Leaving my friend Jason and the hard working crew at Kentucky Waterways Alliance behind I shoved off into the Ohio below the only serious elevation gradient since the headwaters—The Falls of the Ohio. It was at these falls that Lewis and Clark set out to explore the Louisiana Purchase in 1804. Due to the rainfall from earlier in the week the river was so high that the falls were completely washed out, the shoreline flooded, and the river flowing strongly downstream.
Not long after putting in I paddled by Indiana’s oldest coal power plant—slated to switch to natural gas to meet environmental regulations. This switch to a “cleaner” fuel like natural gas might not be as good an idea for global health and climate stability if the fuel comes from “fracked” sources. A study from Cornell University suggests that fracking is set to contributes more to global climate change than coal. Not to mention all of the health impacts from fracking fluids that are dumped into our surface and ground water. Perhaps we need to look for some alternatives that do not involve blasting, drilling, polluting, and burning to power our light-bulbs and iPhones.
On a small scale I’ve managed to take advantage of the recent sunshine to power my personal electronics with a small solar panel rolled out across the bow of the Out of Eden. It’s not much but at least it keeps me a few volts away from big coal.
Industrial water frontage continued for sometime out of Louisville before both banks gave way to forested limestone cliffs and tiny river towns. At mile 656 I pulled into New Amsterdam, Indiana and spent a lovely evening chatting with nearly half the town—about 11 people. Camped a few feet about the river splashing wakes from towboats, the calls of spring peepers, and yips of coyotes lulled me to sleep.
Early the next morning I stopped into the local general store–Shaffer’s. Most of the town was there preparing for their annual remembrance day festival, an event that brings nearly 2000 people to this small settlement tucked between the Hoosier National Forest and the Ohio River. There was a fire burning in the ancient woodstove that we all gathered around for coffee, bacon and egg sandwiches (best bacon on the Ohio), and morning gossip. Over the last few years several different people had come through town on their way to points south and the ladies at Shaffer’s had stories to tell about each one of them. There was the midlife crisis in a canoe, young couple on a homemade houseboat with an “herb” garden on the bow, and a handful of other kayakers.
Before I could shove off I spent a few more cups of coffee talking to the caretaker of the small campground and bait shop where I spent the night. Neil is an amazingly cheerful, friendly guy and one of the best story tellers I’ve meet yet.
Though they tried to talk me into staying for the festival (“don’t be an idiot and go into that river—stay here another night”–woman at Shaffer”s) the weather was too nice and the river running too fast for me to resist trying to get a long day on the water before a new batch of bad weather arrived. So off I went through curve after curve of remote forest, wide agricultural bottom lands, by enormous floating trees, sunning turtles (“turtkles”), jumping fish, towboats, and sections of river that with the amount of drift resembled floating beaver dams. Somewhere during the day I passed into the central timezone and gained an extra hour, which in addition to the swift current let me put 63 miles of muddy river behind my stern.
Today I’m riding out the wind and a forecasted series of thunderstorms in a little convenience store and restaurant at Rocky Point, Indiana at mile 719.