Pelican Island before the rain.
Sunset on Pelican Island
Wood choaked river.
Camp along the river.
March 27th, 2004
Fatigue sums up my departure and first day on the river. Tired and wet from exertion I pulled my heavy laden boat to the shore of Cora Island. My excitement must have been similar to the members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Having planned for so long, being on the water was a happy moment. Locating a launch spot proved to be quite the ordeal. The locations previously scouted out were soon discovered to be off limits or non accessible to the river. Worried about all the things I may have forgotten and tired from the long drive from Montana, I shoved off from the muddy boat ramp below the Alton dam on the Mississippi River. With many tears and hugs I said goodbye to my sister Gail, brother Bob, friend Stan Hanson, and my best friend DeeDee. With frequent glances over my shoulders, my friends and family got smaller and smaller until they were no longer in view. The bird life abounds among the tugs and wrecked barges that littered the shore . A sign on one barge reads "Benzene-Cancer Causing" while a large Great Blue Heron stands nearby staring as I pass. I watched several flocks of pelican fly high overhead and wondered if they would follow. Joining me for two days is my new friend Jamie Robinson who has offered his service by posting updates that I will send to his Lansing, Michigan CoreComm Office. We reached the mouth of the Missouri after an hour of paddling. The power of the river made itself known as each of my paddle strokes seemed of little use. Inch by inch we worked our way closer to shore where the calmer water lies, only to be confronted by large rock walls that extend out from shore about 100 feet into the river . At times I could paddle between low spots in the walls where the water passes over, other times I had to exit my boat grabbing tight the rope which connects me to it and pull the boat around the end of the wall through the strong current, repeating this about 10 minutes later. There are well over a thousand of these obstructions between here and South Dakota. I checked each one off from my mental list as well passed. The Army Corp of Engineers constructed these wing dams to control the rivers natural ability to carve out the surrounding landscapes.
The river is totally different than the days when Lewis and Clark set out on May 14, 1804 loaded with over 15 tons of supplies. One thing still present 200 years later is the mud. Deep mud! Boot swallowing piles of goop. If it wasn't for my knee high Chota Mukluks my shoes would either be caked in it or extracted from my feet from the suction created by the mud itself. After only one day on the river, I wonder if any of my clothing will last the journey. At night with the distant hum of St. Louis in the background, several coyotes yelp and bark while crickets chip excitedly from the nearby forest. A few turkeys gobble in the distance too.
March 28-30, 2004
The Last few days have been a struggle, both mentally and physically. Due to constant rain I camped on Pelican Island and remained tent bound since this was the only place that was dry for miles around. I lost 2 1/2 days of paddling which has set me back. There was so much rain that the river swelled about 2 1/2 feet in depth causing my sand bar in which I was camped to become smaller each hour. Had the rain continued another day or so I would have had water lapping at my tent door. The added water to the river helps out in some ways. Many of the wing dams are totally submerged allowing me to paddle over the tops of the rock walls near shore. A few times I have had to climb out of my canoe and drag my heavy laden boat over the top of the rocks. This is extremely tiring as it is difficult to get a good foot hold as well as a good hand hold onto my boat. The high water has also brought with it more debris including sticks, logs and large trees floating downstream toward the Mississippi. Since I typically paddle within 20 feet of shore, most of the slack water is filled with tons of floating wood which I plow my way through. At one point near St. Charles I became totally entangled in floating swirling wood. I was unable to paddle through it and had to wait until the current which was swirling me and the wood in a circular motion around and around was close enough to shore to get out onto a large tree; and with a huge effort pull my boat up onto the tree and over into the less cluttered channel. This all took close to 40 minutes to accomplish.
I arrived at St. Charles late in the afternoon. This was where Wm. Clark arrived with the men and boats and waited for Lewis to return from St. Louis on business matters. They stayed here several days before heading up the Missouri. The town at that time was a French and Indian town of a few hundred people. I was greeted at the boat ramp by Tim Elfers who was conducting a survey for the Park and Recreation department on river usage. He was surprised when I told him my intentions of paddling to the Pacific. Very few people travel upstream let alone all the way to the Pacific. He was kind enough to give me a cold bottle of water which I drank in under a minute. I inquired about the local area in regards to camping and stores. Several motor boaters were trying to get their boats out of the water at the ramp but were blocked off from doing so by the large trees which had floated in the way. They eventually tied a rope around the biggest tree and pulled it out into the river using their boats, allowing better access to the ramp. Another local man named Jim Chapman offered to drive me to the store where I was able to pick up a few supplies of food. I had a difficult time walking around the store from fatigue and lack of mental focus. Only minutes before I had been paddling into a strong steady headwind reading the current and now I was walking through a grocery isle pushing a metal cart. I managed to set up my camp in a wooded area right in town for the night. I was told another storm was fast approaching which upset me even more. Not only is breaking down camp in the rain difficult but even more challenging is posting these updates. I need clear skies for my satellite phone to send data and also to use my solar panels to recharge my batteries on this laptop. I have yet to have a clear day. The rain began to fall faster and faster while the river gets higher and higher. (Note: I carried a laptop computer, solar recharge panels, and a satilitte phone which I had originally set these updates to be posted on my website.)
