #19
  20. gunnar73

    gunnar73 n00b

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2006
    Oddometer:
    8
    Location:
    Wherever Army sends me
    Great report:clap
    :lurk
    #20