Saturday, July 31, 2010

West Virginia at Robert C. Byrd (Hmm; how appropriate)

Here are some photos I got of the Madison  Coal & Supply towboat West Virginia today at the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam, where it was assisting another boat going through the auxiliary lock while the main lock was down for repairs.

Coming next, perhaps: photos of the towboat Mary Ellen Jones near the same spot.

First, the West Virginia in the lower approach to the lock as another boat -- the Orleanian, I think -- was locking downbound.

Here, the West Virginia backs away from the lock with six barges from the Orleanian's tow. In the background is the West Virginia's own tow, which it has secured to the main lock guide wall.

And here, deckhands trade business news, gossip, stock tips or whatever else deckhands talk about when they get together. One thing I'm sure of is that they can't be nearly as big into gossip as newspaper people are.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Personal use, too

Even I know there are more vessels on the Ohio River than commercial ones. Here are some people out having a good old time on the river at Huntington, W.Va., this week.

The splashes from personal watercraft, or whatever the generic term for Jet Skis or Sea Doos in, make interesting patterns when viewed from above.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

mv. Andi Boyd

As seen from Ben Street in Chesapeake, Ohio, with downtown Huntington, W.Va., in the background.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Turbidity and photosynthesis

Here's the mv. Leonard L. Whittington about to go under the Robert C. Byrd Bridge, a.k.a. the 6th Street bridge, over the Ohio River at Huntington, W.Va., this week.

I particularly like how the water changes color as the barges pass through. It's mostly brown because of the heavy rains we've had this past week. Somewhere a professor has a chart of the depth of the photosynthesis zone as it varies with increasing turbidity. But I'm not looking for it right now.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Churned water, green to brown

I was up on the bridge today to see a boat go under, but I ended up seeing something more interesting.

It began when Adam and I crossed the Huntington East End bridge over the Ohio River. The Ohio itself was green from algae, but the Guyandotte River, which flows into the Ohio just below the bridge, was brown from mud it carried from recent storms. It was interesting to see the dividing line between Guyandotte River water and Ohio River water.

We went ahead on down to the 6th Street Bridge so we could watch the towboat Leonard L. Whittington pass under downbound. We watched and photographed it, but then I noticed something. The water churned behind the Whittington was mud brown, like the Guyandotte River water. So the curious side of me got to wondering how deep the algae layer was on the surface of the Ohio River. And it wondered how much time would elapse before the water turned green again.

But we had to get to the store to buy groceries, and we couldn't wait. Too bad.

A bridge's silver anniversary

On or about Aug. 2, some of us here in the Huntington, W.Va. , area will note the 25th anniversary of something big. That’s the date in 1985 when the East End bridge opened to traffic.

We waited a long time for that bridge. It was 25 years in the making, partly because of Huntington’s habit of arguing everything to death and partly because of funding problems. (See note 1 below).

The local newspaper and TV stations might mark the anniversary, and if they do they’ll probably note that the bridge made it possible – easier, at least – for developers to build all those subdivisions in eastern Lawrence County, Ohio. The area was already converting from farmland to bedrooms before the bridge opened. The bridge accelerated the process by allowing people to work in West Virginia while living at less expense in Ohio. (Note 2)

But to some of us, there’smore. This bridge was the first cable stay bridge on the Ohio River. Since the East End bridge opened, we’ve seen cable stay bridges at Steubenville, Pomeroy and Portsmouth, Ohio, and at Maysville and Owensboro, Ky. They look new and modern, and they provide a sense of aesthetics that steel truss bridges don’t. (Note 3)

Back in 1985, I knew a World War II veteran in Ohio who refused to drive across the East End bridge for a long time. He said it just didn’t look strong enough, and he didn’t want to be on it if it should fall the way the Silver Bridge did just 18 years before.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while or who has seen my photostream on knows that I refer to the East End bridge as “my favorite bridge.” I love driving across it. I love photographing it at daybreak and sunset. I won’t try to explain it here in words. The pictures themselves will have to do the talking.

I’ve made a few comments that there’s a law in West Virginia requiring anyone living within 25 miles of Huntington to take a photo of the bridge at night. It was the first bridge in this area to be lit from the top of the tower to the roadway at night. The lights and the lines of the bridge challenge just about anyone with a camera and a tripod to get a nighttime photo.

One other thing of beauty: This bridge is asymmetrical. Take a look at this photo…

… and count the support cables on each side of the tower. There are 15 paris on the Ohio (left) side and 16 on the West Virginia side as seen from this angle. (Note 4).