(Post trip note: The first few days were very humbling. The weather was terrible, the water was getting higher and higher and the wing-dikes were the most challenging part of the whole journey. It took me about a week to begin to realize that this was going to be more of a mental journey than a physical one. I was beating myself up with self doubt and the fact I moved along at a snails pace was very challenging.)
Below are a few quotes from the journals of Lewis and Clark. I've added the journals that pertain to the same areas I was paddling through at the time in order to give you a comparison of thoughts. Both Clark and Lewis were poor spellers as indicated by the grammar errors in their journals which I have included here.
May 13, 1804 " I dispatched an express this morning to Cap. Lewis at St. Louis , all our provisions Goods and equipage on Board of a Boat of 22 oars, a large Perogue of 71 oares a Second Perogue of 6 oars, Complete with Sails &c. Men compd. With Powder Cartirgaies and 100 balls each, all in health and rediness to set out. Boats and everything Complete, with the necessary stores of provisions & such articles of merchandize as we thought ourselves authorised to procure- tho' not as much as I think ness. For the multitude of Inds thro which we must pass on our road across the Continent &c." Wm Clark (Day before departure from Camp River Dubois)
May 14, 1804 "I Ser out at 4 oClcok P.M, in the presence of many of the neighboring inhabitents, and proceeded on under a jentle brease up the Missourie to the upper Point of the 1st Island 4 Miles and camped on the Island..." Wm Clark (Departure day)
Numerous deer tracks lined the muddy shore as I climbed from my boat to seek another camping location for the evening. I wonder if the deer that made them are the descendants of those traded with Lewis and Clark by the Kickapoo Indians in May of 1804. The Indians had given the Corp several deer in return for quarts of whiskey( The start of the U.S Governement creating a social and health problem for the Indians). I found a nice camp in the general location of where they camped. As I write these words a coyote is once again yelping in the woods not more than a couple hundred yards away. It is the only sound other than the distant traffic from the nearby highway that I hear. Tired, warm and relaxed I feel as if am finally getting into a routine of setting up camp and cooking dinner without taking such a long time. The Corp of Discovery had close to forty men and the duties were divided up as far as hunting, food prep etc. I have to do everything which often involves several hours of my time. My boat is so tightly packed it takes me 15 minutes to remove my gear and climb the muddy bank to a level spot.
Everything in the nearby forest is damp and wet.
The leaves from the previous fall are slowly decomposing as the new growth begins to sprout through the underbrush. The colors of my surrounding environment give the area the appeance of an old faded photograph - mostly blacks, whites and greys. Where are the blues, reds, yellows, oranges, tans, and greens? I enjoyed my short visit to the town of St. Charles. The brick streets and old colonial buildings reminded me of my visit to Nantucket Island several years ago. Almost every building had an historic plaque depicting its place in the town's rich history. One such marker I read was once the Dr's. office which supplied the Lewis and Clark party with Castor Oil for their long journey. The members of that expedition would eat on average 9 pounds of meat per day per person. Not the healthiest of diets that's for sure. I walked by the old train depot and noticed a dozen people were inside sewing 1800's period clothing. They are supplying the Bicentennial re-enactors with clothing for the upcoming departure which will last until 2006. A short stocky man with the look of someone born 200 years too late and wearing clothing of that era showed me some of the patterns that were used to design and make the cloths. His name is Bob Anderson and I had met him a few days before my departure at Wood River where he was camped at historic Camp Dubois. Bob is a first descendant of George Shannon one of the original members of the Corp. He will be traveling with them as they retrace the exact timeline of the original expedition over the next couple of years. I was very envious of his plans to do this journey this way, although wearing clothing of that time period would get very uncomfortable especially on long rainy days without modern rain gear.
