Everything is clear as launch my kayak into the big river on a beautiful summer evening: sky, water, and intention. From the Burlington ramp, I will paddle upstream under the Iowa-Illinois bridge against the slow current of backwater chutes on the west side of the Mississippi, swing onto the main channel at the upstream end of Rush Island, and ride its swift current back to town. A final check of the weather report informs me that thunderstorms are expected to arrive after midnight; although that is long after I will have finished my loop, I set my weather radio on ALERT and strap it to my deck where I will clearly hear its warning of any rogue storms.
I feel a familiar satisfaction as my kayak engages the flowing river when I exit the launch pool and point my bow upstream. After passing under the bridge, a few minutes of sustained paddling against the current gets me past the urban fringe of Burlington and into the quiet backwater of Rush Chute. Ahead of me, I spot a patch of low fog in the quiet, humid air between wooded islands. Entering the patch, I find myself paddling through a strange world of fog-altered perspective. A bright sun lowering through the evening sky backlights trees on the left bank with misty silhouettes while vividly highlighting verdant forest on the right bank, all above a ghostly white layer of low fog that engulfs my kayak but leaves my head with an unimpeded view. Wisps of vapor float gracefully above the water and stream silently past my shoulders as I progress up the bayou.
The middle of of Rush Chute widens into a watery plain where the fog is confined to its far edges and I blink in bright sunlight once again. Continuing along the shoreline, I glide though glassy water past forest broken only by fog-shrouded inlets where great blue herons stand stoically; they look especially primeval in the mist this evening, resembling pterodactyls flying across a Mesozoic swamp when they finally flush. The sun is settling onto the rim of the floodplain forest when I reach the far end of Rush Island and turn into the short chute that conducts me downstream to the main channel.
|Early (above) and late (below) photos of Mississippi River islands|
|Early and late photos of the distant Iowa-Illinois bridge|
|Early (launch) and late (return) photos at the Port of Burlington|
|Night lights on the Iowa-Illinois bridge|