Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday morning sunrise on the Ohio River

If I ever get that book written, it’s going to have a chapter called “Morning Light” because I love getting up when the world is asleep and going down to the Ohio River bank. Sometimes I even beat the fishermen to the river.

This morning was one of those times. My camera battery was charged, and the settings had been reset to avoid the usual unpleasant surprises. The sun wasn’t due up for another hour and half. So I went to one of my favorite spots and set up my cheap tripod, the one I bought a while back when I really needed one and my good one had gone to pieces after 25 years of faithful service. I could see fog trying to form in a few spots on the river’s edge, but the main channel of the river gave no indication of cooperating. The surface shone like a mirror, meaning no boats had been through in a while. I looked up and down the river, and saw and heard nothing. It gave all the signs of a good morning.

I left my car unlocked with a couple of doors open in case I needed to make a quick getaway, but this being Sunday, the bad guys and the LEOs were elsewhere. For one morning, at least, the world was leaving me alone.

I got a few pictures there, none of them really very good. So I went a quarter of a mile down the road to my second stakeout spot.

It had been a long time since I could stand in one spot and watch the sun rise over the horizon. The half moon hung high in the sky and kept rising as the eastern sky lightened. Then I got to thinking about how the moon and sun weren’t climbing, but that we were really falling away from them if you could look at the earth from a certain point of view.

I looked up the river toward the East End bridge, a cable stay structure that opened 25 years ago. Fog maybe 20 feet deep hung over the roadway but nowhere else. The deck is concrete, so I assume it absorbed heat during the day yesterday and held it through the chilly night. As the air got so cold and passed over the warm concrete deck, fog formed, but only directly over the deck.

But I had no time for musings in philosophy or pyhsics. A few low clouds in the east lit up as sunrise neared. The sky changed to a yellow-orange in one spot, getting brighter and brighter.  As the top of the sun rose over the horizon, I shot away with my camera. Then I hopped in the car and drove the quarter of a mile back to myfirst location and got a better shot. The picture that I really wanted presented itself in between, but I would have to either run into a stranger’s back yard to get it or else shoot from the street between two houses, and I didn’t want to upset anyone who might be getting up and seeing a stranger with a camera pointed toward their house so early on a Sunday morning.

My pre-dawn trip started nearly 12 hours ago, and I still feel so good from it. Some people get away from it all by going to the movies. I do it by getting up early and watching the sun rise over the Ohio River.

My wish list includes finding a towboat company that will let a freelance writer/wannabe photographer on a boat for a day or two so I can, among other things, be out on the river 24/7 with people who are there 180 days a year. I’d like to hear of their favorite places to be at sunrise or sunset, in the fog or in the rain, in snow or in the sun. And I’d like to talk with people who are set in one place as I am and talk with them about how they see the river in different times of day, various times of year or different weather conditions.

I don’t need Vegas to have a great time. I just need a good river.

Here are links to a few photos from my morning joy. They're not on here for a couple of reasons, mainly the size of the files.

First, here is the sun rising over the hills of West Virginia, taken from my second shooting spot.

Then I ran back up to my first spot and got this one .

And here's one of a barge tow coming up the Ohio River, shot from the sidewalk of the 6th Street bridge connecting downtown Huntington, W.Va., with Chesapeake, Ohio. I got this one after getting the sunrise shots. You can see the sun's reflection in the water here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

2003 archives: Middle Island at St. Marys, W.Va.

This has been a disappointing week photographically along my stretch of the Ohio River. When there was something interesting to shoot, my camera's settings were messed up (how could that ever happen?). After I straightened out my camera, there was little if anything to shoot, at least when I was near the river.

So here's something from July 2003. I took my daughter, Hannah, then 11, to Wheeling on a day trip. We stopped at this park on the way back down the river. I'm not certain, but I think this is on Middle Island at St. Marys, W.Va.

To get to the island, you take the only section left from the old bridge that once spanned the Ohio. The bridge was replaced and dismantled because it was of the same design as the ill-fated Silver Bridge.