The morning I left St. Charles I had two policemen going through my boat down by the river. I guess someone had spotted a body drowned in the river upstream from my boat and thought it might be me. They were relieved that I was ok and apologized for having to go through my gear. What took me two hours to neatly pack, I had to spend another 1/2 hour putting it all back in. There is so much floating debris in the river that could easily be mistaken for a dead body. Several dead deer carcass float past me bloated like a ballon and smelling repulsive. It's sad to see so much garbage in the river. Since my departure I have easily seen over 10,000 plastic bottles, paint cans, oil cans, refrigerators, a plastic Rudolph, Basketballs, baseballs, tires, the bright orange and blue Proctor and Gamble Tide bottles, and even an entire car. Aside from this ugliness, I have witnessed several Beaver running towards the water as I approach and making a big splash upon entering. This animal's fur was once as valuable as gold in the 17-1800's which was made into hats. Every bend usually has a Great Blue Heron standing as if on guard of the river ahead. Such a beautiful bird that when it flies its neck reminds me of the curved pipe under a kitchen sink. I paddled by a small island that had about 20 Herons nesting high atop the trees. The nests appeared to be half the size of the bird and most birds were standing in the nest and looking down as I paddled by. I had always thought that they nested on the ground like many other water birds. My coyote friend has left and taken in its place are hundred of crickets with their hypnotic repetitive chirping. To me this usually is a sign of a good nights sleep. My progress upstream has been much slower than I had hoped. Although when I do paddle I manage to paddle the rate I had anticipated which is between 1.8 and 2.8 mph. On average I paddle two miles per hour. The problem so far has been that it has rained almost everyday and I try to avoid taking down my camp in the rain. I have been allowing it to dry in the sun so that I don't have to set it up at the end of the day already wet. Even though I am behind now, I know that I will make up for it once I reach the areas above the dams which I can easily travel between 20-40 miles a day. I also don't want to over do it this early in the journey to help avoid any injury. I have been feeling great despite fighting a current that I have been told is between 10-14 miles per hour.
May 23, 1804 " we passed a large Cave on the Lbd. Side called by the french the Tavern- about 120 feet wide 40 feet Deep & 20 feet high many different immages are Painted on the Rocks at this place the Inds. & French pay omage. Wm. Clark (Site of Tavern Rock- Defiance, MO) May 25, 1804 "Camped at the mouth fo a Creek called River a Chouritte above a Small frnech Village of 7 houses and as many families…" Wm. Clark (Near Marthasville, MO) May 27, 1804 "…passed a creek on the Lbd. Side called ash Creek 20 yds. Wide, passed the upper point of a large Island on the Sbd. Side back of which comes in three creeks one Called Otter Creek, here the man we left hunting came in we camped on a Willow Island in the mouth of Gasconnade River George Shannon killed a Deer this evening." Wm Clark (Present day Gasconade, MO)
I arrived at Tavern Rock the last day of March just as the sun finally made its presence for the day. It had rained most of the day. The sight of this 300-foot bluff is a beautiful contrast to the rather flat landscape of the Missouri flood plain. At the base of the cliff runs the Union Pacific Railroad, which has been in close proximity to every place I have camped for the last few days. I stepped off the tracks and down in the brush when I could here the fast pace of the train approaching me. The rumble starts off like an earthquake and increases in intensity until the iron horse speeds by. I walked about a mile down the tracks through the forest just below the large cliffs where the Lewis and Clark party stopped as did other traders and explorers in the 17 and 1800's. The sunlight peeking through the small green leaves starting to bud out on each tree. The green appearance is much appreciated.
I was awakened about every hour through the night as another train raced down the track. The last several days have been getting more challenging both physically and mentally. Since the rain stopped about a week ago the river has dropped nearly 4 feet exposing more of the wing dikes. The river is expected to drop another foot tonight as well. What is required to get around the wing dikes is a burst of forward speed as you approach the rocky (sometimes log) edge where the fast current rushes, and with a lot of luck and skill (more luck than skill), I am catapulted around them as I ride my boat on the forward wake. With the water being low they have the appearance of small sets of rapids which you have to make sure you don't get stuck on a rock that waits just under the surface, because it can cause you a lot of problems trying to get off. There is nothing more dangerous than high centering your boat against an opposing current.
