by Connie Cherba

Those of us fortunate enough to live along the shores of the Mississippi River know there’s something special about this expanse of water that cleaves the United States into East and West. In spite of the extensive system of manmade wing dams, dredged channels, and lock and dams, the Mighty Mississippi is still a wild place – a place where it’s still possible to experience the sights, sounds, and smells once familiar to Native Americans, French explorers, and early lead miners.

Five generations of my family have spent their lives in Mississippi River towns, beginning with my great-grandparents who lived in St. Louis in the mid-1800s. My parents were born in Hannibal, Missouri, and moved to Dubuque in 1946 when Dad took a job with John Deere. We have been official river rats since the early 1960s when Mom and Dad bought a houseboat and our family began spending idyllic two-week camping trips on a Mississippi River island near Guttenberg.

The houseboat is long gone – and so are my parents. But the allure of the river remains, and primitive tent camping on one of the river’s many sandbars is still a family favorite. Even without shower facilities, playgrounds, pools, picnic tables, or camp stores, pitching a tent and spending time on a sandy river beach has much to offer. Of course, careful planning is essential since everything from food and water to sleeping bags and towels to toilet paper and toothbrushes has to be boated in. Forget something? You’ll probably have to do without.

To read this and other featured articles in their entirety, pickup the July 2020 issue of Julien’s Journal magazine. Click to subscribe for convenient delivery by mail, or call (563) 557-1914. Single issues are also available in print at area newsstands and digitally via the Issuu platform.

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