Freedom and Liberty

Freedom and Liberty
I travel in Freedom but sleep in the security of Liberty (not only on the road, but in this amazing country of ours)

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Old Bridges, Dams and POW's

 Location: Fisherman's Corner Campground (Corps of Engineers); near Davenport, Iowa

Another great COE campground. Ten dollars a night for electric only. It is a smaller campground with lots of local group campers. The average age of the campers is probably late 60's to early 70's.

Nice campsite with concrete slab which is a little off level by one block. It's quiet and secure. No worries about leaving Liberty alone while I'm out exploring. 

LeClaire is just a little up river from here. It is the home of a TV show. If you've watched it before, you may recognize the car in the front of their business. If you don't it isn't a big deal. I watch it occasionally and since I was in the area, I took the picture.

This area is composed of many towns on each side of the Mississippi River. Davenport, Iowa is the largest and better developed of them all so that's why I listed it in the location. I came here to see a few things and a couple things jumped up and surprised me. I guess I didn't do enough research. There will be a lot of pictures with this post and the captions will tell most of the story. 

The main attraction for me was the Rock Island Arsenal. I have heard about this place since I was in the Navy back in the 70's, so I wanted to see it. It is a military base with tight security. To get on base you have to submit your ID at the "Visitor Control Center" and if you pass their background check, which includes facial recognition, they will issue you a pass that is valid for one year. I've been striking out with museums that are closed. The one on base was closed the day I was there. Everything happens for a reason, so I must not have been meant to be there. The strange thing is the Mississippi River Visitor Center is located on base. It's a nice little visitor center overlooking Lock and Dam #15.

This is from the observation deck looking upstream through the lock.

This is looking downstream through the lock. The bridge has a swing span that rotates to allow boats to enter/exit the locks. It is said that when first built, that swing span could be opened by a single hand pushing it because it was so well balanced. It still rotates today or else the locks would be blocked. 

This is Dam #15. It is the WORLD's largest Roller Dam. It was built in 1931 during the same time frame that Hoover Dam was built. You don't see dams like this very often and never this size. The red tubes you see between the towers act as gates by being raised or lower. The water goes under the roller along the floor of the river thereby helping to keep it from silting up. The black roller on the left is where trash and other things that float down to the dam can pass through. Very, very impressive. 

 One of the nice surprises for me was the double-decker bridge shown in the picture of the lock. I didn't know about it and just stumbled on it. It's equally impressive as the dam. The bridge was built in 1895. It's name is Government Bridge because it is owned and maintained by the Federal Government. A 125 year old bridge that is still standing and functioning like the day it was opened. Wow. It was the third bridge that spanned the river from Rock Island. The first was famous too. It was opened to traffic in 1856 and was the first Railroad bridge to span the Mississippi River. That was just one of the things that made it famous. The other was it was hit by a steamboat not long after its opening. Of course, the steamboat organization sued the railroad organization for damages since they built a bridge over their river. One of the lawyers representing the railroads was a young Abraham Lincoln. The law suit when all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court that ruled the railroads and steamboats had equal rights to the river but must accommodate each other. Sort of "split the baby" kind of ruling. Other interesting things about the Rock Island area back then. The Secretary of War during the law suit tried to kick the railroad off government property because he wanted the railroad to cross the Mississippi River in the southern part of the country. His name was Jefferson Davis, future President of the Confederate States of America. Politics are always in play. Twenty years before the bridge was built, the young Army officer in charge of surveying the Rock Island Rapids and looking for a safe way for steamboats to pass them was none other than Robert E. Lee. It seems everyone of importance during that era were somehow in the Davenport/Rock Island area. 

This is approaching the Government Bridge from the Illinois side. The top deck has two Railroad tracks and the bottom deck is two-way vehicular traffic. Just like the Roller Dam, this is something not seen very often. The grassy area to the right is the railroad embankment.

This is making the turn onto the bridge.

Remember, this is a swing span bridge and two railroad track are above us. I'm not sure how comfortable I would be driving across with a railroad train above me. 

 As I was driving across the Rock Island Arsenal base I stopped and payed my respects to the people buried at the Rock Island National Cemetery. I knew about this cemetery and was on my list to see.  