I managed to paddle 17 miles one day, which is the most so far. I had hoped to camp at the town of Washington, MO because my map listed a camping place at the supposed "dock". After arriving near sunset I found there was no camping to be had. I paddled a mile up river to where Johns Creek (La Poceau River in the L&C Journals) emptied in. There was no good place to climb out of my boat. It was once again about 18 inches of mud. My mud boots are 19 inches high. I think you get the picture. One needs to slowly pull your foot out or your foot will come out of the boot which which is encased in the mud by the suction from the mud. I had to literally hold onto the top my boot while I lifted my foot from the mud for each step. This process can take several minutes just to reach dry land. After struggling for an hour I had a descent camp set up and a well deserved dinner cooking on the stove. Imagine the L&C Expedition dealing with the mud. They didn't have high-tech rubber boots that could easily be washed free of mud. In fact by 1805 many member of the expedition had to make moccisains out of elk leather because their boots rotted away from constantly being wet.
Post trip update: Near Disaster: ( An incident occurred which nearly ended my trip and possibly my life. I never told anyone about this until my journey was over months later. I did'nt want them to worry about the rest of my trip. During this time I capsized and flipped trying to get around a wing dike. There was a narrow gap between the walls of the dike and I attempted to sprint through the rushing current. Just as I was about 1/2 way though with my canoe, I high-centered on a submerged log. Within seconds the canoe turned over and I was ejected out of the canoe by the fast water. Thankfully I was wearing my lifejacket which helped in my ability to stay afloat and allowed me to reach my now submerged canoe. I climbed onto the hull of the canoe which was now sticking up in the air. I attempted to pull the boat right-side-up but the current was too strong. I then climbed onto the piles of logs that were caught on the wing-dike. By now the only part of my canoe that was visable about the water was about 1 foot of the bow, the rest was completely submerged and getting pushed down by the strong force of the water against the rock wall of the dike. I quickly responded by grabbing the bow line and tied it off to one of the huge logs this kept the water from pushing my boat up and under the debris and completely destroying my canoe and dreams. I stood there in disbelief as I watched my equipment being washed downstream into the eddie below. I grabbed a large driftwood log and used it to pry my canoe out away from the wing dike. I jammed the log down into the murky water between my boat and the rocky dike and pryed with all my might hoping that it would get ejected out from the dike. To my amazement it worked. It still floated even though completely filled with water. The canoe drifted behind the wing dike where I jumped in as if it were a bath tub filled to the rim and bailed it out using a small pail. After several minutes I was able to paddle around in the eddie and collected the things that were floating around in the debris and sludge of the muddy river. My camera case, maps, raingear, and other important things were found undamaged. I did however lose my movie camera, GPS, some food, a knife and a few other minor things. It was amazing that I didn't lose more. Everything was wet even though it was packed in drybags. I imeadiately paddled to shore where I set up a cloths line and laid everything out in the warm sun. My maps were soaked but salvagable. It took all day and part of the next day to dry most of my things. I reluctantly set out on the river the next day with a horrible sick feeling in my stomach and dreading every wing-dike I encountered. This was the desciding factor in paddling "downstream" the last section of the remaining "wing-diked" river to avoid this again. A day or so later I nearly flipped again when my canoe high centered on another object. Thankfully I was able to free it in time. )
Each morning I wake to find the river a little lower and more wing dikes exposed. I have decided to get rid of a few items I'm carrying to help save on weight as well as space in my boat. I plan on sending them tomorrow from Herman, MO which is a beautiful Norman Rockwell sort of town. Settled by Germans in the 1800's it has a rich river history. After trying to pull my canoe around a wing dike only 400 yards from the town dock, I was defeated by the strong current. I tried to pull my heavy laden canoe through the opposing current but it was just too much to handle and I felt as if one slip and my load would capsize in the strong current. I then had to paddle across the river and up the other shoreline which seemed a little calmer and with just one exposed wing dike to climb over. Once that was accomplished with great effort, I paddled back across the river just above the wing dike that defeated me half an hour before. I was greeted at the ramp by an elderly man named Dallas Kropp who let me camp at his bait shop right at the rivers edge. This was a great opportunity even though I would be 30 feet from the railroad tracks. It should be a peaceful nights sleep. WRONG! The trains rocked the small building Dallas let me sleep in and caused me to wonder if it would collapse.
April 5-8, 2004
I reached Chamois, Mo after several long hot days of humid weather. My stay in Herman was a nice change of pace from life on the river. Since the water levels have dropped considerably, it is important to have less weight to pull around the challenging wing dikes. The more weight I carry, the more the canoe sinks in the water and thus increase the chances of it lodging on a submerged log or rock. I was also able to do some laundry while in Herman. Once laundry was completed I walked around town which is an historic German village.
