Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One day, lots of boats

Here are some photos Adam and I got the other day. There are a lot of them, so words will be at a minimum.

The M/V Tennessee at 311 fleet. That's the Darrell L in the background. I don't know the name of the boat assisting the Tennessee.

The Robin B. Ingram. It looks almost identical to the R. Clayton McWhorter, but Adam says the McWhorter is a lot nicer looking.

The Robin B. Ingram passing the M/V New Dawn, which is over at the McGinnis dock waiting for something.

Derrick Float 545. What happened to numbers 1 through 544 I have no idea.

The Darrell L downbound.

The Merdie Boggs delivery boat overtaking the M/V Bob Koch.

The New Dawn. This might be the first time I've shot a Viking from the front when it had no barges.

The M/V Prairie Dawn arrives as a hole in the clouds opens, allowing the sun to come through.

The M/V Claudia Harold

The Mark S as seen sideways.

The Bridget Caulley

The Bridget Caulley closest, with the Prairie Dawn behind it and the New Dawn in the distance.

So I like barges.

The M/V Earl Franklin

I don't know who this fellow on the Caulley is talking to.

Making a delivery.

Remember, all photos are copyrighted by me. Downloading, copying or other use without my permission is prohibited. All rights reserved.

Two days and counting

One of the best days of the year as far as Adam is concerned comes Friday. It's the first day of the Tribute to the River at Point Pleasant, W.Va., meaning there should be one or more towboats having an open house. It's a good thing I'm taking the day off and Adam's school lets out early. If all goes well, we'll be there around 2:30 to talk to whatever river people we can find.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

4,173 photos from Louisville

From 1987 to 2003, a fellow named Bill Alden took hundreds of photos along the Ohio River frontage at Louisville. From what I've been told, he dropped photography and moved on to other things after that.

Mr. Alden gave my Internet buddy Barry Griffith permission to post his photos on the Web. If  you want to see photos of towboats, steamboats and other types of boats that passed Louisville over the years, check out them out at Barry's Flickr site here.

I've not reviewed all 4,173 photos yet, but the ones I've seen are pretty good. If there's an old boat you remember and want to see again, there's a chance it's in here if it got past Louisville in daylight. I've already favorited at least one -- one of a triple-screw boat built by St. Louis Ship.

And thanks to Jospeh Schneid, no slouch in photographing boats in Louisville himself, to alerting me to this. And, of course, to Mr. Alden for allowing Barry to post the photos and to Barry, too.

Here's part of what Joe told me about Mr. Alden:

I only know him from an internet site he had that contained photos along the river in Louisville and a few emails. He used a medium format rangefinder camera. I believe it was a 6x9 format, which is a good size piece of film. He apparently often rode a bike along the river. He told me that he preferred the colder months when going to some places along the Portland canal because those who might cause harm would not be out. ...  I know you will enjoy his photos but you would enjoy them more if you were from here and could see the difference 20 years makes in the waterfront, locks etc.

Joe even found one of Mr. Alden's pictures of the American Queen showing Joe himself trying to get a photo of the boat.

And Barry has a screenshot of Mr. Alden's index of photos here. The screenshot shows Mr. Alden got a photo of the Bob Benter. My son Adam and I were talking about the Bob Benter the other day. It was the first commercial towboat to lock through Greenup back in the 1950s when a strong current at the construction area for the dam forced the Corps of Engineers to put the lock in use.

So check them out. I myself plan to take some time over the next few days savoring these pictures, and Adam probably will, too.

Monday, August 29, 2011

River quality cap and trade

Most of the talk people are familiar with regarding cap and trade has to do with air and carbon dioxide, but efforts are under way to use a cap-and-trade system to improve water quality in the Ohio River.,

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A tale of two old bridges

The Ohio River bridge near Wheeling -- the one that's been closed for 20 years and still stands -- could be coming down soon.

Down at Ironton, Ohio, questions about funding could mean delays in replacing the 90-year-old bridge there. For nearly 10 years, every plan to replace the bridge has been postponed for one reason or another, usually having to do with money. And now, according to the Ironton Tribune, a plan to put the replacement out for bid in October may be delayed while the state of Ohio investigates a possible new funding scheme.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fish 17, Fisherman 0

I don't know much about these things, but my first impression was that somebody put up a good fight.

