Keeping Current on the Mississippi

Check out Pere Marquette for great beaches and boating

If you're boatless, seek out Tom Foster Jr. of Grafton Canoe, Kayak, Bike and Boat Rentals on Water Street, in front of the public boat-launching ramp (618-786-2192). During his seven years in business, Foster has expanded his enterprise from a couple of kayaks and a van to include pontoon, ski and fishing boats as well as WaveRunners. Daylong motorboat rentals start at $150 and include everything but gas.

Foster, who grew up near the river, also agrees that boating close to home is preferable to the congested Lake of the Ozarks. In addition to the cheaper gas and lodging, he estimates that the boat rentals here are about half of what you'd pay down south. And thanks to the efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Coast Guard, Foster says, the rivers are cleaner than they've been since his childhood.

Though the ocean hasn't nuzzled the banks of St. Louis for millennia, the nearby beaches and sandbars just might carve out a new venue for the recreational boating culture. Plans for Pere Marquette to open a full-service marina are being laid out. The rivers are again primed for exploration. New businesses and river revitalization groups have already dropped anchor.

Jennifer Silverberg

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