Dallas Kropp who owned the fishing shack where I stayed last night was very helpful and let me use his place as a base camp and watched my boat and gear while I ran errands. The sign on his door reads; "Wanted- Woman who can cook, clean, sew, dig worms and clean fish, must have own boat and motor. Please send photo of boat and motor." The shop has a dozen or more flags flying along with as many wind chimes blowing in the breeze from the river. Unfortunatly they didn't drown out the sound of the train which passed about 30 feet from his door. I left Herman monday afternoon and made it 7 miles to the Gasconade River where Lewis and Clark camped near its mouth. This river flows in from the south and is heavily used by local fisherman trying to catch a 70-80 pound Blue or Buffalo fish. I talked with a local man named Cecil for a long time about the fishing, river, and the town which seems to have been deserted over the last decade or two. He said the econmy was tough in the area and most of the people have left. He wished me luck on my journey and departed. The wing dikes are very problematic now that the water has dropped again. I can no longer sneak close against the shore around them but now must paddle out into the heavy current and make an attempt around them at the most dangerous part.
I had to pull my boat over a few yesterday causing me to pull a muscle in my back or put a rib out of place in the process. Its hard to paddle under this pain and it even hurts to pull my sleeping bag out of its stuff sack. I have been pondering the question of this potential danger and if it continues I may paddle the remaining section of wing dikes downstream from Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota to wherever I leave off ( about 450-miles of river). By paddling downstream I will eliminate about 2000 wing dikes that I would otherwise have to negotiate. I will be able to stay in the main channel and current and not have to hug the shore to avoid them. I hope this does not have to happen but it is a serious issue I must look into. The wing dikes are spaced about one every 200 feet or so depending on what side of the river I am on. I dread each and every one. Lewis and Clark along with there three boats did not have to worry about wing dikes since there were none. The river in 1804 was much wider and at times very shallow since it was not channelized like it is today. The Corp of Discovery did have to load their boats so most of the weight was in the front to avoid high centering on a submerged log just like I have to do. They ran aground on many sand bars and logs and had to pull the heavy boats off of each one. This was very laborous work. Today, the Missouri is much narrower and channelized which causes the current to be twice as fast as the days of Lewis and Clark. This faster current helps to flush out debris and sand from accumulating in the cannel.
I've had a few tech problems trying to send photos, sorry there is not as many for a while. Sending photos takes almost the entire batterys life and unfortunately I only have three batteries. I have not had the opportunity to use my solar panels from Iowa Thin Films because I have been trying to put some miles behind me while the sun and weather are still nice. In order for me to charge my batteries, I need to be on shore and thus not be paddling.
April 9th and 10th Norm's Journal Entry
I am writing this from a sand bar upstream from Jefferson City, Mo. The dome lights of the capital building are shining giving the entire surroundings an usual feeling. More city life than a typical wilderness experience in some sense. I usually paddle within a boats length from shore as this is where the slowest current is and it sometimes flows slightly upstream depending on how the river bank has been carved by the current. Man has certainly tried to tame this river by putting levies and wing dikes. When we try to tame the river it becomes something that it is not. It is very unpredictable with huge boils(whirlpools) and weird currents coming in from many directions. The north side of the river is heavily busy with barge traffic as I approached Jefferson City, so I managed to stay close to the south side next to the walls of the state prison. I wondered if the guard in the tower thought I was helping in an escape. A I paddled close to the barbed wire fence of the prison, I could see the armed guard glaring at me through tinted sunglasses while his fingers hugged the trigger of his machine gun. I tied up at an old boat ramp which looked like it had not been used this season since it was full of logs and debris from the high water and there were no foot prints in the fresh mud.
