Sunday, January 31, 2010

Three pics on a Sunday afternoon

From Catlettsburg KY, the Oliver C. Shearer approaching upbound.

Again from Catlettsburg, the W.P. Snyder Jr.

Then we went up U.S. 52 in Wayne County WV to see if we could grab a peek at the mv. Trojan, which sank in the Big Sandy River last week. We saw some small boats working, but we couldn't stop at the good places because of traffic and lack of wide, solid berm. We did get this view of two boats tied up. The one on the left is the mv. Gate City. I don't know about the other one.

And that was all we saw. We looked around at a couple of other places, but didn't see anything different. So we went to the grocery store and home. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

Backup at Greenup

Here it is, about 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 29. I was looking at the vessel locations part of the Corps of Engineers Web site to see what kind of traffic backup they're having at the Greenup Locks and Dam. It looks like two tows are waiting downbound and eight are waiting upbound. But that can't be right unless no one is moving at all, as the last boat to arrive was logged in at 9 o'clock last night.

For the most part, local media here in Huntington don't care about river navigation, so we have to follow this ourselves.

I would like to go down there and get pictures of boats backed up, but there are no good public access spots that I know of. Plus, the river is up. I can't shoot from the bridge over the dam because it doesn't have a sidewalk. I could walk up there, but I'd be doing it at my own risk, and I don't feel that committed to getting the photo, you know?

You can read the Corps' news release on the situation here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Charlie Melancon and pronunciations

After dropping my daughter off at her  job this evening shortly before sunset, I went to look at the high Ohio River. While there, I happened across the towboat Charlie Melancon chugging upriver.

The Charlie Melancon is owned by Blessey Marine Services of Harahan, La. It shares a name with a congressman from the great state of Loozianna, where a sister of mine has lived (near Nawlins) for the past 35 years or so. She happened to call tonight while I was working on the photos, and she gave me the correct pronunciation of the name.

The Charlie Melancon was built by Verrett Shipyard in Plaquemine, La., and was delivered last April. Here, it is pushing for petroleum or chemical barges past the formerly industrial neighborhood of Huntington known as Highlawn.

The Ohio River at Huntington runs in a generally east-west path, giving it some nice light in morning and evening.

Here the Charlie Melancon prepares to go under my favorite bridge.

This last photo has a good angle, and I like the church in the foreground. Too bad it also has vegetation and lots of electric lines.

Clutter happens. Huntington has a lot of old electric lines that get in the way of good pictures. Too bad I can't persuade other people to spend thousands of their dollars to bury utility lines so they don't get in the way of my pictures. *Sigh*

Speaking of pronouncing state names, when I'm around other people who are natives of the state where I was born, we call it Ahia or Ohia. When we speak with outsiders, we pronounce it Ohio. My daughter and I have this running disagreement on the correct pronunciation of "Colorado," too.

Park under water

This is how Harris Riverfront Park in downtown Huntington WV looked under gray skies this morning. Everything along the river is under water, of course. In 1997, the river covered the park, and the city had to install the gates in the floodwall to prevent the river from spilling into streets.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

High water, unphotographed

The river's up, but for some reason I can't get the camera out and go shooting. Maybe I'm getting too worried about the gas money, or it could be that what I saw today and yesterday only makes a good picture if you know what those areas look like when they're not under water.

Part of my problem may be that I too well remember the flood of 1997, the biggest we had around here in 50 years. Or it may be that I'd rather shoot from the air, but I can't get up there.

Excuses, excuses.

Anyway, if inspiration strikes tomorrow, I'll post something.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Three things

A couple of news items that may be of interest:

Construction on the hydroelectric plant at the Smithland Locks and Dam could begin this spring or summer.

Groups are farm runoff along tributaries of the Ohio River to see how it is polluting the Ohio and contributing to the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico. That reminds me of how I rode a research vessel in the summer of 2004 from Portsmouth, Ohio, to Huntington, W.Va., on which faculty from four or five universities studied the river environment. One researcher and I discussed how the river chemistry changed at the mouths of various tributaries. For example, the Scioto River drains into the Ohio at Portsmouth, and it carries a heavy load from the farm country it drains.

