Grand Tower, Illinois, was and is a Mississippi River town. Ma Hale’s was there for many years and finally demised after the flood of 1993. Tower Rock (island in the river) is still there, as is Devil’s Backbone Park (electric night barge-watching) and the natural-gas pipeline bridge (which is pipe only).
There are not too many ways to cross the Mississippi in Southern Illinois. South of St. Louis, the only bridges are at Chester (about 40 miles south) and then at Cape Girardeau (100 miles south). Grand Tower is exactly between Chester and the Cape.
In the early 70’s, there was a small ferry that ran between Grand Tower and Neelys Missouri. It could hold six cars and was about 150 x 40 feet. There was no schedule, no tickets, no advance reservations. You just showed up, waited for them to be ready, and then you paid and loaded.
On one of those 70-degree January Sundays that endear us to Southern Illinois, we all decided to make the pilgrimage to Ma Hales for the all-you-can-eat $2.50 Sunday dinner. As usual, no one was up until after noon, due to the previous night’s extended activities.
Also as usual, it took time to motivate & organize, so by the time we loaded everyone into two cars (five guys and four girls) there was only a couple hours of daylight left (it was January).
No time for hiking, but we stopped at the scenic overlook (now taken out) on the cliffs overlooking the Mississippi on route 149 west of Murphysboro. We wanted to do something else outside before sunset and eating.
At the scenic overlook, Bob points the way down route 149.
Down by the river.
We went to the park on the river. We saw the ferry. It was on the Grand Tower side. It was empty, waiting. Jimbo said “Let’s take a ride on the ferry!” Jimbo and Chuck went to “negotiate” with the ferry guys. Jimbo and Chuck reported that we could all ride round trip for ten bucks total. Dollars and quarters came out, and we moved to the ferry.
Jimbo and Chuck make the arrangments.