I walked a short ways into town in search for some clean drinking water which I found at the library about a block from the river. It is very helpful to have clean drinking water instead of trying to filter the heavily silted and polluted waters of the Missouri. It is hard for me to drink any water when I see oil cans, anti freeze containers, and other debris floating in the river. There doesn't seem to be much respect for the river and many of the people I have talked to have called it a sewage canal instead of a river. Garbage litters the shores all along this part of the river. Styrofoam cups, tires, water heaters, plastic toys, oil containers, baby strollers, television sets, diapers, Evian water bottles by the thousands, dead deer, whiskey bottles, plastic baseball bats, gas cans and more add color to the rather colorless landscapes. A bright orange TIDE laundry bottle gives me something to focus on as I slowly approach it at a very slow rate. The miles sometimes feel like hours as I pass one wing dam after another, they are placed in the river about every 200 feet all the way to Gavins Point Dam in South Dakota. Above the dam there are no more of these structures. I have decided to paddle the last 450 miles of wing dams downstream in order to be able to stay directly in the channel. When I reach Boonville, I w ill try and locate a means of transporting myself, boat and equipment to Gavins Point Dam South Dakota and then paddle all the way back to Boonville. Once I reach Booneville again, I will once again need to be transported back to Gavins Point Dam in order to continue up the Missouri to Montana. This has been a hard decision to make but one I feel is not only smart but less stressful knowing the possible outcome in trying to get around each one. I will probably regret it down the road. If I should happen to flip crossing over a wing dam I would lose my boat and the means to record this journey. It may take a day or two to locate transportation. I may even have to rent a car to haul my equipment to Gavins Point Dam. Since this will be a difficult logistic challenge I may be out of contact with updates for several day.
(Post trip comment: I still have a little regret not continueing upstream this 450-mile section however I do need to remember that the journey was not only about me but also about those who were following me on the Internet. I thus felt it was a safe descision to continue and still be able to describe the 200 years of changes along the river, and also allow me to stay ahead of my 6-month time frame. I had lost over 5 days of time due to weather and still had a long ways to go.)
As of this morning (April 13) I am camped near where the I-70 bridge crosses the Missouri river. Yesterday was extremely difficult; I had 20-30mph headwinds which slowed my progress down considerable. The wind was a constant factor in the progress of Lewis and Clark as well. Since the river was much wider, shallower, and exposed to more sandbars in 1804 they were often pushed into sand bars trying to fight the ever present wind. I managed to paddle about 11 miles in 9 hours of paddling yesterday, and could have easily fallen asleep once I set up camp due to fatigue, but I had to prepare food and organize for my push to Boonville on Tuesday. A person can easily walk faster on shore than I managed to paddle. This has been very taxing on my mental spirts. Its difficult wanting to continue when you can see where you will be four hours from now. Inch by inch, its a cinch. Yard by yard its real hard. It is important for me to maintain a positive one stroke at a time pace is all that is important mindset.
April 13-17, 2004
Wed- April 14th Boonville, MO- I arrived here Tuesday afternoon after paddling about 13 long miles into a strong head wind. The wind would be even more difficult for a small craft such as mine except that I have a foot-controlled rudder which helps me keep a straight course. Without the rudder, I would be spending more time and energy trying to keep my boat going straight. The weather controls river travel more than anything else. The Corp. of Discovery encountered many days where they could not proceed due to high winds. They also had to negotiate more sand bars compared to the present river. I encountered a few in which I had to change course in order to find deeper water. I only need about 4 inches for my boat to float, but need at least a foot in depth to get a good hold with my paddle blade. The Corp. of Discovery at this point in their journey had a large 55 foot keel boat and two smaller perouges which needed more water depth than I to proceed up the river. It was much easier for them to see the sand bars since their boats stood much taller out of the water allowing them to see ahead for any obstacles which could easly cause them to be grounded. When paddling my Kruger Sea Wind, I sit fairly low in the water where it is much more difficult to see ahead. Several members of the Missouri Fish & Game Dept. were shocking fish along the section of the river I paddled yesterday. Unfortunately I didn't ask more about their research but it had something to do with monitoring the effects of sediments on the fish. They seemed to be enjoying their work while spending the bright sunny day along the river.
I encountered several large barges all heading down river. They create a good size wake. I usually pull by boat in behind a wing dike for at least several minutes until the water is calm enough to proceed. The speed and power of the tugs pushing the barges is very impressive. The ones I have seen were much bigger than a football field. After a few minutes they disappear out of sight around the next bend. Once again I have the river all to myself. It was near Boonville, MO that the Corp. of Discovery encountered there first signs of Buffalo. The closest wild buffalo found today is 1500 miles further west in Yellowstone National Park. In only 200 years we have slaughtered millions of these docile animals. The buffalo was and still is a scared symbol for the Native Nations especially those of the great plain regions which was the main territory of these animals. The land traveled by Lewis and Clark was called Louisiana Territory having recently been purchased by the U.S. from Napoleon for only 15 million dollars. What a deal! I can just imagine the members of the expedition seeing new animals and plants that they have never seen before. It must have been a really exciting thing for them as new things unfolded before them each day. I wish I could have been their with them.
