Passing through the Le Claire lock the next morning, I manage to maintain my stellar record of getting caught behind barges – another 90 min wait. At least with a marine radio I can call ahead to learn my fate, and in this case could take evasive maneuvers, which meant veering over to a marina and parking myself at a picnic table for an hour. Marinas are a good place to pass time.
Once back underway, I paddled only a couple of hours then saw this structure at the southern tip of an island. Is it a duck blind? Yes, but not just any duck blind, this is the Mother of all Duck Blinds. No way I’m not going to explore this. In fact, I ended up whiling away the rest of afternoon there and then spent the night. Below is a pic of my boat parked for the night. There were people fishing nearby, so did not want to simply pull the boat up on the beach – it would be too obvious. But tying up is tricky for waves from passing boats can beat it to death on the rocks. I tied it to a tree at one end and to a heavy rock at the other. This allowed a little play, but not much. It worked great, but might have been iffy had the river risen much. The lump of dirt to the right is the root ball of a downed tree. It is the anchor to this whole operation. Someone recently beefed up the plywood walkway with new lumber.The blind is about 20-ft long, with a bench running down one side, cable spool tables, and a patio with two folding chairs through the doorway at the far end. The whole structure sits firmly on concrete block footings, has a solid wood floor with insulation sprayed into the fissures to seal them, and rubber mats for flooring. The circular cutouts are hinged and held up by cable similar to that used to hang paintings, which is reassuring for if one of those plywood portholes dropped on your head it would be lights out!
Looking back toward the entrance. The doorways each have burlap cloth and a camo tarp stitched together and attached securely to the doorframe at the top and along one side – such that you had to pull it over to squeeze inside. You could then hook it in a few places on the loose side to keep things relatively snug. Note the string of 12-volt lights high on the left wall, and the doggie door down low to the right. That’s a proper wall on the left, with insulation foam inside it – you can see the seam where it oozed out.An ammo case for a 12-volt battery sits next to the doorway. Insulation between the floorboards.
A barge passing by the next morning.One last shot while paddling away. That was truly a magical spot. Hundreds of hours of labor were spent constructing it, which made sleeping there feel a bit odd – like stowing away on someone else’s property. I wanted to contribute something to the cause, so carried a bunch of large rocks from nearby to help shore up the outdoor walkway. The other side of the island may now erode due to my labors, but the duck blind will be in good shape. I did wonder, though, what happens when the river rises a couple more feet. The water level was high already, and that night I heard waves lapping underneath and occasionally sloshing the bottom of the floor. For all I knew the river might rise that night and the whole thing could float away. Given my recent night-time antics, I’d probably awaken just in time to experience it crashing into a dam.
Presumably the open doorway and doggie door allow flood waters to intrude to keep the structure from floating off. And presumably, if there were flooding, the area around the island’s downstream tip is calm enough to prevent river currents from wrecking it. There were a lot of rocks stacked around its base, but … Only time will tell.
Met these fun-loving people at a campground. There were no sites left for my tent, but I hung out with them for a while and enjoyed them immensely. This group of long-time friends are all either recently retired or else on the verge of retiring. The younger guy is a grandson visiting from Alabama. But, sorry Tide fans, he roots for the Hawkeyes. RHR.
So I crabbed my way across the river and camped on this sand bar with a crazy-fun family that I’d met earlier that day on the river – they too were paddling. This pic was after they departed the campsite the next morning, but it shows how the buoys look when aground, and the anchors that hold them in place in the river. The concrete slabs have a dimple in the top, and in it is a section of curved rebar to which the buoy cable is attached. No worries about floating away that night!
View of the campground from my tent. You can’t simply cross the river by aiming for the other side, otherwise you’ll be a quarter-mile downstream by the time the crossing is complete. Instead you crab across, meaning, you angle about 40 degrees upstream and paddle in that direction – this crosses you straight over, eventually.