For something completely different, I'll note the river in the Huntington area was very foggy yesterday afternoon. Too bad the river was also running several feet above normal, preventing me from getting the pictures I wanted to put up here. Oh well.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lock work

For years, the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has talked about lengthening the auxiliary (smaller) lock at the Greenup Locks and Dam from its present 600 feet to 1,200 feet to match the length of the main lock. It has talked about innovative construction methods so construction would not require the closure of the main lock.

Now the corps is planning work at the J. T. Myers Locks and Dam (nee Uniontown Locks and Dam) just upstream from Evansville, Ind. The corps says it needs to cut away part of the riverbank to widen the area because barge tows keep hitting the bank as they approach the locks there. A news article from the Evansville Courier & Press on this is here.

The Greenup locks, which are the first ones below my home base of Huntington, W.Va., were basically designed in the 1940s. I know that because when I worked for the Huntington newspaper, I found an article from 1949 in the archives about a public hearing where the corps said it needed Greenup to replace locks and dams 27, 28, 29 and 30. Construction began in the 1950s, and the project was finished in -- I think -- 1961.

Greenup was one of the first of the modern dams on the Ohio. Another was New Cumberland, between Wheeling and Pittsburgh. The others new locks and dams were built on the same model.

These things are 50 years old or older, not counting the three -- Emsworth, Dashields and Montgomery -- closest to Pittsburgh. The system needs all the upgrades it can get to ensure it endures another 50 years. The only wild card in this that I can see is coal. Most of the barge traffic on the Ohio is coal, much of which is used at power plants. Coal is under increasing scrutiny. The only alternatives I can see to replace coal in the Ohio Valley are natural gas and nuclear. I don't know about gas, but I do know that bringing nuclear into the region is a difficult, time-consuming and possibly politically poisonous process.

But the river is out of sight, out of mind to most people. They don't see it, so it doesn't affect their lives.

I don't deal with the locks and dams on a daily or weekly basis, so I'm in no position to say what absolutely needs to be done. Maybe Greenup and Myers need their extended locks. Maybe they don't. I just don't know.

What I don't hear coming out of Washington, D.C., lately is a lot of talk about inland navigation infrastructure nationally.

In other words, I have no idea what's going on behind the scenes, so maybe that's where I'll leave it right now. Oh, how I miss having access to find out this kind of stuff.

Cairo-area bridges noted

One of my favorite blogs is, a place where guys talk about the good and the bad of automotive history. I really like it when they take an old car -- such as my first, a Mustang II -- and talk about why its shortcomings make it such an object of desire.

Anyway, Car Lust Blog writer Chris Hafner has written an excellent piece praising the internal combustion engine. It's worth a read.

What makes that piece relative to this blog is this from the comments section, from a writer who calls himself That Car Guy:

The drive from St. Louis to Nashville is quite pleasant. I took I-55 South to Sykeston (sp?), then I-57 over to Charleston. From there, Hwy 60 to Wyckliffe, over what must be two of the most amazing, narrowest, hugest bridges of their type in the country, where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers meet. I did this last summer in the Miata with the top down, and the thrill of meeting a wide semi on those tight lanes, while about 100 feet above the waters, must be experienced to be believed.

I haven't been that far down the Ohio River since 1986, but I remember some narrow bridges down there. And I've seen enough photos on Flickr to tell me those bridges are still there.

Getting back down there is a priority once I find work and get some money in my pocket again.

P.S. I've toyed with the idea of a series called "Bridge Lust," where I write about my favorite bridges on the Ohio and its tributaries. It would include bridges I haven't seen or haven't seen n a long time, such as the one at Cairo.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Missed it

Adam has been waiting months to see the mv. Hoosier State, a new AEP towboat. It finally came through our area. It went up the river at night and passed us tonight after dark. Oh well, maybe it will come back when the sun shines.

