I made the last minute decision recently to paddle down the Mississippi. It was the second weekend of October, the end of the warm season, and the leaves were turning gold. It was now or never. I rented a car early Saturday morning, drove from Chicago to the Mississippi River, paddled 18 miles by packraft from Burlington to Fort Madison, Iowa. When I got to the marina in Fort Madison, I packed up my raft and left at 7pm on Sunday and drove back to Chicago. I got home at 1am that night.
The weather was perfect. I didn’t see a single cloud for the whole day. There was almost no wind, and the river was a mile-wide sheet of glass. The leaves were just starting to turn, and halfway through the morning two bald eagles flew from their perch site on the island trees across the channel up ahead. I paddled between the smaller islands for most of the morning, then came out to the open river early in the afternoon. I spent the last few hours paddling through a wide open expanse of calm water, with a half mile to shore on either side.
It was a good time, but I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t rushed it. Especially with so many great places to camp on the river’s island system. But fall is my favorite time of the year in the midwest, and it was great out there.