The island is the kind of place that if I lived near St. Marys, I'd probably spend a lot of time there.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

1848 photos of Cincinnati

By now you've heard of the restoration work done on the daguerrotypes of Cincinnati in 1848. Right now I'm reading this article on about them. Now I want to make daguerrotypes. Impractical, I know, but look at the detail on those things.

And to think when I was a kid someone had a similar image of one of someone, perhaps one of my ancestors. But it was probably thrown away as worthless decades ago.

Barge worker struck by lightning

This didn't happen on the Ohio River, but there are a couple of connections.

A Catlettsburg, Ky., man was struck by lightning while working on an Ingram Barge Co. barge in Alabama Sunday night. He is in critical condition in a Huntsville, Ala., hospital, according to two news reports: here and here .

Plant plan moving forward

A proposed coal gasification plant in Ohio has received the private financing it needs to proceed. Story here .

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

ACL buyout winds up in court

Conditions over the sale of American Commercial Lines has gone to court in Delaware, according to this story in the Indianapolis Star.

Authorizing navigation projects

Here is a piece  about the debate in Congress over authorizing (not funding) navigation, flood control and other water-based infrastructure projects. Warning: It is written by a member of Congress. so there are political messages in it. I link this so folks can see what is going on, not because I endorse or oppose the message its writer conveys.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Film archives: A trip up the river in 2002

My older son, Joey, is 16 years old. He's a good kid. His only bad quality is his utter inability to understand why anyone would be interested in the Ohio River.

But eight years ago, before Adam's incessant infatuation with the river drove Joey toward disdain, Joey  and I took a day trip up the river. Our first stop was at Antiquity, Ohio, where my grandparents' boat had been built more than a hundred years before. But there was nothing there to indicate any old boat works, so the camera stayed in the car until we got to the Willow Island Locks and Dam.

Joey shot video ...

.... and watched the Clyde Butcher enter the main lock ...

... while divers inspected something in the auxiliary lock.

We took a ride on the ferry at Sistersville, W.Va. ...

... and Joey had to go into the water to look for some river critters.

I think he had a good day anyway.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

You know, stuff

I took the boys to grandma's house today so we could help her get the place ready for winter. On the way home, we stopped at the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam to watch the Hoosier State lock through upbound. Adam said it was the first time he had seen the Hoosier State since we chased it up the river on July 1.

Also on the way home, we found a public access point to the Ohio River that I didn't know existed until I was looking at some maps last week. The place has a great view of the river, and I want to get photos of boats there, but the spot is kind of secluded. It's one of those places that's probably okay in daylight, but you don't want to be around when night falls. I'll go back, but I'll be playing it safe there for a while.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

"Steel" boats

Some people have called them the Dravo 3200 series. Some people refer to them as the "steel boats" because Ohio Barge Line had several, with most if not all their names beginning with the word "Steel." There was the Steel Ranger, the Steel Leader and the Steel Pioneer, among others. After I ran an errand this morning, I saw another, the former Steel Trader.

This boat was built in 1965 by Dravo Corp. at Neville Island, Pa., near Pittsburgh. It was owned by OBL until Ingram Barge Co. bought the assets of OBL in 1984. Ingram kept the "steel" names for a while, but eventually changed them. The Steel Trader became the William E. Porter, which remains a familiar sight on my part of the Ohio River.

I saw the Porter this morning after the sun had risen. A little fog was holding to the surface of the Ohio, but you had to look for it.

This first photo is of the William E. Porter as it passes Huntington, W.Va. It's facing into the sun, which is to my right.

After the boat passes under the East End bridge, it's heading into the sun (from my perspective), putting the side I can see in shadow. Here are two shots, one of the boat and its 15-barge tow, and a closer shot.

I used to work with a guy whose father was a captain on one of the OBL boats. Companies other than Ohio Barge Line owned boats from this series, with Ohio River Co. being one. As things happen, I also used to work with a woman whose father was a captain of one of those boats -- the Harllee Branch Jr.

The boats in this series are nice to photograph. If I were to re-do my top 10 towboats list, these boats would still be on it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Steel mill demolition

An old steel mill along the Ohio River in Daviess County, Ky., is coming down .

