Back To The Arch

Construction of the new museum that will be mostly underneath the Arch grounds.

They’re making some progress on the Arch grounds. More than a year ago, contractors for CityArchRiver project started cutting down all of the ash trees, and when they did that, they closed off all of the sidewalks that criss-crossed the park. Just in the last couple of weeks, they reopened some of the sidewalks, and today—sunny, and although it was a chilly 35 degrees, it was the warmest it’s going to be over the next week—may have been my last chance to get over there before the end of the year.

It turns out only the north end is open, and not fully open at that. But it’s definitely better than it was over the summer, and it’s nice to be able to stretch your legs and not be confined to the construction zone right in front of the Arch legs.

According to the project’s website, most everything will be done soon except for the construction of the new museum and visitor center, which is scheduled to be done in the summer of 2017 (a little optimistic, maybe?). It will sure be nice when the whole thing is finished and all of the temporary chain-link fence and construction vehicles are gone. At least, by the time it starts to warm up again in the spring, we’ll have a lot more of the park we can walk in.

The Captains’ Return … Returns!


There have been 161 posts on Shoulblog so far. And the one that, by far, gets the most traffic over time is About That Statue, a series of pictures of the Lewis & Clark Statue on the St. Louis riverfront. The statue, named “The Captains’ Return,” was somewhat unique in that it was regularly inundated by Mississippi River water whenever the river rose close to flood stage. Because the river level is always changing, the sculpture seemed to be in a different setting every time you saw it, and it was therefore one of my favorite things to photograph in St. Louis during my lunchtime walks. I’m guessing that a lot of people saw the statue, Googled it to find more information about it or pictures of it, and were led to that blog post.

Unfortunately, though,  it’s apparently not a good thing for a bronze statue to regularly be underwater for long periods of time. A year or so ago, at the beginning of a long riverfront-renovation project, the city removed the statue, with the promise that it would be refurbished and relocated to a new spot at a higher elevation.

Recently, the statue returned to the riverfront, with a new finish and a new location. It’s now further south from Eads Bridge, and up on Leonor K. Sullivan Blvd., which itself was raised by two feet as part of the riverfront project. The statue is thus protected from many of the high-water events in St. Louis, but by no means all of them. Just this last December, it would have been completely underwater, for example. Still, if the goal is to prevent it from getting inundated every year, this location will work better. I’m just glad to see it back.


Downbound On The Upper

IMG_3683Note: When originally written, this was part of a series of posts about pictures used in the header at the top of this blog. Well, life happens and headers change, and now there are completely different pictures up there. Oh well, I’ll keep these posts, though. Previous posts  in the series are here and here and here and here.

This is a towboat pushing 12 barges on the Mississippi River. Of course, in this shot, you can only see the stern end of three of the barges, but if you scroll down and look at the first photo in the gallery below—which was taken exactly 17 seconds after this one—you’ll be able to see the full complement of 12 barges, arranged in a four-long-by-three-wide configuration.

The towboat pushing the barges is the Crimson Glory of American River Transportation Company, or ARTCO. The Crimson Glory was built in 1969, and it has two diesel engines that produce a total of 5,400 horsepower, making it a medium-sized towboat by today’s standards. It has four decks above the waterline, with room for a crew of around 10 people, who work and live on the boat for probably a month at a time before getting a month or so off.

I’ve always liked this particular picture just because you can see all of the wire ropes and winches and other deck equipment used to hold the boat and barges together. A similarly intricate pattern can be found between each of the tiers of barges.

Those barges are loaded with grain; they’ve come downriver from either the Illinois River or the Upper Mississippi River,  and they are bound for the large grain elevators near New Orleans, where they’ll be unloaded and the grain will most likely eventually be transferred to a ship for export. Because the tow is in St. Louis—this picture was taken from Eads Bridge—it will be soon be broken up and the barges put into a larger tow of 30–40 barges; the reason being that there are no more navigation locks below St. Louis, and the towing companies can make more money by putting more barges in front of bigger boats when not constricted by lock sizes.

Each barge holds about 1,500 tons of cargo. That means this 12-barge tow carries the equivalent of 180 rail cars, or nearly two 100-car unit trains—a fact the towboat companies would like you to ponder the next time you’re sitting at a crossing waiting for a train to pass.