Meanwhile, according to, Crounse should take delivery soon of a new boat, the Jackie Englert, if it hasn't already. Maybe it will get up this way every now and then as the Linda Reed and the Paula Ruble do.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fatal accident at Kenova

A deckhand has died in an accident on the mv. Tri-State at Kenova, W.Va. Details here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Take a look at WillynWV

Here's a plug for a series of photos by Flickr user WillynWV. He has historic photos of the construction and launch of the mv. Oliver C. Shearer, and he has some newer photos of the Delta Queen, the mv. Pennsylvania and the mv. Wally Roller.

They're worth a look.

I don't steal photos from other people and post them here, so you'll have to click the link to see them.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Camera shy no more?

Seen at the end of the slip (or whatever it's called) at the marina at Harris Riverfront Park in downtown Huntington WV.>

Friday, January 15, 2010

Two pics from Mason County WV

Here a couple of images from a recent trip through Mason County WV the other day.

First, a CSX train crossing a small bridge near the community of Glenwood. I've been a while to get a shot like this. Glenwood itself is known as being one of the lowest communities along this part of the Ohio River. When the river comes up, Glenwood is the first community to go under water.

I also know Glenwood as the place where one of my ancestors was building a barn before he was killed by a train one Saturday night in Gallipolis OH. Apparently he got drunk and laid down along the track. A train came by, and a piece of metal hanging down from the train hit him on the head. That was about a hundred years ago, and it's a story for another time.

And here is that often-photographed Mail Pouch barn along Route 2 in Mason County. I've mentioned it before. I have pictures of it in the summer, in the fall, in rain and in fog, but never in snow. Until now. But this time, I backed up a bit to show the barn in its environment.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Looking for a boat

In 2008, I got some good photos of a boat that I haven't seen since. It's dropped off the Corps of Engineers vessel locator, and it's not on Ingram's boat positions anymore.

Can anyone tell me what happened to the Eastern Star?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A few more ice pictures and that's it

In a day or two, we're supposed to get a break from this cold weather. The temperature will get above freezing and we might see some rain. In other words, we're going from ankle-deep snow to ankle-deep mud.

Before that happens, allow me to post a few more cold-weather photos from along and above the Ohio River here at Huntington WV.

First, my favorite bridge.

And a few ducks finding the Northwest Passage.

The ice-water interface for a big chunk of ice floating down the river.

Here's an image that interests me for the varying shades of blue.

Finally, the mv. Mary Ellen Jones passes Huntington. I got this one Monday on the 6th Street bridge. Unlike Sunday, I wasn't expecting to be out in the cold long, so I wasn't as layered up. It was sure cold up there.

The photo of the Mary Ellen Jones lacks a lot of detail because I took the resolution way down to post it here. It's a nice shot in the original.

Anyway, I guess I'd better find some way to prepare for the mud. I almost want cold weather to stay until spring if that would keep the mud out of my house and car.

Actually, not.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ice on the Ohio

Sunday, Jan. 10, I figured I had better get up West Virginia State Route 2 and get some photos of snow in farm country before it all melts later in the week. I stopped by a boat ramp on the Ohio River and saw lots of ice on the river, so a change in plans was called for.

I ran home to get the boys so they could see an ice-covered Ohio River. Now, the river wasn't frozen over the way it was in 1977. Instead, parts were covered shore to shore by thin pieces of floating ice.

The boys loved seeing all the ice, but they were most surprised by the sounds made of the pieces -- maybe an inch thick at most -- grinding and crunching against each other as they were pushed by the current.

Here, you see the amount of ice in the river just above the East End bridge at Huntington WV. Adam shot this from the back seat while we crossed the bridge. You can see the path cut by the W.H. Dickhoner, which had passed through just a few minutes earlier.

Here's the W.H. Dickhoner a little ways below the bridge.

Adam and I walked up on the 6th Street bridge while Joey watched the fun from the shore. We looked down at the ice and saw patterns like this. It made me think of a Mandelbrot fractal. That sounds like I know more than I really do. Sorry, but it comes from more than four years of writing newspaper editorials.

Here's one of the lead barges from the W.H. Dickhoner encountering the ice near the bridge. I loved the sound. It was like a car wreck in slow motion.