Logistics planning is much quicker than the days of Lewis and Clark. As I mentioned in my last post, I will be paddling downstream the last 450+ miles of the Missouri to avoid the danger of the wing dikes. Thanks to my great brother Bob for offering to drive all the way here from Ishpeming, Michigan to help me shuttle my gear to Yankton South Dakota. There are a few benefits of paddling this section of the Missouri downstream. By having more time each day will allow me to stop to explore more of the lands visited by Lewis and Clark. Once I reach Boonville again in mid May I will need transportation back to Yankton for the final 1500 miles of upstream travel on the river. I moved my camp and boat closer to town today with permission from a local shipping company who have let me store my boat for the night. Without the use of my Globalstar Satellite Phone for voice communications with the more than 2 dozen phone calls today I would probably have not accomplished as much as I did today. As far as my data and updates with the website, I use an Iridium phone from Telestial. Both have worked great and regular phone calls to family (DeeDee) has lessened their worry as to my safety. Boonville is a town of about eight thousand people. The part of town closest to the river is the historic district while the new part of town is a few miles out near the highway. The people I have met have been really friendly and helpful, all seem curious about my journey and perplexed why I would want to paddle upstream. I often ask that same question on a daily basis. I am also supprised by the locals who have no clue that the Lewis and Clark passed by or that they went upstream! It amazes me how few people know the history of their own region.
I had a brief conversation with a nice elderly couple. We both had to yell out to be heard. They were walking across the bridge above where I was unloading my boat below. With the stiff wind blowing we had to yell to be heard. From what I could make out she said her son kayaks, but mainly white water in Colorado and Southern Missouri. I'm sure they were curious about my boat since Boonville doesn't seem to have a lot of canoe or kayak visitors.
Aug 24th, 1804 "...in an emence Plain a high hill is situated, and appears of a Conic form, and by the different nations of Indians in this quarter is suppose to be the residence of Deavels. That they are in human form with remarkable large heads, and about 18 inches high, that they are very watchful and are arm'd with Sharp arrows with which they can kill at a great distance; they are said to kill all persons wha are So hardy as to attempt to approach the hill...;" Wm Clark ( Seven miles west of Vermillion S.D)
Aug 25th, 1804 " from the top of this Mound we beheld a most butifull landscape: Numberous herds of buffalow were seen feeding in various directions: the Plain to North N.W. & N.E. extends without interuption as far as can be seen. Wm Clark
Aug 27th, 1804 "At 2 oclock passed the Mouth of River Jaque one Indian at the mouth of this river swam to the Perogue, we landed and two others Came to us, those Inds. Informed that a large Camp of Soues , were on the R. Jaque near the mouth." Wm Clark (James River-Near Yankton S.D.)
Aug 30th 1804 "a verry thick fog this morning after Prepareing some presents for the Cheifs which we intend to make by giving Meadels, and finsihing a Speech which we intended to give them...;" Wm Clark (Vicinity of Gavin Point Dam)
Tuesday April 20th: Severe lighting and rain. Tent bound. The last five days have been such a whirlwind of activity. I have now been transported up the Missouri to South Dakota from where I will paddle back to Boonville. I spent my last few hours in Boonville exploring the old historic buildings including the jail which once held Frank and Jesse James. I strolled to the top of several Indian burial mounds high atop the hill overlooking the river valley. From the wind swept mounds one can see for over 30 miles to the northwest. It's a wonderful place to be buried and very sacred to the Native people. The mounds sit well over 200 feet above the river never to be reached by the flooding waters.