The words to a song is appropriate here. I think of them at each National Cemetery I visit. 
"And I'm proud to be on this peaceful piece of property,
I'm on sacred ground and I'm in the best of company,,,,,,,"

After leaving the National Cemetery, I saw a group of headstones located in a separate part of the island. I went back to see why they were separated from the rest of the graves. The reason? They were confederate graves. That didn't make any sense though because I was pretty sure there weren't any Civil War battles fought in northern Illinois and Iowa. And there were a lot of headstones. After doing some research it made sense. These were the graves of POW's. In the summer of 1863, the North and South decided not to exchange prisoners anymore. Well, that created a problem for the North because they didn't have enough prisons to hold all the Southern prisoners. So the Army created a POW camp on Rock Island. The first prisoners reported to the base in December of 1863. During the first three months, hundreds and hundreds died from exposure to the winter, pneumonia and smallpox. When the North built the POW camp, they didn't build a hospital. Remember, there was a smallpox vaccine even back then but it wasn't available to the prisoners. Over the next two years, before the war ended, 1900 Confederates died in the camp. Some remains were relocated by family members later on, but 1,100 were left behind.

The only flag flying was the American Flag, and that was just fine by me.

The words on the monument. Definition of "asperse": attack or criticize the reputation or integrity of.....

Confederate headstones. For those who don't know, Confederate headstones have a pointed top while Union headstones are rounded. 

I took a riverboat ride to see the area from the river point of view. For $16.00, it was worth it. These are some of the pictures from that trip.

The Celebration Belle. There were about 50 aboard with a max capacity of 700. Comfortable.

Navigation marker. The number 486.3 is the number of river miles this point is above Cairo, Illinois which begins the Northern Part of the Mississippi River. I passed Cairo when I was exploring Thebes and Cape Girardeau.

Construction of the bridges to carry Interstate 74 across the Mississippi River. Notice the two tower cranes. You don't usually see those on bridge projects but were apparently needed on this one. 

The old bridges on I-74 to be removed after the new bridge is finished. They were opened to traffic in 1935 and are a pair of really pretty bridges. Just like the dam, and double-deck bridge,,,, a draped cable suspension bridge over the Mississippi is rare if ever. I'm glad I was able to see them before they are removed. 

The old steamboat cut that allowed the boats to avoid the Rock Island Rapids. Remember, this is part of what Robert E. Lee surveyed. 

A large full fledged old style steamboat headed upstream. 

From the old style steamboat to the new tow boat and barges being pushed into the lock to go downstream.

How about a house on a hill with a view of the river. Here's three to choose from.

This is on the return trip. It is a better view of the old suspension bridges that will be demolished. 

This is why strangers need to be careful on this part of the river. The middle part of the picture show a line of shallows. We were heading up stream so that means the left part is the modern channel (deeper) and the right side is the old steamboat channel (shallower). 

I visited a very large farmers market at the riverfront in downtown Davenport. There was a lot of stuff there. I picked up some banana nut bread and zucchini bread. I started to get a pint of cherries but opted instead to get the cherries in the form of a pie. I bought the pie from woman who was part of the Amish-like group. I didn't ask what group she was part of because that may have been offensive. Along with the pie she included a copy of a page from her journal. It talked about what work was done on the farm and a family fishing trip, etc. It was nice. The pie was so-so. I didn't like the crust but the inside was good. I didn't take a single picture because I was too busy looking at all the products and of course, people watching. 

Just a nice bench with a view of the river. Notice, no levees like down south. Up here, you can park and sit right on the bank of the river. 

   This stop has been a good one and I'm not sure I saw everything I needed to see. But, that is what draws me back to some places. Tomorrow is moving day and I'll be headed to another Corps of Engineer campground near Des Moines, Iowa. I've stayed there before and know the campground is super nice. The weather has made a dramatic change for the better. The highs for the last two days has been upper 70's. The lows, in the mid to upper 60's. I hope it continues but know it probably won't. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road. 


  1. Replies
    1. You're welcome Barney.
      It is an interesting area and well worth a trip.

  2. All that history at that one river crossing... good find!

    1. Hello Rob, it's worth a stop and probably longer than just 3 days.

  3. Beautiful pictures! So glad to see you back out on the road!