Monday, February 28, 2011

Photo show postponed (probably)

For those of you in the Huntington WV area, my talk on photographing the Ohio River -- scheduled for tomorrow night -- probably will be canceled. There's a possibility the parking lot will be under three feet of water. And if it's not, the river will be awfully close to the top of the bank and too hazardous for the public.

If it's postponed, I'll let you all know.

Another story on the Portsmouth, Ohio, drug problem

I can remember when Portsmouth, Ohio, was an industrial city with a variety of factories making a variety of products. Most prominent were the steel mills that must have occupied a couple miles or more along the Ohio River front. Now most of the factories are gone, and Portsmouth is famous for being the poster child city for prescription drug abuse.

The latest story on the topic is this one from The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Marcellus shale

Development of natural gas deposits in Marcellus shale is a big topic in the upper Ohio Valley -- West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York in particular. This piece explains a lot of concerns people have with this process. It's a long article, and I haven't read it all. But concerns raised here will have to be addressed sooner or later.

I've often thought that Marcellus shale was like coal -- a lot of good, a lot of bad. Now that belief is stronger.

Spring is here

As I  understand it, meteorologists and climatologists have a definition of spring that's different from what we learned in grade school. Instead of solstices and equinoxes, they look at weather patterns to decide when spring arrives. Usually, that's round the first of March.

Here at Mile 308, it seems spring is here. We've had decent weather for most of the past two weeks. I don't feel a great urge to wear clothing that's extra warm when I go to work. Instead of snow, the five-day forecast calls for rain showers and thunderstorms.

And the Ohio River is up, running a caramel brown. It's up about nine feet since Thursday, and it could rise another two feet before cresting today or tomorrow.

Yesterday, I was out shortly before sunset. I saw the mv. Captain Deane Orr coming down the river pushing some empties, but I wasn't in a good spot to shoot. A few minutes later, I saw the D.A. Grimm heading my way, but the sun was down and the landscape would be too dark to shoot by the time it got to a place where I could get a decent shot.

Several of my good shooting spots are under water today. I'm waiting for the river to go down and the hills to turn green in mid-April so I can get excited about shooting again. The river will alternate between brown and blue between now and the Fourth of July and even beyond, depending on whether this spring is wet or dry. This year, I'm hoping for dry, because I have stuff I need to do around the house.

So, happy spring, you all.

Friday, February 25, 2011

This has not been a good month beside the river.

The Ohio River is up. It's brown. The hillsides are brown. This afternoon I'm going over to the Toyota engine and transmission factory at Buffalo, W.Va., for a big announcement. On the way home I'll take the back route, which is about the same time as the Interstate 64 route, so I can see me some river and perhaps find something good to photograph.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

You never know ,,,

I got to thinking a week or so ago about the Marathon Petroleum towboat Detroit. Adam and I have been so focused on trying to catch its sister boat, the Kentucky, that we'd forgotten all about the Detroit. I checked the vessel locations Web site for several days and couldn't find it by either its name or its ID number. So I asked someone about it. He said it was on the lower Ohio River. Sure enough, there it was on vessel locations. I almost felt like a fool, but I'm used to that feeling by now, so it doesn't bother me as much.

And today someone used Facebook to connect me to someone I hadn't seen since he was in middle school or high school, and that was a long time ago. It turns out he's a pilot, and he's on the Kanawha River right now. You never know how you lose touch with people and connect with them again, do you?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Learning the river through a camera lens

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, I'll be showing this photo along with several others that I've taken of the Ohio River in the past 40 years. It's part of the "Dine & Discover" series on the Ohio River sponsored by Marshall University. The series is held twice a month, and I will be the first nonfaculty member to talk about the river.

Among the photos I will show will be one of my grandfather's junk boat taken around 1901. I'll describe how I've learned about the transportation industry, bridges, dams, wildlife and even astronomy in my search to get unique photos that preserve the visual history and appeal of my favorite river.

I'll show some pictures I took as a kid with a Kodak Instamatic all the way through film and digital.

Among the photos I'll show are some of my very best, ones that have never been on the Internet. After the presentation, the photos I've not shared with the public will be going back in the vault so to speak.

If you're in the Huntington area Tuesday night, drop by Schooner's on the river in beautiful downtown Guyandotte so we can talk rivers and photography.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

So much to do. So much for gas.

This is the Simon Kenton Bridge over the Ohio River at Maysville, Ky., with Ripley, Ohio, in the background.

