"The Mississippi River is laden with the burdens of a nation," writes homegrown author Eddy L. Harris. It carries not just grain and coal barges, Harris suggests, but also "sins and salvation, dreams and adventure and destiny." It's your river. Respect it. Gaze upon it from the bluff at Cliff Cave County Park in Oakville. Turning off Telegraph Road and heading due east, you descend Cliff Cave Road through a forest, cross the railroad tracks and park near the water's edge. Double back to the park benches and begin to pick your way up the south flank of the bluff (it's steep for a few minutes, then levels out). Once on top, pay no heed to any condom wrappers or empty beer cans. During colder months, when the trees on the bank stand naked, this vantage point affords a panorama of riverboats swapping barges and thin pillars of smoke rising up from Illinois. Whatever the season, you'll always get to behold the timeless and ever-shifting Mississippi — our nation's watery spine. (Note: If you want to explore the cave that gives the park its name, you need to call St. Louis County Parks & Recreation and make a reservation.)
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