Missouri River Quest '07 - Page 14
A dark cloud was already moving across the horizon when I woke up. I was only 12 miles
from the dam, so I took off, hoping to beat the storm. I made good time, and the storm
was still fairly distant when I made it to the boat ramp. I didn't have a portage contact and
had hoped to catch a ride over the dam from someone putting their boat in. The only
problem was there was a storm coming and no one was around.
I had the number for the downstream campground, so I called them. They said they would
send someone, and a few minutes later a DNR truck pulled up. He informed me that they
could no longer haul boats, but the marina in town could help. He gave me their number
and they sent a truck and trailer for me. We got everything loaded just before the rain hit.
We decided it would be best to leave the boat at the marina until after the storm passed. I
gave the driver twenty dollars and walked to the café for lunch.
The storm passed quickly and a different driver hauled me to the river. I gave the first guy
twenty bucks, so I felt I should give him twenty bucks, too. Forty dollars is still cheap for a
two mile portage.
It was great to be on moving water again. The river was wide, and the current slow, but I
was off the lake.
I saw many eagles and osprey. I also paddled through a stretch of water where the river
flows perfectly straight for over five miles. The right bank is a tall limestone cliff that looks
as though it was blasted away for a road.
I was caught by an afternoon thunderstorm and had to set up camp in a field of cowpies.
There is severe weather and possibly tornadoes in the forecast for tonight. I am camped
across from a trailer park, so I feel pretty safe from tornadoes. They always go for the
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I stayed up late last night to watch a very impressive thunderstorm. The sky was aglow
with lighting that stretched to both horizons, and I had some rum that made the show even
When the storm finally hit, there was torrential rain and constant lighting and thunder that
shook the ground. I didn't get a good night's sleep. I slept in an extra hour in the morning,
then headed for Lewis and Clark lake.
The first ten miles of the lake is a grassy marsh with a maze of braided channels. My grid
book warned me to take the channel to the left, but there was good current on the right and
it looked like a shorter route to open water.
My nice channel with good current kept branching off. I kept taking the larger branch, but
my channel was getting pretty small. Finally, it entered a shallow lake surrounded by tall
grass. I thought I might be forever lost in the swamp. I paddled around the little lake and
found an opening to open water. I had to drag the boat 100 yards through two inch deep
water, but I made it to the lake.
I only had twenty miles of lake to cover, and the first ten went smoothly. The last ten miles
of lake was thick with powerboats. I stayed close to shore and prayed I wouldn't get run
over. From the looks the boaters gave me, it was clear that not many paddlers ply these
I managed to reach the dam without getting run over, and called the local marina to
arrange a portage. It was quite clear that the lady on the other end of the line had never
heard of such a thing. She took my number and promised to call back in a few minutes.
She never called back and the locals weren't much help, either. After an hour of trying, I
flagged down a couple of high school kids who agreed to haul me over the dam.
I am camping just below the dam tonight. There is free flowing river from here to St. Louis,
and the weather is beautiful! A hot air balloon just flew over low enough I was able to wave
at the people in the basket, and in two days, I should be in Sioux City and on the navigation
channel. Things are looking up!
I pushed off this morning into a swift current. It felt great to finally be off the lakes. I'm glad
I never gave up, even though there were many times I wanted to.
The river was very wide most of the way today. I didn't have much trouble finding the
channel except on the bends. Every time the river rounded a bend, it doubled its width.
There were many sand bars and deep water was difficult to find.
The river was busy today. I passed quite a few boats. Most of them were stopped at their
favorite swimming holes. I also passed a few canoes and one kayak. I talked to many of
the boaters as I passed, and there is one thing I'm getting sick of. When I tell someone
I'm headed to St. Louis they either say, You won't get there tonight! or You better get a
motor! People had the same comments on the Mississippi. Everyone who says these
things then laughs like they have come up with something terribly original. I just say Yep.
I paddled an hour and a half longer than I wanted to tonight. I couldn't find a campsite.
There are many nice sandbars along this stretch, but they are home to an endangered
bird called the piping plover. Because of this, they are off limits. I finally settled on a
somewhat flat spot on a small rocky beach.