Two photos that almost worked

I don't know if it was the camera or the photographer or the editing or what, but these two pictures came up short of what I wanted them to be.

The first I call "Duck River," an attempted pun on the Tchaikovsky ballet "Swan Lake."

And this one I suppose would be called "Bridge Joint." It's a joint on a CSX railroad bridge over the Guyandotte River near its mouth.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

2 more pics

The James E. Nivin heading down the Ohio River the other day ...

And this most photographed barn along the river in West Virginia in the rain. Soon it will be filled with burley tobacco, which I don't think is used in chewing tobacco. Oh well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Missed 'em

Three boats have come through my area in recent days, but I wasn't able to see or photograph them: the Steven M. Bryan, the Claudia Harold and the Jill P. Harvey. I haven't seen any of them that I can remember.

Maybe on the next trip up this way...

Canoeing back to school

Here's something from last week: Two guys from Parkersburg, W.Va., decided to make their back-to-school trip a bit of an adveture. They canoed from Parkersburg to Huntington before starting classes at Marshall University.

Some of us couldn't do that in our day. I don't want to think about canoeing upstream nearly 70 miles and then up another river to get from my home town to Athens, Ohio.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Shortly before 2 p.m. the building shook and we started working on an earthquake story. Not a good day for a good chunk of our staff to be out of town. More later as things settle down. We're posting stuff as we can at

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A few new river photos

I don't know a lot about fishing boats and outboard motors, but I don't think this was supposed to happen.

The AEP Mariner passes Huntington, this time in black and white. I think these boats look as good in black and white as they do in color.

And as darkness falls, the Tennessee enters the Robert C. Byrd locks.

Friday, August 19, 2011

In the news

Three workers have died in on-the-job accidents at the Jeffboat yards at Jefferson, Indiana, in the past 16 months, including one this week.


"Pittsburgh's bikeways, walkways lure businesses and homeowners" says the headline. One of the trails runs along the Ohio River. It's good to see some places have these things. Around where I live, most of the roads were built for cars only, and pedestrians and cyclists definitely do not belong on them.


Ohio will take bids in October to replace the 89-year-old Ironton-Russell Bridge. It was the first  highway bridge over the Ohio River between Wheeling and Cincinnati. It's showing its age. The sidewalk was closed years ago. I don't know if it was for structural reasons or because of a pair of hawks that nest there every spring. They don't pedestrians near their young. If you want to see my most recent photo of the bridge, check it out here.


As usual, I'll be spending part of Labor Day weekend in Point Pleasant, W.Va., for the annual Tribute to the River festival. This year I can spend longer in the evening and try to get some nighttime photos of the towboats that are there. Adam hopes AmherstMadison will have the O. Nelson Jones there for public tours, but we're not getting our hopes up.


Speaking of Point Pleasant, for my day job I'm doing an article on the pilot simulator at the Point Pleasant River Museum. If any of you have tried it and have thoughts you would like to share, drop me a few words.


OK, I've finally joined Twitter, mainly to help me at work. But my first tweet was river-related. It's not replacing this blog, though. If you want to follow me, my handle-name-whatever is JimRoss9.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

M/V Darrell L

Passing by yesterday evening as a kayaker enjoyed the Ohio River. There were two kayakers. One wasn't in view when this was taken. And there were a lot of water bottles and Styrofoam cups in the water, too, for some reason.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Drawing boats

A lot of  us take pictures of the Ohio River -- bridges, wildlife, sunsets and boats. Barry Griffith does, too, but he does something a bit more labor intensive, too. He does some good line drawings of towboats, as you can see in this example.

As far as I know, he's one of the few people who do such drawings of towboats -- a relatively unknown part of the transportation system here in the middle of the country.