This is one of the few remaining suspension bridges left over the Ohio, at least within a day trip drive of where I live. I say suspension bridge to differentiate it from a cable stay bridge like many of the newer ones.

Gasoline prices here in the Huntington, W.Va., area jumped to $2.399 a gallon today, which was an increase of about 25 cents. I had planned to go down to Maysville this summer and spend a day photographing the two bridges there, but I may have to reconsider those plans if gasoline hits $4.50 to $5 a gallon as some people have said is possible.

I hear there's a hill on the Ohio side of the river at Maysville that gives a good view of the valley. I'll get the specifics before I go so Adam and I can get some good shots. What, you all didn't think I'd go alone, did you?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

An item the news ... or two

Here on my home stretch of the Ohio River -- the Greenup and R.C. Byrd pools -- I remember back in the 1980s and even into the early 2000s when the suspected presence of the pink pearly mucket mussel was enough to bring any large construction project to a halt. From this article, it appears the folks in Paducah area have their own bivalve to worry about -- the fat pocketbook mussel.


Mount Vernon, Ind., must have a pretty busy river port, according to this brief item in the Wall Street Journal. The next time I'm down that way, I'll have to call ahead and ask around. Or maybe I'll just call and see if the folks there will talk to me for a piece for the blog.

Coming soon ...

Sorry for the light posting lately. I've been working on a river-related project that has occupied a lot of my time. I'll tell you more about it in a few days when it's closer to final form.

Friday, February 18, 2011

On the Kanawha

I'm going up the Kanawha River again for these pictures.

First, the mv. Marlie Price goes under the Interstate 64 bridge at downtown Charleston, W.Va. It's pushing nine barges -- eight in front and one on the hip.

And here it is passing where I stand.

The sun wasn't in the best location for these photos, but it rarely listens to me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two evening photos

A tree growing on the edge of the river bank blocks the light of the setting sun.

And the mv. Mark Shurden passes Huntington southbound.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Two more 80s pics

Two more from the 1980s archive:

First, the William F. Plettner and another boat tied to the dock at what was then the Shell Chemical plant at Apple Grove, W.Va.

Two boats have left the Ohio River and are upbound on the Kanawha  River. I assume the smaller boat is a midstream refueler, perhaps from City Ice and Fuel at Point Pleasant, W.Va., if it was around at the time.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

That 80s archive

These are a couple of photos I found the other night and scanned today. They were in an envelope labeled "Early Spring 1988." Judging from the lack of leaves on the trees, I would put them at late March or early to mid-April, and probably on a Sunday afternoon.

First is this pic of a salvage operation of some sort at the Gallipolis Locks and Dam. I probably took this from the end of the old Dam 26 road above the mouth of Teens Run. I knew at the time what was being salvaged, but I've forgotten it since.

I don't remember the name of the M/G boat entering the locks at the far left of the picture or the smaller boat to the right of it.

Here is one taken down the road closer to the dam itself. I don't know what the name of the boat on the right of the picture is. Adam noticed a turtleneck boat visible behind the crane. It's so far away that I can't come close to an identification of it.

I have a couple more that I'll post tomorrow or Tuesday, depending on how tomorrow goes.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Newest AEP boat is on the Ohio

The mv. AEP Future is on the Ohio River. According to the Corps of Engineers vessel locator, it's in Pool 52 upbound with 15 barges.

If it's up my way when I'm available, I'll try to get a shot or two.

Forget about the new power plant along the Ohio River

American Municipal Power has pulled the plug on plans to build a gas-fired power plant along the Ohio River, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Instead, AMP will buy a power plant already under construction.

AMP first planned to build a coal-fired power plant in Meigs County, Ohio, but quickly learned that it's as easy getting permits for one of those as it is to get one for a nuclear waste dump. So it went with gas. When that didn't work, it was bye-bye Meigs County.

Coming soon

Last night I was looking through a box of pictures I took in the 1980s, and I found some photos of towboats that might be of interest to some readers. And I found three more pictures that could drag up some memories of some of this blog's oldest readers.

I'll get out the scanner and some research materials this weekend and try to get them up in the next few days.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Better four months late than never, maybe

I just found this today. It's from The Columbus Dispatch about the W.P. Snyder Jr.'s trip home to Marietta, Ohio, from South Point, Ohio.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

29 barges ... a few more thoughts

I tried to get a good shot of the full tow of the Lee Synnott as it went up the Ohio River Thursday evening with 29 barges, but timing, light and geography worked against me. In case you couldn't tell from the photos, there were some loaded coal barges and some empties. There were chemical barges of some sort, and there was at least one barge filled with scrap metal.

