Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

Me as Gilligan on Chouteau’s Island

a lot of the Island is floodplain, as the levee is on the opposite side as the Mississippi


entrance to Chouteau Island

Chouteau Island is a man-made, three island complex (consisting of Chouteau, Gabaret, and Mosenthein) that was created when the chain of rocks were installed and further defined by shipping channels carved out in the 1950’s. Today, the Island complex is comprised of over 5,000 acres (or about 4 Forest Parks!), that are a mix of private and public lands. In the late 90’s a plan was hatched to develop parts of the trio for hiking and biking, but implementation fizzled as money and interest dried up in the early 2000’s.

I decided to venture out onto the Island when I heard word that the shallow cannel separating Mosenthein Island (in the middle of the Mississippi) from Chouteau/Gabaret (connected, though distinguished by a wetland between them) had become low enough to traverse. There is not a lot of information out there about the middle of Mosey, so I wanted to take a stab at exploring it.

There are two ways that I could make it down to the crossing over to Mosenthein, and I decided to take what I thought looked like a short-cut (according to Google Maps). Normally, I keep a compass and other items, like first aid, in my hiking pack, but honestly, I’ve only had to use the compass once in about ten years, and with the Island being directly across from the city of St. Louis, I figured that my cell phone would fill in for that, if I even needed it. Wrong.

I parked near the bottom of the Island (Gabaret side), and hiked through some fairly dense forest following a westward route. Eventually, about 100 yards or so from the crossing, I came upon some very thick brush. Once inside it, there was no seeing through it, and after wrangling myself a few dozen yards in, I was completely disoriented. It was too thick to walk through, and I had to crouch down and follow game trails through what I could. I used my cell compass to lead the way- until I lost reception. So there I was, just yards shy of the crossing, with no idea what direction I was facing after having to switchback so many times through the brush. All I could do was laugh at myself. Eventually, I found my way out, and using pictures that I snapped on my phone on the way in (when there are no trails, I use this to document landmarks that will lead me back the way I came), I was able to find my way back to familiar territory and my car before sundown. Chouteau’s Island: 1, Jason: 0.

I will definitely be back though; it is just too beautiful not to explore further!


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