We went to the Ohio side of the river and found these small pieces near the shore.

On the West Virginia side, we found these dirty icicles hanging from a rock. The sand, dirt, grit and stuff were mostly on the outside of the ice.

And here's the W.T. Toutant going downriver as we were about to go home.

The strange part about all this is that I don't like winter, and I really don't like cold weather, but I can find fun in photographing it. The fact that photography has been my link to sanity during eight months of unemployment probably contributes to that.

I have several more pics I might post tomorrow.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sorry, not possible

A month or so ago, Adam asked an interesting question: If Adam's dad (me) got a job on a towboat, could he (Adam) go along and be homeschooled while on the boat.

I had to tell him that would not be possible. Too bad. If we could do that, I'd learn to be a real cook. It would be an interesting life.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Frozen river

We've had several days of below-freezing weather, and now folks on a blog at the Channel 3 Web site are talking about when the Ohio River froze over during the winter of 1977. I well remember the day the river froze over. The temperature fell to about minus-17 the night before.

I also remember some cold weather in the 1980s. In the winter of 1983-84, I think, the temperatures dropped way down around Christmas and stayed cold into January. In the bend at Clipper Mills, Ohio, just below Gallipolis, I stopped one day to watch the ice floes go by. What I didn't expect was to hear the crunching and grinding noises as they collided near the shore.

Well, no one expects the river to freeze. A lot of people say it's too polluted, but the simple truth is that the water isn't cold enough yet to freeze. And it probably won't be. If you all don't mind, I'm not looking forward to weather that's cold enough to freeze the Ohio River. That's just plain too cold.

Hypothermia season

I have this habit of finding places I like and getting pictures in different seasons, weather and lighting, so I've been going down to the Ohio River bank lately to get pictures of some of my favorite places in the snow.

This time of year, rocks on the bank can be slick with ice -- I almost fell today when a snow-covered rock turned out to have ice on it -- and you can slip on mud. I'm always careful to stay far enough back from the river so I don't fall in, but someday the worst could happen.

No one wants to be in the water this time of year, when the river temperature is in the 30s. Hypothermia can set in too quickly. Apparently a guy near Evansville found himself in the river. He was rescued. Story here.

The photo is of Harris Riverfront Park in downtown Huntington WV. A lot of people get pictures of these trees when they are green or gold, but I'm trying to photograph them year-round.

Funny thing about Harris Riverfront Park. As far as I know, there's nothing there that you can see from the river that says "Huntington." I guess the park's designers and all its various managing agencies have assumed that if you can get to the park by river, you know where you are.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A train

I probably should post more pictures and stuff about railroads on this blog. Some of my favorite bridges around here (say, that sounds like a quick, in-and-out series) are railroad bridges, and I find myself paying attention to the trains I see along the river. And the Huntington-Ashland area is tied strongly to the rail industry.

Anyway, I saw this train last month on the CSX line along the Ohio River. In the old days, it was a B&O track before it went to the Chessie System and then to CSX.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Snow day, 1/4/10

A few thoughts from visiting some of my favorite spots along the Ohio River on a snowy winter day when everyone else has returned to work after the holidays:

Harris Riverfront Park at Huntington WV remains lonely through the winter months, but some of us go there to see how things look all bare and covered in a light, dry snow.

After that, I headed to the boat ramp at the mouth of the Guyandotte River. The tree roots and other exposed surfaces had these little icicles hanging from them. They looked like ornamental glass on a chandelier, or Christmas tree ornaments. But not as clean , of course. They are frozen Ohio River water, you know.

I looked up the river and saw these two boats coming toward me. The one in front was the Jincy of Crounse Corp. The one in the back is the Mary Lucy Lane of Canal Barge Co. Inc.

The Jincy passed under the East End bridge first, but within a half mile, the Mary Lucy Lane was overtaking it.

As I left, I looked at my footprints in the snow. The cold had made the sand soft. Wherever I stepped, my foot sank an inch or two in the little uplifted pillars of sand.