This is not a paid ad, and I don't get a cut of anything Barry sells. But he has been pretty good to me and Adam through our Internet-based acquaintance of three years or more, and his art is good stuff. It's worth a look.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Always looking for photo opps

To all you towboating people out there: If you're going to be in my area (say, Catlettsburg, Ky., to Point Pleasant, W.Va.) on a weekend or an evening, feel free to drop me a line so I can get a picture of your boat and perhaps you on it. There are some boats that Adam and I enjoy seeing even if we have tons of photos of them already, and there are some we haven't photographed. So if you're in our area where we can see you from a publicly accessible spot on the river bank, let us know. If we can be there, we'll try to get a shot. My work schedule and his homework schedule may work against it, but we'll try.

American Queen closer to return

The steamboat American Queen, docked since the end of the 2008 season, will return to the Ohio River next spring. The company says it will be in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby, and it will stop at Marietta three times, according to the Marietta Times. Its home port will be Memphis.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Left Behind

Seen on the banks of the Ohio River at a couple of popular fishing spots. The first one is in Ohio. The other two are at one spot in West Virginia.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

End of summer

Forget the equinox. Forget Labor Day. Adam considers today the last day of summer, as the school year here in Cabell County, W.Va., starts tomorrow. He's moving on to middle school tomorrow, meaning he gets on the bus 45 minutes earlier (about 6:10 a.m.) and gets home an hour later (4 p.m.).

Our impromptu last-day-of-summer plans got busted by an afternoon shower, so we went to the harbor at Kenova, W.Va., to see if there were any boats around. Nope. So we went over to Catlettsburg, Ky., to see if something could be seen there. Nope.

So we tried the new riverfront park at Ashland, Ky. Not much there, so we left and crossed the bridge to head to Ironton, Ohio. But we saw the Mountain State coming down the river, so we turned around and watched it head past us, under the bridge and ahead on down the river. We went ahead on to Russell, Ky., to watch the Mountain State pass under the 89-year-old Ironton-Russell Bridge.

We had a good time, as it was our last towboat chase of summer vacation, and I got some decent pictures. It's one of those things that I have to set aside time to download, choose and edit.

As for Adam's older brother, he's about to enjoy his last first day of school. He looks at today as the last good, honorable, decent day of the year, at least until his cousin from down South comes in for a visit on either Labor Day weekend or Thanksgiving weekend.

Meanwhile, I have two more loads of laundry to do and a number-crunching project for my day job that needs to be finished by tomorow morning. I've got a long way to go and a short time to get there ...


The Olmstead Locks and Dam at the far lower end of the Ohio River was supposed to complete the replacement of the old lock and dam system that was completed in 1929. Only two of those old dams are left -- 52 between Paducah and Metropolis,  and 53 about 24 miles below Paducah. Locks 52 and 53 received new, "temporary" 1,200-foot locks in the 1970s, with the idea the two dams were to be replaced by Olmstead. The first of the new system of locks and dams on the Ohio River became operational in the late 1950s. The most recent was the Smithland Locks and Dam, which was finished in 1980. Around 1990 or so, new locks were completed at what is now Robert C. Byrd.

Now it looks like Olmstead is running into significant cost overruns beyond its $2.1 billion price tag.

So 52 and 53 are operating beyond their replacement times. At the other end of the river, the Montgomery Locks and Dam has problems that could eventually lead to failure of the dam and loss of the navigation pool. In the present climate, where will money come from for these projects? Throw in that most people are would probably spend $3 billion or $4 billion replacing overworked highway bridges at Cincinnati and Louisville.

That's right, billions for big bridges. That's what they cost now.

And what about all those cities along the river that need to separate their sanitary and storm sewers?

Lots of needs and not a whole lot of money available. I'm guessing bridge tolls, higher river user fees and higher local utility costs are in the future. But I've been wrong before. That's why he's Bill Gates and I'm not.

Two more boats

The James E. Niven looks like it's making tow with the help of the Florence T. This was inside the mouth of the Kanawha River. Sometime later, the Nivin was downbound on the Ohio. We saw the Nivin as it looked like it was backing into the Kanawha with the Florence T's help.

And the D.A. Grimm.