I don't know much about that particular site, but I am familiar with the large numbers of smokestack factories here in the Huntington-Ashland-Ironton area that have come down. Some being redeveloped. Some sit idle. Meanwhile, I sometimes drive through neighborhoods built to house people who worked at those factories. A while back, I saw a photo of a neighborhood in northeast Ohio -- I think it was Youngstown -- that was home to steelworkers. The houses there looked just like those in Portsmouth and Ironton, Ohio.

Old bridge, new life ... for now

A 100-year-old bridge at Follansbee, W.Va., is getting some repairs. The first phase is almost done, and the remainder will be completed next year, according to this article in The Herald-Star of Steubenville, Ohio.

I'm not sure which bridge that is -- it's been a decade since I was up that way last -- but I do know the area from Wheeling to the Pennsylvania has some interesting old bridges. I've driven across some, and they scared me, but they were interesting.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New gates arriving at Markland

Two of the four new permanent gates have arrived at the Markland Locks and Dam .

Remember a while back when one of the old gates just fell over, causing   significant traffic delays?

Birthday trip

Today was Adam's birthday, so now I'll be writing about my 11-year-old son. Among other things, we went down to Portsmouth, Ohio, so he could see one of his favorite towboats -- the Paula Ruble. Even though the sun was in our face and the boat was hanging on the other side of the river, we got a few pictures, at least before his camera's battery gave out.

Here are a couple of shots of the Paula Ruble going under the U.S. Grant Bridge . . .

. . . and here's one as it approaches the Carl D. Perkins Memorial Bridge.

For various reasons, Adam gets his party next month. He might get a river-related gift or two then.

Oh, if anyone is wondering, we didn't skip school. Our county didn't have school today, and the kids have tomorrow off, too.

Update on some towboats now in South America

Gustavo di Iorio has put up some photos of the former towboat Ashland, now in South America and renamed the IB San Lorenzo. You can see one his photos here .

And here's one that a commenter says could be the former Indiana , which was also Robert P. Tibolt.

And perhaps the former Ohio (and Orco).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A couple of things

A day or two ago, I saw this towboat, the Dennis Ross, passing Huntington, W.Va.

This morning, I was out and about and got a few fog shots. Here's one of downtown Huntington with the remains of the fog clinging to the river's surface.

And here's Defender United Methodist Church, between Chesapeake and Proctorville, Ohio. It faces the Ohio River and an old industrial neighborhood of Huntington. This morning's fog shrouded an old barge that's been beached on the riverbank near the church for a long time.

Yeah, the fall colors along the river here around Mile 306 are so-so. Not as good as last year. A few areas up on the ridges are nice, but nothing like last year. Even a tree that usually is pretty good went dull this year.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A discovery while searching for litter

I've been spending time along the Ohio River bank lately looking at the different types of litter that accumulate there. Today I was at one spot that I go every week or two. The bank itself was clean, but nearby I saw a large trash bag that had come open. I wondered who was dumping their household trash t here. So I went over to look at it and found that the bag contained a large number of Penthouse magazines. I guess someone had to get them out of the house in a hurry.

But seriously, I expect to post something on litter soon.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Power plant scrubbers and water quality

I've said it before, so I'll say it again. Efforts to reduce air pollution by burning coal to generate electricity have created a new set of problems to deal with. I've mentioned how flu gas desulfurization units, or scrubbers, have required utilities to build landfills to place the sludge that comes out of the smoke. Now the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission has set standards for discharges into water from those scrubbers.

This isn't saying that scrubbers shouldn't have been installed, but actions tend to have unanticipated consequences that we have to keep our eyes on.

Wanting 12 feet

In theory, the Ohio River has a navigation channel that is guaranteed to be nine feet deep. In practice, the channel is at least 12 feet. Otherwise coal barges loaded to 10 feet deep would not be able to use the river when it's at normal pool.

Those extra three feet allow boats to push more cargo than they otherwise would. Now some businesspeople in Oklahoma would like a 12-foot channel on their river, too. Check out this story to see what an extra three feet could mean there.