... The barges were arranged six wide and five long, with one missing on the right (starboard) corner of the tow. A normal full-sized barge tow on the Ohio is three wide and five long.

... I try to get photos of oversized tows when I can. Like that 30-barge tow in 1988, or last year, when Adam and I saw the Jackson H. Randolph downbound with 25 and the Linda Reed  upbound with 25. If anyone knows of an oversize tow, particularly in the Greenup pool, please let me know. Sometimes Campbell boats push more than 15 barges, but often these are stumbo barges -- as wide as a standard and as long as a jumbo. What I'm looking for is a tow so large it would take two cuts to get through a 1,200-foot lock.

... It figures that the Lee Synnott would be pushing 29 barges. The Synnott has figured in some of my best photos, including two that I've not put on line. They're so good, I don't want them stolen.

... How do you pronounce "Synnott," anyway? Like "Senate"? Is it "sin-KNOTT"?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

29 barges

Today, I got a message that the mv. Lee Synnott had passed Huntington's West 17th Street bridge with 29 barges, upbound for Point Pleasant, W.Va. That would be the biggest barge tow I'd seen since I saw an AEP boat pushing 30 empties in 1988.

Naturally, Adam and I had to go look for the Synnott. The question was which side of the river we should look on. I chose the Ohio side because once you get past a certain point, there are more places to see the river from that side than from the West Virginia side.

We headed up the road and found the Synnott a mile or so below Athalia, Ohio. We pulled off the road and looked at the boat and its tow through the trees on the river bank. We saw a National Marine boat on the other side of the Synnott. We figured it was deadheading and would help the Synnott through the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam.

The locks at Ohio River dams are built to accommodate one boat and 15 barges, or one boat and 16 barges if one barge is tied to the side of the boat. That's why an oversized tow is unusual on the river, and that's why the smaller boat -- I think it was the R.H. Beymer -- was tagging along with the Synnott. When they to got R.C. Byrd, the smaller boat would take some barges and the Synnott would take the rest.

Adam and I headed to the park at Athalia (Mile 296.8 or thereabouts). The river was up, so the beach at the foot of the boat ramp was under water. As we walked back up the hill, we saw a van parked beside our car. As we walked over to the park shelter and picnic tables, the woman in the van got out. She wore an Ingram Marine jacket.

We talked, and she said she was looking for a place to see the Synnott. She had seen it down the road and wanted to get a better look. Her husband is a leadman on another Ingram boat, the William E. Porter, and he had told her about the Synnott's tow.

So we waited at Athalia. Adam and I knew getting a decent photo would be a problem because the trees on the river bank would partially block our view. But we did get a few snaps as the Synnott came by.

From there we went up Route 7 through Miller and to the old road over the hill from the new one. We found a good place to see the river and noticed that it was one of our stops on July 1 last year when we chased the Hoosier State from Huntington to R.C. Byrd.

The woman, whose name we did not get (she later wrote a message on a previous post) stayed with us and watched the Synnott pass. Then she had to get home before we went a little bit up the road, to a spot where we could see the boat enter the bend at Crown City, Ohio.

Adam and I got our shots there and went on about the other business we had to do. He needed a haircut and some new shoes before the next day, when he and three other fifth graders at his school would go to Charleston and be legislative pages for a day.

Here are a few of the photos we got.

Approaching Crown City.

Turbulence behind the twin propellers.

Above Athalia, the Synnott encountered the Paula Ruble, downbound with 16 barges. It made me wonder how much room here was on the river, or if they choose this point to meet.

This photo is not of good quality because I had to zoom in then crop it way down. It shows two deckhands on one of the empties, looking like they're about to start a pump.

Yep, they had a pump.

The Synnott and the Beymer.

Approaching the bend at Crown City. The sun was about down, and it had gone behind some clouds before setting. The ambient light really was a blue-gray.

I might post some more photos over the weekend. It depends on what I think of them after they've sat and  marinated overnight.

And still I wonder, why? Why use one line haul boat and a smaller one deadheading instead of two larger ones?

"That was a big tow"

Thus spoke Adam after we had spent some time chasing and photographing the Ingram towboat Lee Synnott as it pushed 29 barges up the Ohio River through our area. We spent part of the time with someone else who wanted to see it. She said her husband is a leadman on the William E. Porter, and he had called to tell her about this big tow coming up the river.

We got some photos, but they will take a while to go through. I should post them late tonight or sometime tomorrow.