The bridge isn’t perfect. It’s only two lanes, and there’s no sidewalk. Anyone who walks across it has to stick to a very narrow berm and hope they don’t encounter the kind of drivers that scared me when Adam and I walked up on an entry ramp once.

For the first 20-some years, this bridge was known officially as the East Huntington Bridge. Locals called it the East End bridge or the 31st Street bridge. A few years ago, one of my then-coworkers noted in a column on the sports page that this bridge hadn’t been named for anyone yet, so he suggested Frank “Gunner” Gatski, the first former football player at Marshall University to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Maybe a year later, a legislator made a big deal at a Marshall football game about having the bridge renamed in Gatski’s honor. Most locals have ignored the new name. I’ve barely forgiven my former coworker and am undecided about the legislator.

Somehow, sometime on Aug. 2, I’ll have to drive across the East End bridge to mark its anniversary. And I’ll hope people in those other communities enjoy their cable stay bridges the way I’ve enjoyed mine.


(1) The big argument in this case was where in West Virginia the bridge would be. Two locations were argued endlessly. A former colleague of mine said people were arguing over the fate of buildings they thought were historic, when they were merely  old. And as former Gov. Arch Moore would say, you could stand on a street corner in Huntington handing out $100 bills to anyone who walked by, and people would criticize you for standing on one side of the street and not the other. The arguing over the bridge’s location delayed the project by about 25 years. Yep, 25. Not two-point-five, but 25.

(2) In my three decades of newspapering in the Huntington area before my job was eliminated, I did several stories about eastern Lawrence County, including several on this theme: Each year, the Internal Revenue Service sells databases of state-to-state and county-to-county migration based on the number of exemptions claimed on personal income tax forms. I acquired those databases and ran the numbers. What I usually found, from year to year, was that the greatest net migration (inbound minus outbound) migration from West Virginia was to Mecklenberg County, N.C. (Charlotte), and Franklin County, Ohio (Columbus). While other counties moved into and out of the third spot on the list, Lawrence County, Ohio, usually was the fourth top destination for West Virginians moving out of state. And most of those came from Cabell and Wayne counties, the two West Virginia counties that border Lawrence County. Having the East End bridge provide access to the eastern end of Huntington accelerated a process that was already under way.

(3) The Ohio Department of Transportation wants to build a cable-stay bridge to replace the Ironton-Russell (Ky.) Bridge, which opened in 1922, but it’s having a few funding and design problems. Its original plan was to have one tall tower similar to the Huntington bridge, but that proved too expensive. The last I heard, the project was being redesigned with two smaller towers.

(4) When I had to vacate my office last year after my job was eliminated and my employment terminated, I had to leave behind my technical drawings and specs of the East End bridge. I would love to have them back.

Monday, July 26, 2010

From the Kodachrome archives: the John Ladd Dean

June 29, 1986, northbound at Ravenswood, W.Va.

It now operates under the name Ronald E. Wagenblast. I see it every now and then here in the Huntington, W.Va., area, but not nearly as often as I saw it when it ran for the Ohio River Company.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Elvis is back in the building

Sorry to have been gone so long, but things kept happening ... and not happening. I had to prepare for an interview for a job that I'm not getting while looking forward to some minor dental surgery. On top of that, my daughter and her boyfriend are making final preparations -- including financial -- to start freshman year at Marshall University next month.

And when I got down to the river bank, there wasn't much to shoot except the humidity, and that's the normal background situation here around Mile 308 in summer.

But I did find this up on the river bank.

Twenty-five years ago, I watched the towboat Warren as it entered the Gallipolis Locks and Dam upbound on Independence Day. The boat was looking pretty ragged then, like it needed some paint and other stuff to keep it looking and running good.

Now the front of the boat sits at the Tri-State Fire Academy just outside Huntington, W.Va.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Be back Thursday night

Again, I apologize for the light posting, but things have been busy in the Ross household, including problems with our Internet. Everything should be caught up and corrected by Thursday, though. I'm stockpiling stuff to put up then. I'll try to post something in the next day or two, but in case I don't, I'll see you Thursday.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Not much posting, I know

I'm sorry for the light posting of late. I'm having access problems that should be resolved in a few days. By then I'll be able to post the backlog of material I'm accumulating.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Taking a short breather

There's news and such to catch up on. But that's going to take some heavy reading, and I'm spent from applying for several jobs in the past few days, with more to come later this week. Like a lot of other things, employment opportunities seem to come in bunches. I'm not very good and the process, and it's draining.

So before I get back into the hard stuff, I'll throw a few photos your way, if that's okay.