Floodwall art

If you want to read an article on the man responsible for some amazing floodwall paintings in Point Pleasant, W.Va., Portsmouth, Ohio, Paducah, Ky., and elsewhere, check out this story in The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

Some cities along the Ohio River have been smart enough to have professional-quality artwork on what would otherwise be drab concrete walls. I was in Portsmouth early one morning in August or September and saw some striking work there. The 3-D effect was so realistic you found yourself staring at it in appreciation.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Two nighttime pics

On my way home tonight, I got a photo of the towboat Pennsylvania heading up the Kanawha River after dark , and one of the Silver Memorial Bridge with the twilight sky behind it . Photos are on my Flickr photostream. I'll post others here tomorrow or Monday after I've edited them.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Another gift for Adam

Last night, before my wife, Myra, went to work, she showed me a photo a coworker had given her to give to Adam.

When I looked at it, I saw a photo I want to take -- standing on coal barges, looking back at a boat pushing them on a river. This is an AEP boat. Her coworker, Tim Ramey, once worked in the river transportation division at AEP. Myra has told him stories of Adam's fascination (to put it mildly) with the river and towboats. Tim has given Adam several mementoes, including ball caps and a wooden plaque from 1998 celebrating the river transportation division's 25th anniversary. The plaque bears the likeness of the AEP boat Jeffrey A. Raike.

Anyway, when Myra handed the picture, he ran into the living room and showed it to me, saying this boat is now the Leonard L. Whittington. He ran back to his mother and told her the three times he and I have seen and photographed the Whitington. We shot it from the Huntington 6th Street bridge upbound ...

... downbound ...

... and as it approached the Gallipolis Locks and Dam, as Adam calls it.

"This is one of my favorite boats. I love the old Vikings," Adam told her.

At work, Myra told Tim of Adam's reaction, and Tim began telling her of various unique features of the boat. There's no doubt Adam and Tim will have to get together sometime and share stories.

Adam has a birthday next week, and I might get him one or two river-themed gifts.

Meanwhile, I will remain envious of Tim for getting this picture. I really want to ride a boat pushing loaded coal barges. I can think of about three dozen photos I'd like to get, plus work in a lot of good text about ... no, I'm not giving it away. With my background, I could write a long piece, even a book-length piece, based on one good trip.

Building three, closing one

American Municipal Power is building three hydroelectric plants on the Ohio River and plans to build more. Meanwhile, it plans to shut down a coal-fired plant near Marietta, Ohio, by the end of this year. It's about to bring some new coal-fired units in Illinois on line soon, and it hopes to build a new gas-fired plant near the Ohio River town of Racine, Ohio.

A news article with some of AMP's plans is here .

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


The Ohio River is part of the new federally designated M-70 "marine highway." To find out what that means -- or so far, hasn't meant -- to the Ohio River, check out this story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review .

To me, the important part was in the last two paragraphs. I've written about it before, and I hope to write about it again. I will quote the last paragraph:

Although the new federal program is aimed at increasing shipping on waterways, McCarville said his primary concern is figuring out how to "preserve marine traffic we have now, with the condition of our locks and dams."

Coal company exec invests heavily in Illinois

This is a long one, but it's a Bloomberg story on a West Virginia native who has made a fortune in coal and is betting big on Illinois, not West Virginia. Buried in the story are a few words about how he's building a coal port on the Ohio River. If you're interested and have the time,  it's worth a read, considering how many coal barges move up and down the river each day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kodacolor archives: Hannah and the August ferry

I know I talk a lot about my son Adam, soon to be 11 years old, and his love of the Ohio River, but I have two other kids, too. It's just that they got most of their DNA from their mother's side, and that did not include a fancy toward the river.

In 2002, when she was 10 years old and just out of 4th grade, I took my daughter, Hannah, down to Augusta, Ky., one July day so we could ride the ferry. On the way down, we stopped at Maysville so we could see the two bridges here up close. We took the video camera, and we shot footage of the old suspension bridge from various angles. As we crossed the new bridge, Hannah turned the camera on herself and made an impromptu commercial for the convenience store we were about to visit.

