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July 10, 2012 / Jim Fenton

Mississippi River Day 7: Hannibal, Missouri

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation traveling down the Mississippi River. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

Tom 'n' Huck

Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn

We returned to Hannibal for a day of sightseeing, focused of course on Mark Twain sites. Our daughter, Celeste, has read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and recently finished Huckleberry Finn, and we thought it would be fun to see the setting for those books.

Hannibal is a tourist town, but far from a thriving one. Main Street, the pedestrian main drag, is in poor shape. There were other tourists about, but the parking lots and the shops were designed for many more visitors. Celeste described it as a “sad tourist town”.

We spent the morning visiting the Mark Twain home and museum. The museum had good exhibits on several of Twain’s books, such as Innocents Abroad, which looks like something that I’d enjoy reading when I get a chance. An unexpected treat was a display of several Norman Rockwell sketches and paintings for Twain books.

Mark Twain CaveIn the afternoon, we went a couple of miles south to the Mark Twain Caves. Sam Clemens visited these caves as a youth, and featured them in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The caves were cool on a hot day, and our tour guide was entertaining. The outlaw Jesse James is also said to have used the caves as a hideout. One comment from our leader that gave me a chuckle was that “three cryptographers from the University of Illinois had verified his signature on the cave wall.” I’d be very surprised if they had cryptographic signatures then!

We ended the day by taking a one-hour cruise on the Mississippi. The tour and commentary were quite good, but the ship itself was a standard tour boat decorated in Mississippi River style, not the picturesque Mississippi paddle wheeler that we were imagining. There was plenty of room: the capacity of the boat was about 200, but there were only about two dozen passengers.

Mississippi River crossings today: 0
July 10, 2012

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