A Closer Look at Big Muddy Adventures’ STL Riverfront Adventure

Every St. Louis kid has heard the warnings: Don’t go near the Mississippi River! The river is for barges, not boats! Standing on the Chain of Rocks Bridge on a recent afternoon, I can understand the apprehension. Water whooshes over the dam below, and, sure enough, there’s not a single pleasure craft in sight. But what if our longstanding fears are misguided? Big Muddy Adventures has set out to show St. Louisans that having healthy respect of the Mighty Mississippi shouldn’t mean avoiding it entirely. “We’re trying to change perceptions of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in this region,” says Natalie Rolwes, guide with Big Muddy Adventures. “It looks fast, huge, and kind of scary. But the second that you’re out there moving with the water, there’s a sense of peacefulness that people might not expect to find.” Seated in a 30-foot Voyageur canoe, you gain a different perspective of the region and its storied waterways. Here’s what you might expect to see during one of the company’s STL Riverfront Adventure day trips.


North Riverfront Park: Boats are launched from the Missouri side of the Mississippi River to begin a short journey upstream.

Chain of Rocks Bridge: While paddling upstream, boaters will get a close look at the bridge, as well as the two water-intake towers—one in the Richardsonian Romanesque style and the other in the Roman Renaissance style.

Pelicans: These big white birds follow the Mississippi’s migratory flyway and flock to the areas near Chouteau and Mosenthein islands, where they hang out on the river and welcome boats to St. Louis.

Mosenthein Island: During day trips, paddlers stop at this island oasis for a break and a midday picnic on the sandy beach. On nighttime excursions, paddlers prepare a fireside dinner. Depending on the season, you might spot an eagle, and if you’re really lucky, maybe even an otter.

Asian Carp: On rare occasions, Big Muddy’s boats can take on extra passengers while navigating downstream. Asian carp have been known to jump into boats when paddlers agitate the water in shallow sections—particularly on the north side of Mosenthein Island.

Merchants Bridge: It’s the first of five bridges—Merchants, McKinley, Stan Musial Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King, and Eads—that paddlers pass below.

Barge Traffic: Canoes are typically the only vessels on the approximate 9-mile stretch of the Mississippi from the Chain of Rocks Bridge to the southern tip of Chouteau Island. There, barge traffic from the Chain of Rocks canal empties back into the Mississippi, giving paddlers an up-close view of the work that takes place on the river around the clock.

Cotton Belt Freight Depot: The water-level view affords a striking look at the Migrate mural on this historic building, located between the Musial and MLK bridges.

Gateway Arch: Appreciate the iconic monument from a brand-new angle.

Chouteau’s Landing: The paddle trip ends on the cobblestones just a few steps south of the Gateway Arch.


FYI: Click here to book a paddle trip with Big Muddy Adventures.

June 9, 2024

6:00 AM

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