Once we made it through the last locks we dropped our crew off in Colon. We didn't want to stay in Colon at all (it was a nasty place 14 years ago and we've heard it has only gotten worse), so instead we motored 5 miles north and entered the Chagres River. The River is only about 5 miles long before it is damned at Gatun Lock as it is used to help regulate the lake level for the canal. Since it is the dry season the top 6 inches or so is cold, freshwater and everything underneath is warmer, ocean water. Or at least so reported by Mike and the kids, I never did go swimming there. This was truly, probably the best anchorage we have ever had. We anchored in 40 feet of water, but with the tide changes the boat would brush up against the hanging ferns and other foliage so that we were really "in" the jungle. The river edge is like a U shape and it was steep with soft mud and we could practically step off the stern onto shore. We saw Howler Monkeys eating fruit in the trees overhanging the river. At sun set and sunrise they howl in a disturbingly loud for their size manner. We were so close to the edge of the jungle, we half expected to wake up to banana peels all over the boats, remnants of a monkey invasion. We also saw beautiful toucans, caricaris, king fishers and more parrots than we could identify. There were small sloughs for the kids to explore by dinghy and vines to climb on. It was like, well it was like a jungle out there!
The Chagres River is also where the Spaniards crossed the isthmus to the Pacific from the 1500's until the canal was built. They brought a great deal of gold out from that river and it was heavily fortified. The fort is still present above the headland and the kids had a great time running around and playing Pirate Drake and Pirate Morgan. (It is interesting that our history tells us that Sir Francis Drake was a mighty hero and explorer. To the Spanish and all of Latin America, he was a dreaded pirate that plundered the gold they rightfully stole from the Mayans). The perspective lens of history can certainly change the record.