So this is it. The so-called mouth of the Ohio River.
Between the entrance ramps of two bridges – one over the Ohio River and one over the Mississippi – is a road to Cairo Point. It’s a road you have to look for. Once you’re there, you look for an observation tower. Then you follow some steps take a ramp down to a muddy river bank, balance yourself while you walk on some rocks in the water and step onto a square piece of concrete slightly above water level.
In theory, the left side of the point is the Ohio River and the right side is the Mississippi.
But not so fast.
Adam and I were there last weekend. We arrived early in the morning, having left our motel in Paducah, Ky., so we could squeeze in a few hours of river exploring before he had to be in the wedding party of an aunt. One thing we noticed about this park was the awful smell. There were barges tied to the bank, too, and the M/V Walter Hagestaad was either dropping some off or picking some up. But the smell was terrible.
We saw and older coupe walking a dog. Their car had Illinois plates, so I asked why the place smelled so bad.
The man said it was because of dead fish. The park was under water the week before, and when the river went down it left a lot of fish on the ground, he said.
He started telling me how this spot was the end of the Ohio River, and how he had traveled north in Minnesota to a place near the Canadian border, to Itasca, so he could step across the Mississippi.
I told him that hydrologists and others will tell you that the upper Miss is a tributary of the Ohio. Here at Cairo Point, the Ohio kicks in more water than the upper Miss, so that river is really a tributary of the Ohio.
He didn’t like hearing that, and I was wondering later if he told people about that know-it-all jerk from West Virginia who thinks the Ohio is a bigger river than the Mississippi.
It doesn’t matter. It’s an old story. Truth vs. prejudice. We know who usually wins, and it’s not truth.
I guess the park there at Cairo Point is a nice enough place when the ground is dry and you don’t have to worry about sinking two inches when you step on the grass, as I did a time or two. Adam kind of liked the place except for the mud and the smell.
He had his camera and I had mine, and we thought we would get a picture of something when I was up in the observation tower (the stairs are very steep, by the way) and heard a boat coming down the Mississippi. I stayed there and Adam went down to the bank in case it turned into the Ohio. I think I caught its name as the M/V Mary Parker. But it didn’t slow down to turn. It kept on going down the Mississippi (I’ll give the old fellow this one).
We went to some other spots nearby before we had to be back in Paducah. More on those later.