Bars Rattling

Bars Rattling

Trees on the roof, vines growing
from the windows, the only life
in a prison closed in the Flood of ’93,
the big one. Imagine it’s haunted,
calling to the river. Listen closely.
The river is back, and the bars
are rattling underwater. Waves
lap at the walls in response,
and the vines flourish.

Taken March 23, 1986 and found at Vox Magazine.

Photo found at Columbia Daily Tribune.

Photo found at Vox Magazine.

Built in 1926 in an area then known as Cedar City, Renz Prison Farm was part of the Missouri prison system, becoming an all women’s prison by 1990. Standing on the Missouri River floodplain and abandoned during the Great Mississippi and Missouri Rivers Flood of 1993, when the river remained above flood stage for more than 60 days, it sits empty. The land is now privately owned, and the building is surrounded by 500 acres of farmland (and the trees and vines that have taken hold). Costly asbestos removal stands in the way of any demolition. Marked “No Trespassing,” the building is known to be visited by “urban explorers,” and is used occasionally by law enforcement for active shooter training. Current flood waters on the Missouri river are six feet lower than the 1993 level, but still 9 feet above flood stage, so the “lake” surrounding the prison likely will be around for a few more days.

1993 flood photos, with Jefferson City across the bridge in the distance.

The top photo is mine, taken May 27, 2019.
Graph and 1993 flood images found at National Weather Service.
(Clicking on each photo will open a tab with a larger view.)

Ken G.

Leaves in the Stream

Leaves in the Stream

What are breadth and width
to a river?  Increase a channel’s depth,
yet curtail navigation.  Obstacles, seen
and unseen, arise.  Shallows appear
that did not exist.  Who are we
to question rain?  The river’s course
was set, yet always in flux,
long before our arrival.  Our standards
are but impositions.  We are
just leaves in the stream.

The top two photos are of the Missouri River at Jefferson City, Missouri. River levels have been fluctuating at or above flood stage for several weeks. It’s latest crest was yesterday, at 31.8 feet, and was the “ninth largest flood” for this area. This view is of North Jefferson City. It lies within city limits and is across the river (and in another county) from the largest portion of the state capital. It’s predominantly farmland (with some homes) and industrial, and is the location of the city’s airport. The area was evacuated a couple of days ago, and the airport was closed. It was once known as Cedar City, but the flood of 1993 wiped out the small community that existed there, leaving just a couple of homes. Just past the bridge markings in the photo is Noren Access, a city park that includes a 100 foot-long boat ramp. The top of the ramp is about 6 feet underwater. Beyond the submerged ramp is a levee (barely showing behind the trees) that extends for miles and was breached, leaving a 30-40 foot gap. The flat level of water in the distance is a farm field that would be dry, if not for the high water.

Looking back through my photos, it seems I’m only drawn to photograph this section of the river during exceptional conditions, but they show that farm field in the background. Below is a photo of the ice choked river of winter, with a level 25 feet lower and the full boat ramp visible. Below that is an example of the heavy fog that can swallow the river, at times. The last photo is looking across the river as kayakers stop for a rest and check-in during the “Missouri American Water MR340,” an annual 340 mile endurance race that is paddled from Kansas City to St. Charles (near St. Louis) and must be completed within 88 hours.

The bridge markings do not indicate depth. They indicate clearance, as the river is open to barge traffic during shipping season. The river is dredged on a regular basis to maintain a channel with a minimum depth of 9 feet, but flood stage for this section is 23 feet. At that point there is minor flooding along Wears Creek, which extends into the city from the river and past light industry and a couple of homes. The State Capitol and downtown are elevated, but this is a hilly city, and during this flood many of the low-lying parking lots used by state employees were underwater.

We have our extremes. Last week it was tornadoes. For the past month it’s been flooding, with the current levels the highest I’ve seen in my 6 years here. 2013 was pretty close, but the state experienced a drought that crippled farmers just a year before. That’s Missouri.

Graph found at National Weather Service.
(Clicking on each photo will open a tab with a larger view.)

Ken G.

Lichen My Mossy Missouri Hike (photo blog)

Lichen Mossy Hike_1

Autumn maple leaves, Osage Trail/Clark Hill Historic Site, Missouri

Lichen My Mossy Missouri Hike

The vertigo I experienced last week lasted nine days, with Monday and Thursday as the worst. The rest of the time was a little worse than being light-headed – as long as I was careful about standing, turning and sitting too quickly. By noon on Monday, I was feeling fine, so I did some yard work, mostly raking leaves, with no issues. I wanted to be sure I’d be able to go hiking on Tuesday.

I was a little light-headed when I woke on Tuesday, but feeling fine well before noon, so I headed out with my camera. I’ve been jonsin’ to get some fall photos, and it was a great day for it – 54° and partly cloudy – except for the leaves. It doesn’t look like we’ll have much in the way of fall colors this year. Still, it was a nice day for a hike. I could try again in a week, but it will be into November. The oaks will have started turning, but they don’t offer much color.