And thanks to C.R. Neale for tipping Adam off to it.

For what it's worth, the biggest tow I ever saw on the Ohio was 30 barges back in May 1988. An AEP boat was turning from the Ohio up into the Kanawha River pushing that many. I got up on the old Shadle Bridge and snapped a few pics, naturally.

But this 29-barge tow was pretty big, too.

Winfield Locks and Dam

Last fall, on the day before Thanksgiving, I ran over to Charleston to interview two executives of Madison Coal & Supply for a freelance article I was doing. Then I had to get to Ohio to see some of my wife's family who were in from far out of town for the holiday. On the way, I stopped at the Winfield Locks and Dam on the Kanawha River to get some photos should I ever need them.

Those of you familiar with the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam -- formerly known as the Gallipolis Locks and Dam -- will notice how the two structures look alike. Both were built during the Depression, but that's not the only connection. Gallipolis was built as part of an improvement project on the Kanawha to replace the older dams -- low-lift or wicket or whatever you want to call them.

The locks are on the other side of the river. These were taken from the Winfield side, where the hydroelectric plant and a fishing area are. Here's one taken from the fishing area.

Here are some markings that I assume are elevations above mean sea level.

As I was about to leave -- I wanted to see some kids, the light wasn't the best and I wanted to get in out of the cold -- I saw the mv. Bill Stile leaving the main lock downbound. Yes, it exited the lock and had to make a sharp turn to the right or starboard or whatever.

As I said in an entry last night, I'm going back to the Winfield dam when the weather is warmer and the scenery is greener. I hope to do that with several dams on the Ohio, too, especially the ones that are closer to Huntington but are normally out of my normal range.

Maybe the Corps of Engineers will let me inside the security areas to get some decent photos.

As I sit here and write this, I think, man, I love doing this blog.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Three boats, no camera

I'm working three days a week in downtown Charleston, W.Va., now. The other two days I work from my home near Huntington.

The office in Charleston is beside the Kanawha River. I keep looking for interesting boats to go by, but usually I'm disappointed. Today my luck was better. If only I'd brought my camera to work, it would have been excellent.

First, around noon, the D.A. Grimm came down the river pushing two loaded coal barges. The wind was blowing pretty hard, and the surface of the Kanawha was rough. Sometimes the splash that resulted from a barge hitting those wind-driven waves must have been ten feet high.

A little while later came the Charleston pushing six coal loads. It was followed sometime after by a smaller boat, perhaps the Reliant, pushing nine loads.

Any of those would have made a good photo, especially as they went under the Interstate 64 bridge. But my camera was back at home. Oh well.

So that got me thinking about photos of the Winfield Locks and Dam on the Kanawha that I had taken last fall on the day before Thanksgiving. It was a cold day, and I got my pictures and got out of there. This spring, when the air is warm and the hills are green, I'll go back and spend more time. Tomorrow I might post some of the photos from November.

Until then, here is a photo I shot that same day.

It's of the AEP Legacy during its first trip up the Ohio River to the AEP dock at Lakin, W.Va. But this was taken on the Kanawha, less than a mile above the mouth. The AEP Legacy has picked up some coal barges and is backing out of the Kanawha. When it got to the Ohio, it headed upriver. I had previously posted photos as it neared the Kyger Creek and Gavin power plants near Cheshire, Ohio.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

River port moves forward

A riverport in Columbiana County, Ohio, has gotten money to build a dock to load limestone onto barges. The limestone is used for scrubbers at power plants. Here's one story about it, and here's another.

mv. Omar on the Mississippi

Thank you, Jeffery Manning, for sending photos (via Facebook) of the towboat Omar on the Upper Miss last year. Jeffery saw my blog post yesterday about how the Omar was in my area on the Ohio yesterday but I didn't get to see it. I haven't seen the Omar in maybe 20 years.

So here are four of the photos he sent along. Blogger is giving me a hard time about uploading the fifth for some reason. Remember, these photos are the property of Jeffery Manning and are used here solely for purposes of this blog by his permission. They are not to be dowloaded or stored or used or anything like that without his permission.

Thanks, Jeffery.

I never set foot on the Omar, but I did get aboard its twin, the Omega, once. The Omega is now the Erna E. Honeycutt, and it spends all its time on the Mississippi, the lower Ohio and that area -- never up here.

For what it's worth, the Omar shares its name with a small coal mining community in Logan County, W.Va. I've driven through there a few times, but never stopped. I don't know if Omar, W.Va., got its name from a coal company or vice versa.