It was getting late in the day but there was still ample time to make one more lock before looking for an anchorage. At MM 811.5 I pass the mouth of the St Croix River at Prescott Wisconsin. About four miles from there I round a bend approach Hastings, MN (opposite shore) and see a boat midstream with flashing red lights. As I drop off plane a whole row of boats anchored in the river come in to view. It is not until I get a little closer that I realize that there is a water show in progress. Actually, it is just ending but I get to see the skiing pyramid of water babes as the grand finale. The lock is in view so I idle through the anchored boats that still seem content on cooling themselves with liquid refreshments.
There is a commercial tow in the lock so I am delayed about 45 minutes. I drop an anchor over the side and kick back with an interesting book. The river moves at its own speed and it has decided I need a break.
With Lock 3 finished I now have three things in mind – food, fuel and a place to call home for the night. I am getting closer to the Minneapolis, MN metropolitan area so I am concerned with going too much farther. My travels have taught me that safe and quiet anchorages are usually sparse in the vicinity of most large cities – commercial interest usually dominates. Quimby’s list a marina that would seem to have promise for fuel and maybe anchorage if I can’t locate a spot to hang on the hook. As I enter the harbor it is painfully obvious how quickly things can change on the river. Although my Quimby’s is the current 2006 version (unlike my 17 year old chart!) Willie’s Hidden Harbor Marina has changed from the last time they rated it. And not for the better. The refueling facility has been abandon and although there are many boats in the slips weeds seem to be sprouting from every crevasse. As I make my way around the horseshoe shaped harbor I take note of a small slough that leads downstream.
I exit and run a little farther up river to River Heights Marina at the 830.3 MM. Here I top of the one tank and inquire about the restaurant. The dockhand directs me to a slip I can use while eating and I make my way to what is more bar than restaurant. The menu is typical for this genre and I order the cheeseburger with coleslaw. It was nothing to brag about but I didn’t leave anything on my plate.
Now I need a place for the night. Nothing nearby looks promising so I decide to run the mile or so back to Willie’s to check out the slough. As I enter it I first think it might be too narrow. If a creek or slough looks like it may be navigatable I always like to allow space for another boat to pass. After all, I am a guest and the last thing I want is to tick of the locals. I go a little farther and it widens enough to allow passage.
Looks good but there is one problem. Because of its secluded location it is sheltered from the wind. Normally this is a good thing but not this evening. It is about an hour until sunset and it is still hot. Very hot! I set for a while with my small 12v fan blowing on me but finally surrender. The water there is sort of still and nasty so I idle back to the main channel where there is a little breeze and drag Therapy up on a sand shoreline. I really wanted to keep my sliced foot out of the river water as much as possible but Mother Nature was forcing my hand (or foot?). I needed to get good and wet to cool off. I floated around in the 85-degree water until the sun was low, then returned to the slough for a very peaceful night.
The next morning it was a very pleasant 16-mile ride to Lock 1. Along the way I passed through the impressive St Paul downtown area that offers a nice marina that includes a tug converted to a Bed & Breakfast. Once past this point the river starts to narrow. In fact, I would call it extremely narrow and would be interested in watching even two singlewide barges pass.
At the 847 MM I approach Lock 1 and although a small lock it is still impressive. It is situated in a small narrow gorge with steep rock walls. At 38’ this is the second highest lift of any lock on the Mississippi. I enter the chamber with no wait. It is also nice that finally I am locking in a chamber with floating bollards. Didn’t have to hang on to the lousy rope!