My job has me looking at a lot of towboat photographs, and it’s pretty much an art form unto itself. The boats themselves are as varied as cars. Over the years, I’ve taken quite a few towboat pictures myself, and some of my favorites are presented below. As usual, just click on any photo for a larger view.

About That Statue…

Note: This statue has been moved. You can read a June 2016 update to this post  here.

Just downriver from Eads Bridge in St. Louis, on the St. Louis riverfront, is a statue called The Captains’ Return. It depicts the return of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis, along with their dog, Scout, from their famous trip to explore the Missouri River. It was sculpted by Harry Weber.

I said it was “on the riverfront,” but it is sometimes more accurately described as “in the river.” In what I consider a brilliant placement, the statue was set in the cobblestones on the St. Louis wharf. The river level is subject to notoriously large swings; in the last 20 years, it has been as low as 0 feet and as high as 50 feet on the St. Louis gauge. This picture was taken when the stage was about 29 feet, which is one foot below the flood stage. (Don’t confuse “stage” with “depth.” Even at zero feet on the St. Louis gauge, there is still more than nine feet of water in the main channel of the river. Zero on the gauge refers to the “low water reference plane,” which I wouldn’t try to explain, even if I understood it.)

That’s Clark, in the picture, who appears to be waving at us for help. Less fortunate are Lewis and Scout; they’re below the surface in this photo, although you can see them in some of the pictures below.

This statue is one of my favorite things about St. Louis. I’m sure I’ve taken hundreds of photos of it over the last six years. It’s just a few feet south of Eads Bridge, another of my favorite things about St. Louis. And about half a mile away is yet another favorite, the Gateway Arch.

The statue was dedicated in September 2006, the 200th anniversary of the end of the Voyage of Discovery. There’s a plaque on the statue that reads: “At noon on September 23, 1806, the Lewis and Clark expedition ended on the St. Louis riverfront after a journey along the Missouri River to its headwaters, a passage of the Rocky Mountains, and a descent to the Pacific Coast via the Columbia River. Returning by roughly the same route, they arrived at St. Louis after two years, four months and nine days of exploring the lands and encountering the peoples of the American West.”

Here are a few more pictures of the statue (clicking on any of the thumbnails below will bring up a gallery you can scroll through). The last one, the only one in which you can also see the Arch, was taken this morning (February 27, 2012), when the river stage was about 4.25 feet.

A New Way To Look At St. Louis, Ctd.

Here are a couple more pictures I liked from my walk across the river the other day. (As always, click on the thumbnail for a larger view.) First, as you see above, a panorama  of the St. Louis Skyline from across the river. The overlook at Malcolm W.  Martin Park is a little back from the river, so you get all of that industrial-ugly stuff in the foreground, but it’s still a great view.

I love doing panoramas. They’re ridiculously easy in Photoshop, as long as you take the initial shots properly. (The main key: set the camera to manual exposure, so all of the pictures are shot using the same settings. Also, allow plenty of overlap between the individual shots.) This one was composed from five initial pictures.

Someday I’ll post a few other panoramas from the last few years.

Our second shot today is from my walk back across the Eads Bridge to St. Louis. The Mississippi River is falling; a week or so ago it was up above flood stage, meaning that the river was lapping onto Leonore K. Sullivan Blvd. (Wharf Street, for you real old-timers). By Tuesday, when these pictures were taken, it had fallen nine or 10 feet (and in the four days since then, it has fallen another four feet). When the river falls, it leaves behind a lot, and I mean a lot, of mud. These guys have the unfortunate task of cleaning it up, and sending that mud back into the river. You can see in the foreground what lies in their future. It’s definitely worthy of “Dirty Jobs,” and unfortunately for these workers, St. Louis has a long, long stretch of cobblestones to clean.

A New Way To Look At St. Louis

Malcom Martin keeps an eye on the Gateway City.

April 20 was the day I’d been waiting for for months. Warm, but not too warm. Plenty of sunshine. Not a terribly busy day at work. And the trees are greening up nicely, filling out enough so that, from a distance, they look pretty darn summery.

I took my camera to work. And at lunchtime — actually a few minutes early — I packed up and headed for … Keep reading