Coming at noon: Expensive infrastructure needs

Saturday, August 13, 2011

On the river, yellow

I know how towboat pilots feel about people who operate pleasure boats on the Ohio River, especially pilots' attitudes toward boaters who won't get out of their way. I don't recall talking to pilots about their opinions on people on personal watercraft buzzing them and playing in their wake. The next time I talk to one, I'll have to ask.

That brings me to these photos I shot today when I should have been somewhere else. Most speak for themselves. I was glad the guy and guys on the one watercraft had a lot of yellow. That';s' a color I don't get to work with much in my pictures of the Ohio River in summer. Fall, yes. Summer, no.

One more. This is a portable CD player in the water where I was getting most of these pictures.

Three news items

Ohio's transportation officials are starting to talk up increasing the transportation use of the Ohio River beyond traditional bulk commodities. They talked about it in Ironton a few days ago, and here they are talking about it in Marietta.


If I lived near or spent much time in Louisville, I'd probably be all over what's going on with efforts to build two new bridges and rebuild part of Interstate 64 along the river. Sitting here 300 miles up the river, it looks like things are to the point where planners are putting documents out for public review. Sitting here 300 miles up the river, I don't see how they can do something that big and expensive without tolls of some sort, but with politics you never know.


Remember a day or two ago when Asian carp were the biggest ecological threat to rivers since the zebra mussel? The official line now is that they aren't so bad, mainly because there's money to be made.

Two boats

There are few boats that can get Adam and me to stop the car and run to get a good look or a good picture. This is one of them. It's the Ronald E. Wagenblast of Marquette Transportation, formerly the John Ladd Dean of the Ohio River Co.

We saw the Wagenblast as we approached Point Pleasant from the south on State Route 2. We thought it was a Viking. As we parked at Tu-Endie-Wei Park to go to the Point Pleasant River Museum, Adam caught the red and the shape of the pilothouse roof and recognized it as the Wagenblast. We were a few minutes late for our appointment at the museum, but the folks there understood.

And here's the Charlie Melancon as it passes Bradrick, Ohio, and Huntington, W.Va., on a fine comfortable, humidity-free summer evening as the sun dropped ever closer to the horizon, blanketing the area with a rich, warm, golden light.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A good day

Today I was able to get lots of good pictures along the Ohio River from Point Pleasant to Huntington. It will take a while to go through them and select the ones that would be best for this blog. But I'll get on it tonight so at 6 a.m. tomorrow there will be something to see.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The back side of Gavin

The biggest coal-fired power plant in my home range of the Ohio River is the Gavin plant at Cheshire, Ohio, about 10  to 15 miles north of Gallipolis. Adam and I went by it the other day, but this time we veered away from Route 7 and took a county road that gave us a view -- sort of -- of the back side of the plant on a day when the sky couldn't decide if it was going to give us rain or shine.

Here's what we saw.

That's a lot of steel and wire.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Regarding nitrates

Here's one for you farmers:

A study of the Mississippi River watershed shows that nitrate levels overall have not declined from 1980.

The study was done by the U.S. Geological Survey. It has to do with the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and how agricultural practices might be affecting it. In the long run, it could mean state or federal regulations on fertilizing farmland.

It's one of those things where all you can say is, "We'll have to see."

Three more news items

Another coal-fired power plant unit along the Ohio River is expected to shut down in a few years. This one is operated by Duke Power.

I expect a few more of these announcements as the EPA clamps down on coal.


The headline reads, "Boaters need to chart safer course, Army Corps warns". After the number of boaters that have run into or over dams in the Pittsburgh area in the past few weeks, you have to ask, "Do you think?" Yes, we all do stupid things sometimes, but you would think that if you're taking a boat out on a river, you would think to ask first about where the dams are.


So maybe the old Ohio River bridge near Wheeling really is coming down, perhaps in November. I'll have to find a way to attend, but at that time of year, weather can be a pain in large-scale demolitions using explosives.

Another egret post

As I said earlier, I don't have one of those supersize lenses that cost more than my house, so when I get a decent photo of a vulture, a heron or an egret, it's usually more luck than skill. This is the best I have of an egret -- such as it is.

Maybe next time I can get closer than a bridge on Route 7 afraid a car is going to come down the road at 70 mph and crash into me. If I get a good one sometime, I'll post it.