For Father’s Day, my beautiful wife booked a moonlight canoe trip with Big Muddy Adventures, an adventure tour operator located adjacent to the Riverview neighborhood of St. Louis. The business’ founder and primary guide is “Big Muddy” Mike Clark, who has logged more than 10,000 miles on the water. For a mere $75 and a bit of “devil-may-care” daring, Clark will lead you onto the world’s fourth largest watershed, with nothing between you and 300,000 cubic feet of water per second but a wooden canoe and “Big Muddy” Mike’s ingenuity.
After meeting up at the BMA canoe house across from Bob Cassilly’s Cementland, another married couple, a father and daughter, and my wife and I (originally, six MMA fighters from Brazil were also supposed to join us but they didn’t show) clambered aboard Clark’s flatbed trailer for the first adventure that he was to lead us on. Though the boat ramp was less than a mile away, anyone who has driven this stretch of Riverview Drive knows that to travel it in this manner is not without certain risks. I’d say that counts as a good start.
“Big Muddy” Mike, our intrepid guide.
At the boat slip, we all gathered around the Junebug I, a sturdy 30′ long, fourteen-seater, made of a combination of California Red Wood and Louisiana Bald Cypress, and mutually guided it down into the waiting river. Loaded up, we sat in alternating male and female rows to distribute weight, and ferried out slowly toward Mosenthein Island.
Mike’s bowman, Natalie.
Don’t worry, whatever we packed in, we packed back out.
Allegedly, Mosenthein Island is christened after Lucie Mosenthein, who paddled out to the island by canoe (how fitting if true) in order to stake her claim over it in the days following its fluvial origin. Though no property records indicate this plan to have actually worked, the island remained named in her honor, which was not to say much since it was little more than a sandbar until well into the 20th Century.
An 1897 map, shows Mosenthein Island, just to the left of Cabaret Island (modern day, Gabaret) still fresh and unnamed:
Today, Mosenthein is a densely wooded island of more than 1,000 acres, and although owned by a nearby county in Illinois, is completely open for public use except hunting. It is a breathtaking place at sunset, with the swift Mississippi on either side, a gentle breeze lifting away the campfire smoke, a cold beer in your hands, and good company to share it with.
After our dinner of delicious salmon, honey and cayenne pepper seasoned brussel sprouts, and garlic mashed potatoes with horseradish, we paddled south by the light of the nearly full moon to see the twinkling skyline of St. Louis. Later, back at camp, we enjoyed a dessert of strawberry shortcake, before loading up and heading back across the river to the boat slip.
By the end of the night (12:30 am!), we were all ready for sleep but grinning wide. Thank you again Big Muddy Adventures for an unforgettable Father’s Day treat.