Marina, with its legendary white caboose, at about 7 p.m., a voice on
the radio answering our call, even though the owner had locked up
for the night. We took a slip with the promise to pay in the morning.
Less than an hour by car from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Red Wing,
Minnesota, is nestled in the river valley and home to the world-famous
Red Wing work boots (with a new museum and store) and the collectible pottery that dates back to Prohibition. A hike to the top of Barn
Bluff affords spectacular views. The Cannon Valley Trail, one of the
state’s prettiest bike paths, runs 20 miles along the river and through
farmland, from Red Wing to Cannon Falls.
We experienced genuine Midwestern congeniality as we lugged
groceries back to the boat the next morning. In the distance, a man
pulled his car to the shoulder and waited as we approached, “Can I
give you a lift?”
Leaving Red Wing we took advantage of the open water of Lake
Pepin to give Navetta a little shakedown. A wide-open stretch of water
and a powerboat make an exhilarating match. Then, under sunny skies,
we anchored out in a little bay for the rest of the afternoon, contemplat-
ing the smooth expanse where waterskiing was invented in 1922.
We passed through locks 4, 5, and 5A, and stopped for the night
at Sunset Bay Marina in Trempealeau, Wisconsin. An amazing number
of trains follow the river daily. In Trempealeau, they passed every half-hour, whistling but not slowing. On the water, the sounds changed
around each bend, from the silence of the open water and wilderness,
to barges blasting passing directions, to lock bells, train wheels, and
boat engines. The villages had their own cacophonies. Day 6 and we
woke to the train’s whistle in Trempealeau, and started the day with a
lock-through at Lock 6, adjacent to the marina entrance. It was a big
day for locking. We passed through locks 7, 8, and 9 quickly, but waited almost an hour for a barge at Lock 10, just north of Guttenberg,
Iowa, where we stopped for the night. The town’s main street faces
the river with a two-mile stretch of manicured park and walkways.
We tied up at a ramshackle fisherman’s dock beneath The Landing, a
riverfront inn. A hearty meal of Iowa steak and potatoes was followed
by the best apple pie. Who could ask for more?
Every time we saw an eagle winging along the shoreline, I wished
for a longer camera lens. Although the greatest number is usually spotted from mid-November to late March, we quickly lost count. Sixty
percent of all North American birds (326 species) use the Mississippi
River basin as their migratory flyway, and we also spotted wood ducks,
Canada geese, and sandhill cranes. The National Eagle Center, located
in Wabasha, Minnesota, provides two observation decks for viewing
HIGH- WATER MARK
ELEVATION 799.2 feet
950 900 850 800 750 700 650 600 550
LOWER S T. ANTHON Y LOCK & DAM
UPPER ST. AN THON Y LOCK & DAM
2 3 4 5 67 89 10 11 1 5A
ST.CR OI XRIVER Minneapolis
The authors sailed past a
funky raft with modern-day
Tom and Huck teenagers,
strumming a ukulele on
Lake St. Croix.
Guttenberg, Iowa, from
A Mississippi River barge.
The Upper Mississippi drops
450 feet over 800 miles
The route taken (right).
eagles while they soar and
nest in the wild, plus courtesy docks for visiting boaters.
With only 35 miles left on our
return trip to Dubuque, we took our
time. For our last night, Paul steered
Navetta into a slip at American Marine
at Dubuque Yacht Basin, as the patrons on
the deck at Catfish Charlie’s watched the sun
lowering into the west. What a week! Packing
up at the end of a trip is always bittersweet, but the
dusty lights from the nearby baseball fields and the muggy
night air filled me with pleasant memories of my childhood in
Iowa. In the morning, we’d pull our little ship from the waters of
the Mississippi, and head home. Mark Twain once said, “To get the
full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” Paul and
I might add, “And you need a boat.”
Writer Paula Yantorno lives in Denver, Colorado. Besides completing the
Great Loop and boating on the Upper Mississippi, she and her husband
have cruised Navetta in the California Delta, San Francisco Bay, Lake
Okoboji, Iowa, Canada and the Northern Channel, and Lake Powell, Utah.
The Upper Mississippi lock
and dam system is called the
“Stairway of Water.” Elevation
above sea level is shown at left.
The river travels at 1. 2 to 3 mph,
and is approximately 2,350