The first two come from a patch of thistles I saw along West Virginia Route 2 yesterday. The thistles didn't do as much for me as did the butterflies and bumblebees enjoying them. Here is a butterfly in search of a meal or something.

Here, a butterfly has been savoring this flower, but a bumblebee landed there, too. Two seconds later, the butterfly let the bee have the flower.

Here are three towboats -- the AEP Leader, the Detroit and the Paula Ruble. I've shot them all in color, and I wanted to see how they looked in black and white. I knew the Leader would look pretty good, as I have taken decent photos of its sister boats in black and white. The Detroit came out okay, but the Paula Ruble didn't. That's probably because the camera settings were off when I snapped the photo, and the image wasn't the best to work with.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Low water and pit bulls

The river was pretty low yesterday, about as low as I'd seen it all summer. We're getting a light rain here in the Huntington area today. We need it. But it's not the type that's affecting the forecast of river levels.

Speaking of which, I went down to the river bank yesterday to get some photos, but I didn't see much. There was one photo I was wanting to get that required me to circle around a couple of guys who were fishing. I was getting close when I noticed one had a pit bull or a similar dog that was glaring at me in an unfriendly way. I left. When I got out of sight, I heard the dog barking at someone or something.

Meanwhile, the river here was covered in recreational boaters and personal watercraft (as in Jet Ski and such) operators.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Some most excellent dragonfly photos

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the Greenbottom Wildlife Management Area along the Ohio River to mitigate the loss of wetlands caused by construction of the lock canal at what is now known as the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam. The wildlife area is about halfway between Huntington and Point Pleasant, W.Va.

A photographer by the name of Michael Hensley has been at Greenbottom photographing dragonflies. The photos are excellent. They're the kind that make you wish you had made them.

You can see his photos at

If anyone knows of other photographers who take excellent photos of wildlife along the Ohio River, please pass along the their URLs.

Friday, July 9, 2010


I've been noticing some nice dragonflies and damselflies at one of my favorite spots along the Ohio River. Here's one. When I get a decent job, I'm investing in a really good lens so I can get more photos like this, but better.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Running the river

In my days as a newspaper reporter and editor, I wrote a lot of stories about people who planned to do great things, such as crawl on their hands and knees around a track for 24 hours straight, all in the name of raising awareness about something important. Too many of those folks never made it. Thus, it bred a certain skepticism in me whenever I hear of someone attempting a similar feat.

So, here's a tip of the hat to Mimi Hughes. She's the woman who said she would swim the entire length of the Ohio River in an attempt to raise funds and awareness for women's education programs. She began her swim in Pittsburgh on May 22. So far, she has completed 800 miles of her  981-mile journey. She's gotten a lot farther than most of us would. If you want more information on her daily progress, check it out here.

Now a family from New Richmond, Ohio, says it will ski the entire length of the Ohio, according to this article in the Cincinnati Enquirer. The trip is a fundraising even for Disabled American Veterans.

With the Fourth of July behind us, time is running out for run-of-the-river goals such as this. Who knows what we'll see next year if Hughes and the others accomplish their goals.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Catching up on a couple of news items

Tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, various government officials and others will have the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new hydroelectric  plant at the Meldahl Locks and Dam,  just above Cincinnati. Construction started some time ago, but this is the official ceremony that, among other things, allows people to get a better idea of what's going on there. I wish I could be there, but . . .

UPDATE: I was farther behind on the news than I thought. Chuck Minsker of the Corps of Engineers said the groundbreaking was last week. Two goofs in one weekend. Next thing, someone will tell me Ingram bought out Ohio Barge Line. I need to take a few steps back and figure out where I really am.

A different kind of boat is heading up the Ohio River soon. A World War II LST that delivered supplies to Normandy for the D-Day invasion will travel from Evansville to Pittsburgh for a September showing. After Pittsburgh, the boat will be in Marietta for a while.

That will give us all something new to photograph. And, more important, take the kids to see.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Today Adam met someone he's wanted to chat with for a long time.

That's Mark Riffle, a mate on the Ingram towboat Steven J. Mason. Riffle's wife knows Adam's grandmother, so today the two finally got together. Riffle gave Adam some photos of the tools that are used on boats. The gift Adam prized most was an 8-by-10 photo of the old Ohio River Co. towboat Orco on its first trip. It's the photo in Adam's hand.

Ingram acquired the Orco when it purchased the boats owned by Ohio River Co. It sold the Orco to Madison Coal & Supply. MCS ran the boat as the Ohio until a few weeks ago, when it sold the Ohio and the Indiana (formerly the Robert P. Tibolt) to South America.

That made this photo even more special to Adam.