Anyway, here are some photos of the trip to Augusta.

Here's Hannah on the ferry.

The ferry's departure from Augusta was delayed a few minutes because the W.H. Dickhoner came through with 15 loads of coal.

On the Ohio side, we spent a little time skipping rocks.

Here's Hannah on the Kentucky side. No, that's not our car in the background.

On the way home, we stopped at the Greenup Locks and Dam and watched the Senator Stennis lock through downbound. This was before the Corps of Engineers put up security fences and such to keep the public away from the locks.

This is my favorite photo from the trip, and one of my all-time favorite photos of the Ohio River. Yeah, it's because my daughter, a daddy's girl from the womb, is in it. But I like her expression and the way she's looking at the river from the railing of the ferry as we cross.

We chose Augusta because there were two ferries within a day's drive and back of Huntington. The other was at Sistersville, W.Va. Two days after the Augusta trip, I took Hannah's brother Joey, then 8, to Sistersville. The following year, we switched and extended the trips. Joey and I went to Cincinnati with a stop at Augusta, and Hannah and I went to Wheeling with a stop at Sistersville.

Those photos are in another box in a closet. I think . . .

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hydro plans at Willow Island

American Municipal Power  has applied for a permit from the Huntington District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a hydroelectric generating plant on the West Virginia side of the Willow Island Locks and Dam.

The plant is one of five AMP is developing at navigation dams along the Ohio River, and the first along the river’s border with West Virginia. Three of the seven navigation dams on the Ohio River along the West Virginia border have hydro plants already: the Hannibal Locks and Dam at New Martinsville, W.Va., the Belleville Locks and Dam between Parkersburg and Ravenswood, W.Va., and the Racine Locks and Dam at Racine, Ohio. The Hannibal and Belleville plants are on the West Virginia side of the river. The Racine plant is on the Ohio side. AMP developed and operates the Belleville plant.

AMP has three Ohio River hydroelectric plants at the Meldahl Locks and Dam above Cincinnati, the Cannelton Locks and Dam near Cannelton, Ind., and the Smithland Locks and Dam above Paducah, Ky. Construction started at Cannelton last year and at the other two dams this year.

AMP also plans to develop hydroelectric facilities at the Pike Island Locks and Dam near Wheeling and the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam below Gallipolis, Ohio.
According to a public notice issued by the Huntington District, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensed a hydroelectric project at Willow Island on Sept. 27, 1989. AMP proposes to build a powerhouse with two horizontal turbine generating units with a total capacity of 35 megawatts. Power generated by the turbines would be transmitted through a proposed 1.6-mile-long transmission line that would connect with an existing underground transmission line.

During construction, AMP would provide a temporary recreation and fishing access area. After construction, a new recreation and fishing area would open.

On its Web site, AMP describes itself as a nonprofit leader in wholesale power supply for municipal electric systems. It is owned and governed by its members. It purchases, generates and distributes electricity for 128 publicly owned utilities serving more than 570,000 customers in six states -- Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Michigan and Virginia.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

mv. Detroit and others

Adam and I went up the Ohio River looking for the Detroit today, and we found more.

We went to the boat ramp at Cheshire, Ohio, to wait for the Detroit, and we lucked out as the boat was coming up as we got there. We watched it pass ....

... and went down to Addison, Ohio, to get a few more shots. Before the Detroit got there, the James E. Pinson came down the river lightboat.

As the Pinson passed, we saw the Detroit come around the bend. That's the Kyger Creek power plant in the background.

The next stop was Tu-Endie-Wie park at Point Pleasant, W.Va. The light wasn't good for shooting the boat there, as most of it was in shadow against a bright background. But we did see the Larry Y. Strain come out of the Kanawha lightboat.

Point Pleasant is a good place to find boats moving without barges.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

How does he do it?

I see something like this every now and then on the Ohio River, and I ask myself, how does he do it?

From this angle, it looks like the top of the barge is at or above the pilot's eye level. So does he steer by radar? Does he keep one eye on the radar screen and the other on that big gray thing in front of him? Is there some other device or method he uses to navigate? He must have a terrible blind spot, and there were several recreational craft out on the river today.