I had a wonderful lunch while waiting for my brother at Taylors Bakery and Coffee Shop. Dawn Taylor and her mother in-law Phyllis were very busy making flavorful baked goods. They made me a tasty lunch and a hot cup of coffee. Having cooked over a one burner stove for the last few weeks it was nice to sit down and not have to prepare any food. My brother Bob drove down from Michigan to offer his support in the matter. We spent over an hour securing the boat to the roof of his van before heading north to Gavins Point Dam in Yankton, South Dakota. The landscape here in South Dakota is much more open, with large vistas, colorful yellow and orange rocky shores, blue green water void of garbage like that of the lower Missouri. Lewis and Clark were in a land totally foreign to them. Buffalo, elk, and deer were hunted here and supplied the members with fresh meat. The land was also home to the Yankton Sioux who had lived here for a long time. April 18th- The small sandbar was barely enough shelter from the fast approaching cold front. I had just enough time to set up my tent when the wind gusted to well over 50 mph. Three ropes held my boat in place while I sought shelter within the tent. Without leaning against the tent wall the wind would have easily broken the tent poles. After an hour of listening to the flapping nylon fabric the wind suddenly abated. The water became as smooth as glass and as I looked to the east where the storm clouds went I expected to see a funnel cloud in the distance. I had left Gavins Point Dam earlier that day near the Calumet Bluffs where the Corp of Discovery stayed on August 28-31st and met with council with members of the Yankton Sioux. The river below Yankton is very wide and braided with numerous sandbars. Finding the deepest channel was the most challenging. In several places I ran aground and had to exit my boat and pull her to deeper water only to repeat this again a few hundred yards later. To anyone on shore it must have appeared as if I was walking on water for I was standing in the middle of a ½ mile wide river in 2 inches of water. White chalky bluffs aligned the fast flowing river in many places giving a more picturesque view of a flat Dakota prairie. I paddled close to 50 miles to Ponca State Park on the Nebraska side of the river late last evening. The days travel was void of people, motor boats, and trains with only the sounds of honking geese and Least Terns and a few Piping Plover which nest along the sand bars. This land was where the Corp killed their first buffalo. The meat being salted to help it from spoilage. It was here too that the Captains ordered a vote among the men for a new sergeant to replace Charles Floyd who had died just days before from a ruptured appendicts. Patrick Gass received the most votes with 19 making him the new replacement. I am sure the men were very somber the days following Floyds death just as the river was for me except for the bird life. I hope to make it to Sioux City tomorrow and pay Floyds grave a visit.
Aug 13, 1804"&...we formed a camp on a sand bar on the L.S. & detached Srg. Ordeway, Peter Crusatt, George Shannon, Werner & Carrn to the Mahar Village with a flag & some tobacco to envite the nation to see talk with us on tomorrow..." M. Lewis (Near present day Sioux City, Iowa)Aug 18th, 1804 "...Cap L. Birth day the evening was closed with an extra gill of whiskey and a dance untill 11 oclock" Wm. Clark
Aug 18, 1804 "our men Returnd and Brot with them the man and Brot with them the Grand Chief of the ottoes and 2 Loer ones and 6 others of thare nation." Sgt. Charles Floyd (Last journal entry of Floyd before his death)
Aug 19th, 1804 "Serjeant Floyd is taken verry bad all at once with a Biliose Chorlick we attempt to relieve him without success as yet, he gets worst and we are much allarmed at his situation, all give attention to him." Wm Clark
Aug 20th, 1804 "Passed two islands on the S.S. and at the first Bluff on the S. S. Serj. Floyd Died with a great deal of composure, before his death he said to me, 'I am going away, I want you to write me a letter.' We buried him on the top of the bluff 1/2 mile below a small river to which we gave his name, he was buried with the Honors or War much lamented, a seeder post with the Name Serg. C. Floyd died here 20th of august 1804 was fixed at the head of his grave. This man at all times gave us proff of his firmness and determined reolution to doe dervice to his Countrey and honor to himself after paying all the honor to our Decesed brother we camped in the mouth of floyds River about 30 yards wide, a butiful evening." Wm. Clark
April 22-25, 2004
The 100 foot obelisk monument stands proud overlooking the Missouri River and the busy interstate highway. It was here on Aug 20, 1804 that Corp. member Charles Floyd died from an appendicitis. As I stood looking across the valley shrouded with gray clouds I could almost hear and see the burial service given to him by fellow expedition members. With full military honors he was placed in a shallow grave high on the bluff, becoming the first U.S. military man to die west of the Mississippi River. It was to be my moment alone with Floyd. The monument empty with people stood silent with the nearby highway buzzed with traffic. I arrived at Sioux City on Wednesday the 22nd about an hour before a horrible storm which brought high winds, hail and two inches of rain which found a resting place on the floor of my tent. In the 30 minutes I was using the showers at the Scenic Park Campground the wind blew my rain fly off my tent and forced water through the meshed screen ceiling. Had it not been for me leaving most of my belongings in their protective bags, everything would have been soaked. I sponged most of the water out of the tent and dried it with my towel I had used during my hot shower. Since my arrival I have been treated well by the friendly staff at the campground. Jim Steele, the aquatics director for the recreation dept. treated me to lunch and was kind enough to drive me to the Lewis and Clark Center where Dr. Sharon Ocker welcomed me and later drove me to Floyds monument. When not singing in the barbershop quartets, Sharon is often discussing topics on history of the area to local people and visitors at the Center. I feel the same friendship and generosity of the Indian people Lewis and Clark met here has carried over two centuries later.