We also traded gossip on rumors we've heard about things that are supposed to be happening soon. You know, the secrets that no one is supposed to know but everyone talks about.

Adam showed Riffle this photo that appeared on this blog back in March. It shows two deckhands as the boat is locking through the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam before the "junk fleet" pushed by the Evan Wharton got there. Riffle looked at the photo and said he is the person holding his hands apart.

Small world, eh?

Now when the Steven J. Mason is in the area from noon to 6 p.m., when Riffle is at work, we'll have to go find it.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Another day, another diversion, another good result.

I went to the Ohio River bank to look for something that I didn't find. On the way back up the hill, I had to walk through some tall weeds. There I saw a bunch of dragonflies flitting about. Those things move fast. I was able to get a few photos of a couple of varieties.

First was this blue one.

I was more interested in this green one.

Sometimes you don't find what you're looking for. You find something better.


I made a mistake in my previous entry on the mv. Hoosier State. The fourth photo, the one I said was taken at old Lock and Dam 27, was actually taken at the Athalia, Ohio, boat ramp. This one ...

... was taken at old Lock and Dam 27. I should have known the difference in location by the hills in the background.

I realized my mistake as my head hit my pillow last night.

Sorry about that.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Chasing the Hoosier State

Here are some photos I got when Adam and I followed the mv. Hoosier State up the Ohio River. I picked one from each of the 10 stops we made, from River Mile 312 to Mile 280. We shot it from left and right, fore and aft, high and low, and three-quarters shots from each corner. We should have enough photos of the Hoosier State to last us a while. At least until it comes around again.

Here the Hoosier State goes under the Nick J. Rahall II Bridge, known locally as the West 17th  Street Bridge, at Huntington, W.Va. In the background is the Robert C. Byrd Bridge, known locally as the 6th Street bridge. This was taken from the park at old Lock and Dam 28.

Here is the boat as seen from the sidewalk of the 6th Street Bridge.

Here it goes under the Frank "Gunner" Gatski Memorial Bridge, known locally as the East End bridge or the 31st Street bridge. Are you detecting any patterns in the names yet?

Now, we switch back to the Ohio side of the river, as there are more places to see the river. Also, the sun has moved so that the better light is on the Ohio side. First as seen from old Lock and Dam 27.

From the boat ramp at Athalia, Ohio, the Hoosier State is seen heading upriver toward the community of Miller and the incorporated village of Crown City.

A man who lives along a narrow road between the hill and the river allowed us access to his property to shoot the Hoosier State.

About a mile up the same narrow road, we stopped to see the boat in the bend just below Crown City.

Now, framed by an abandoned coal tipple.

And framed by openings in a concrete structure beside the K.H. Butler boat ramp.

Finally, as seen from the mouth of Hildebrand Run, the Hoosier State approaches the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam, still known to many local people by its former name, the Gallipolis Locks and Dam.

We would have followed it a few more miles, but I'd promised to get some stuff for dinner and to take my older son and his friend to the movies, so we had to leave.

Sometime I'd like to follow a boat down the river, perhaps from Pomeroy, Ohio, to the Gallipolis locks.  Maybe some day this summer I will.

P.S. When we got home, Adam got the mail, and in it was our two copies of the Waterways Journal with my photo of Adam at the sticks of the Hoosier State. It was a while before he put it down.

A looooong chase

After two stressful days helping my 18-year-old daughter buy her first car (with her own money) and learn to drive a stick shift, I needed some quiet time yesterday. Too bad I had to tell my 10-year-old river fan that one of his favorite boats -- the Hoosier State -- was in our area. We spent nearly seven hours chasing that thing up the Ohio River, from old Lock and Dam 28 to the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam.

In the process, we stopped at 10 places along the river to get photos. The best part was along a narrow road clinging to the side of a hill. I stopped in front of a house with all four wheels on the road to see the boat, and a guy sitting on the porch told me there was a road leading down to the river, and he had a shack down there. He said we could drive down there if we wanted. We did, and we found a nice spot of Ohio River shore for shooting pictures.

In the end, it was a good day. A tiring one, but a good one. And as Adam asked, did the people on the Hoosier State think we were stalking them?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Duck day

I go down to the Ohio River bank because Adam sees this boat coming:

Okay, it's new to me to, so I get off a few shots. But I'm more interested in the two families of ducks swimming nearby. One is a mother and six ducklings. The other is a mother and eight ducklings. So Adam and I sit there in the shade, barely moving and not making a sound. Both families walk right past us.

It was a very good 20 minutes. After spending two days teaching my 18-year-old daughter how to drive stick shift, I really needed a few minutes watching baby ducks.