Just wondering.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

October day on the river

Today was a great day to have to drive someplace along the Ohio River. I took my time and enjoyed the trip, first up the West Virginia side and then back down the Ohio side. There were plenty of good photo opportunities. I'll post the boat photos later.

One of my last stops was at an abandoned coal tipple. As I walked down the path from the road to the river, I saw these sycamore leaves in the sunlight, with the river behind.

This being October, the tree or trees in this mooring cell are getting ready for winter.

The photo above was taken around noon today. Compare it to this one taken near sunset on Memorial Day weekend this year.

More later and over the next few days.

Barns of southern Gallia County, Ohio

October is a great month for driving or walking along what I call the Ohio River Road. That's the road closest to the river that gives the best view or access, whether it be state, county, township or other. Today the weather was perfect. The temperature was comfortable; humidity was low; the sun was shining. Now the sun did cause problems with shadows and such, but after a few days of overcast that sent me into my annual autumnal gloom, I'll take a few shadows.

One thing I like about the river road in Gallia County, Ohio, is the number of barns you see. In some places, there probably are more barns than houses. As I've said many times before, I like barns. I want one should I be blessed enough to move back to the farm country along the river. Actually, I'd like two barns. There's no logical reason for that. I just want two barns.

So, here are a few barns you see from Ohio Route 7 between the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam (formerly the Gallipolis Locks and Dam) and the Lawrence County line.

This one is close to the bridge over Swan Creek.

This one I've shot several times. My favorite shots were on Ektachrome during a December sunset back in the mid 1980s.

Why I took this picture, I don't know, except that I could, so I did.

This barn is on the old road about halfway between Bladen and Klondike, two towns you would have to look on old maps to find.

I don't know why Frontier is advertising in this particular area, unless maybe it has acquired the local land line phone system. A telephone company ad on a barn is not nearly as appealing as one for Mail Pouch chewing tobacco. In my case, even less so considering the problems I've had with Frontier customer service in recent months. But that's another topic for another blog.

You know, it would be nice to have a barn blog, particularly if I could get people who own barns to give me tours of theirs. Sounds odd, true, but some of us find barns interesting.

Finally, there's no barn in this photo -- just what looks like a guy harvesting soybeans. If I have that wrong, please tell me.

If you look behind the harvester and the semi, you see two line of trees. The first line is on the top of the Ohio River bank on the Ohio side. The second is on the top of the river bank on the West Virginia side. That's West Virginia in the background, of course. Or (to borrow a gag from "The Simpsons Movie") is that Nevada, Maine or Kentucky?

P.A. Denny sold

The sternwheel excursion boat the P.A. Denny has been sold to a travel company based in Parkersburg, W.Va. The Charleston Gazette has the details.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Leftovers, part 2

So here we go with a few more photos left over from this past spring and summer . . .

When I saw this Canada goose, I thought of a Far Side cartoon that I can't find right now. A bear was in a cave. He had on a radio collar and a big number painted on him, and there may have been a syringe in his rump. He wife was asking what his excuse was this time.

Here's an old boat called the Smitty passing Huntington, W.Va., a few weeks ago.

And here's the Jackson H. Randolph passing South Point, Ohio, with Kenova, W.Va., in the background.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Leftovers, part 1

I've been in a rut lately. So this evening I got out all my memory cards and looked at photos I took this past summer. I found several that didn't make the cut for other posts, but they are okay photos otherwise. So over the next day or two or three, depending on how I feel about these pictures as I look at them several times, I'll be putting up leftovers from this past summer.

We start with these three.

Here a person operates a personal watercraft on the Ohio River at Ironton, Ohio. That's the Ironton-Russell Bridge, the first highway bridge over the river between Wheeling and Cincinnati, in the background.

Here's the Crounse Corp. towboat Linda Reed heading up the Ohio River at Greenup, Ky., with 25 barges. Normally, the maximum tow size on the Ohio is 15 barges, but this summer several companies moved oversize tows for whatever reasons.

And here's the stack logo of a Marquette Transportation towboat. I don't know why, but I like this design.