There are days you get excited for what lies ahead on an adventure. Tuesday was one of those days for me. Waking up at about 7AM, I knew I would get my chance to lock through my 1st ever lock and dam!
With my awesome new friends Bev and Whitney from the Fat Boy’s floating resturant hooking me up with the place to crash, I was only a little over 3 miles away from the dam.
I woke up super excited and ready to go. Even though the fog was still heavy and I could barely see the dock in front of me, I pushed off at about 7:30 eager to start the day.
With the fog still thick, I pulled off at the boat ramp at the Old Lock 34, which is now a little park and museum. It was a great spot for a little breakfast to kill an hour or so until the fog lifted.
Before I knew it though, it was 10AM and I was sitting outside the doors of the huge double lock. Half excited, half nervous, I called to the lock operator on my Marine Radio to notify them of my arrival.
“Downbound paddler to Captain Anthony Meldahl Lock and Dam requesting to lock through.”
“No Problem. Give us about 10 minutes.” The operator replies.
That simple. No hassle. No problrms, just a simple we will get her ready for ya! Now the nerves were gone and it was pure excitement. Knowing I wouldn’t have to portage my loaded boat and Kaboose was a huge relief. Now it was time to wait until the horn sounded and the light turned green to enter.
Living my middle school years along the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa we had taken school field trips to the Rock Island Locks and learned how they worked. So getting to actually be inside of one during the process and paddling through it no less, was going to be a huge thrill.
Before I knew it, two blasts of the horn signaled me to enter the lock nearest the river. One blast would have been for the lock closest to the shore. I paddled through the now open huge gates of the lock and entered the massive structure.
It seemed like it took me forever to paddle towards the end of the chamber, but once there, the operator made sure I tied off to the huge mooring bit and then I was ready for my ride downward.
Over the next 10 minutes I was slowly dropped about 30 feet from an elevation of about 485ft to 455ft. Feeling the water slowly sink and more and more of the gigantic lock walls appearing was an awesome experience. Something every paddler should get to do at least once in their paddle adventures.
Two more big blasts of the horn signaled the ride was over and time to start paddling again. I headed out and gave a wave to the lock master who watched as I paddled out with my Kaboose in tow. My 1st Lock experience was a success and in 20 minutes, I was paddling on down river. No portage. No effort. Just a short wait and a memory that would last a lifetime.
I may come upon and go through many more locks before I’m dead and gone, but this is one that I was really looking forward to. The novelty may wear off. I may begin to hate the waits at some locks like it seems so many others do, but for my 1st day and 1st time through…nothing could have made it any better! One more check off a paddlers bucket list!
To watch my 1st lock experience inside the Captain Anthony Meldahl Lock, check out the full video up now on my Big Adventure YouTube channel by clicking here. Hope you enjoy the ride!