Towboats on the riverfront (June 28)

June 27, 2009

When it’s this hot, I love spending the day along the Mississippi. The wind picks up — if you’ve ever biked the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, you know what I’m talking about! — and the movement of the water works hypnotically on my overheated senses. Our house is only about half a mile from the river, but you can’t see it or feel that breeze. But if we drive three miles or so to the Arch grounds, voila! Invigoration.

Plenty has been written about how distant the city of St. Louis is from its own waterfront, and it’s true — there are very access points to the water. But up in Alton, Ill., river life is more a part of the day-to-day experience. And this weekend some of the boats that work the river are on display during the Great Rivers Towboat Festival, which started today and continues tomorrow (June 28) from noon to 4 p.m. The centerpiece is the opportunity for free tours of a working towboat from Columbia, Ill. The Great Rivers Tour Boat Company will be on hand too, offering half-hour tours ($10 for adults, $7 for kids 12 and under) along Alton’s shoreline.

And while you’re up that direction, head downriver a bit to the Alton Marina and check out the all-mahogany, 26-foot 1951Chris Craft Continental replica made in Godfrey, Ill. Even if you don’t know much about boats — and I don’t! — the craftsmanship on boats like this one is fascinating.  (One of my very first assignments as a journalism intern was covering a hand-made, all-mahogany boat, and I can still almost feel its buttery-smooth panels.) The Annual Antique and Classic Boat Festival features 70 such impressive vessels, all viewable for free, from noon to4 p.m. tomorrow (June 28). It’s hosted by the Mississippi Valley Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society.


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