During last year's drought, I wrote about the rock pinnacles at Thebes, Illinois, and how they had menaced riverboat traffic so much that Mark Twain considered this the "very worst place" on the entire Mississippi.
The Army Corps of Engineers has removed these submerged death traps since the days of Twain, but a badlands of curious rock formations can still be seen along the shore just south of the Thebes Railroad Bridge. This year, with the river dropping to low levels again, I explored another rocky landscape in the opposite direction.
At the roadside park off Route 3, a faint trail leads down a steep embankment to the rocks below. From here, it's possible to walk north across a series of rock ledges for over a mile before reaching the mouth of Sexton Creek.
In places, the river's edge is choked with small, broken stone slabs.
Elsewhere, the outcrops are almost perfectly flat, crisscrossed by a network of joints. The formation resembles a man-made concrete highway.
To the north, the limestone gives way to shale, exposed in extremely thin horizontal layers.
The whole area is a playground of interesting geological features, with each chunk of rock different than the last.
Just a short drive from Cape, this is a wonderful place to explore when the river is low enough.
From Cape Girardeau, cross the Emerson Bridge, then turn right on Highway 3. Turn right at the first turnoff for Thebes, and then stop at the roadside park. The path to river level can be found across the grassy field, to the right of the boardwalk.
Important safety disclaimers: Some boulders are loose and hazardous (trust me, I know). Rocks covered in even the slighest patina of river water might be slicker than snot. Patches of mud or sand can swallow an ankle, or worse (again, personal experience).