I started at Clark’s Hill Historic Site – just 13 acres at a point on the Missouri River that was a campsite for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Osage Trail (0.5 mile, one way) has a couple of steep climbs through forest, before it ends at a deck on the bluff, overlooking the former confluence of the Osage and Missouri Rivers (That confluence is now 5 miles away). The only interesting color was from a yellow maple tree. Of the few other maples I saw, half were already brown and the rest hadn’t changed yet. I’ve taken some nice leaf photos here in the past, so it’s worth the short trip.

From there I went to Painted Rock Conservation Area, 1500 acres that includes the Osage Bluff Trail, which weaves on and off bluffs that overlook the Osage River.

Lichen Mossy Hike_4

Osage River & Bloody Island Overlook
Osage Bluff Scenic Trail

There are the remains of a stone Indian burial cairn, and pictographs on one bluff face are visible from the river (not from the trail). There are a few more maples here, but with little color in those that had changed. As it happened, clouds moved in and I had overcast skies by the time I came out to the first overlook – not a great day for photos, so most that I took were of moss, lichen and rock formations.

Lichen Mossy Hike_5

As always, I enjoyed the hike, nearly 2 miles, including some off trail exploring to get my best photo of the day, beneath an overhanging rock formation, looking out on the river – testing my balance just a little bit more than I should.

Lichen Mossy Hike_12

Osage River seen from Painted Rock Conservation Area
(click for larger view)

Ken G.


Still Waters

Still Waters_1

The Missouri River shoreline, seen from the Moreau River.  The stone behind the heron is a wing dam jutting into the river, constructed to control shore erosion.

Still Waters

Paddle downstream
to the Big Muddy
Don’t stop this time
Enter the river with joy
Be one with its current
Let it take us, winding, on
to the heart stream of this nation
Follow that to the gulf,
and out to the beyond

So my kayak speaks to me

But I turn back upstream,
a hundred yards
on the Missouri,
fight the current
to reach calm waters,
knowing I would be stranded,
had I gone any further

I do love the current,
feeling its life,
experiencing the life
surrounding it
But I love as much
the still water,
the life embracing it

And there is a life
I would not leave behind,
given the choice


This could be thoughts on life in general – the comfort we find in the familiar (and the treasured).  It’s a product of thoughts I had while kayaking yesterday.  And, it actually is about kayaking (for me).
I have no interest in whitewater kayaking.  Something about the potential for uncontrolled submersion with the added risk of collision with large obstacles underwater turns me off to the idea.  I have been underwater with obstructions and low visibility – wreck diving and diving in limited visibility in the Niagara River (hundreds of times), but always considered those to be under controlled conditions.  I also have kayaked on the Niagara River, paddling two miles upstream against a stiff current, and then paddling back with the current.
In fact, I knew a man in his early seventies who had, for years, been making an annual paddle around Grand Island – at least twenty miles, with at least eight of those against the current (due to the island’s shape).  I suppose part of my comfort in paddling on the Niagara was my familiarity with it over nearly sixty years.
But the main difference between the Niagara and Missouri Rivers is that one (the Niagara) maintains a fairly steady level, while the other (the Missouri) has a water level that is always in flux – either through heavy rains and the resultant feed from tributaries or the release of very large quantities of water by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to relieve over-flooding of reservoirs upstream.  Debris, including trees and parts of structures, is always coming downstream, often snagging on the bottom and affecting the current and anything floating on it (especially something as small as a kayak).  The channel would be fine, but how would I get back?
Since I kayak alone, I cannot park a second vehicle downstream to use for return to the launch, which otherwise would make for a long walk home.  The farthest I’ve gone into the Missouri River is less than a half-mile – upstream first, of course, so I have the current pushing me back on the return.
I do enjoy the quiet streams.  They offer plenty of photo opportunities.  Now, to get a waterproof camera!

Still Waters_2

This view of the wing dam shows that the high river level on this date has partially submerged it – creating a hazard to unwitting boaters.

Appreciating the Big Muddy

Appreciating the Big Muddy

“Do you think that river’s pretty?”
With that, I looked up from my camera
to see a woman in her eighties.

No question in her voice, regarding
her own answer to the question,
as we looked out on the Missouri.

From our vantage point,
on a bluff above the muddy river,
I did not hesitate to answer, “No.”

Spoiled by the Finger Lakes
the Great Lakes and the mighty Niagara,
to me, waters must appear blue, at least at times.

For her, it was the rivers of the Northwest.
“I always wanted to go back there,
until, finally, I realized I’m an old lady.”

No bitterness for her, in that statement,
as she went on to praise the beauty
of the lush green landscape before us.

I told her, “You should see the river
from water level, while kayaking.”
With that, she laughed.

The Big Muddy does have a beauty,
when seen from its banks,
or while sitting on the water.

That lush green landscape rushing past
lends its beauty to the river, complimenting
the beauty of the power the river possesses.