Into Omaha

About 750 miles from the confluence with the Mississippi the Missouri River becomes channelized. This means that the Army Corp of Engineers has contained the river so it can no longer wander and change its course. The riverbanks are lined with rocks called rip-rap and wing dams on the inside bends direct the flow of water to the outside bends. This makes it very easy to navigate for barges and paddlers alike. An added bennefit is that the outside bends have some great current. I could now average 5.0-5.4mph throughout the day.

Twenty miles into the channelized section I paddled into a marina at the edge of Sioux City, Iowa and headed to Bev’s on the River for lunch. I ordered a Coke as I waited for Beverly Hinds (no connection to the restaurant that I’m aware of) from the Sergeant Floyd Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation.

She had arranged for all three TV news stations to come out and interview me. After talking with them the Sergeant Floyd Chapter treated me to lunch. Beverly then took me to a couple museums which were very well run and put together. Right after, we went to see the 100 foot obelysk that serves as the monument to the only member of the Lewis and Clark expedition to die during the expedition.

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Sergeant Floyd died of appendicitis which, at that time, would have killed him no matter where he was. It is pretty amazing all the other members of the Corp of Discovery survived their epic two year journey into the unknown. Beverly’s late husband played a vital role in getting the monument built so there is a brass plague on one side recognizing his contribution.

When I arrived, I had been anxious to make Sioux City as short a stop as possible since I had a rare north wind helping me out but I ended up spending several hours there. I was enjoying my time with Beverly and I was trying to absorb as much information as I could as I explored the museums. Beverly and others in the city are doing great work.

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Back on the water, I paddled until just before dark to set myself up to make Omaha two days later. I set up camp in the sand tucked among the wild sunflowers that line the river as you enter Iowa. In the morning, I headed downriver under a waning rainbow as it drizzled for a short while.

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Twenty miles later I reached my lunch destination as the sun started the bake the earth. I got a quick sandwich at a place called Pop-n-Docs and pressed on as boat traffic steadily increased on the Saturday of Labor day. All day long I answered the question, “Where ya comin’ from?” It was a little more fun to answer that question now that I was 1600 miles into the trip and eating up the miles at a much faster rate.

For hundreds of miles I’d seen giant trees that had been washed up on shore. Sometimes they were a dozen vertical feet higher than the current water level, which tells you how much the water can fluctuate. However, I had not seen one of these massive trees floating in the water until after Sioux City.

I watched as two neighbors pried a 50 foot tree free from the upstream neighbor’s dock and raced down to the other dock to successfully deflect it away. About 30 minutes later I caught up to another floating tree. The branchless beast meandered on a path free of obstruction. I pulled along side it and decided to see how sturdy it would be to stand on. The Muddy Moose heeled up along side its fallen ancestor as I stepped aboard the tree. It maintained its position as I took a few paddle strokes in vain.

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I carried my gear and board up a steep sand bank to a flat spot close to the trees. It poured that night and as I was climbing out of my wet tent in the morning I heard some loud rustling in the bushes. Whatever it was had been moving fast. Startled, I looked up and was eye to eye with a doe. We were both rather surprised to see each other. I waved my hands toward it and shouted, “Get out of here!” It spun a 180 and bolted back into the trees. I was now wide awake. No need to make coffee.

Boats flew by, mostly heading north to enjoy their holiday weekend and be on the water as summer neared an end. Friendly boaters waved all day as they past and sent their wakes my way.

The Omaha skyline came into view as I approached an old steel railroad bridge. As I turned south through town I passed under a crowded pedestrian bridge and stopped at a sandbar full of parked boats. Curious weekend warriors asked lots of questions and offered food from every direction.

I set out toward my destination about 20 miles south of the city. On the way I passed under the I-80 bridge which was the place I crossed over the Missouri on my way out west back on June 2nd. At the time I was fiddling with my handheld GPS for the first time in the passenger seat and almost missed the river crossing. I thought then that it would take a very long time to get back here. My course took me in a months long circle back to this point.

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The last two hours of my 58 mile day really dragged. I knew there would be a good meal that night so I was anxious to arrive. This was also the first time my feet had really started to cramp up. Maybe it was the added challenge of balancing through the constant boat wakes.

Several members of the Mouth of the Platte Chapter of the LCTH Foundation greeted me as I arrived, some holding signs. Mary Langhorst had been keeping tabs on me since we met in Bismarck and arranged the warm welcome and reserved a spot for me at the campground.

Also there was Janet Sullens Moreland. I found out about her trip the day before I started mine and had been slowly catching up to her all summer long. She was well on her way to becoming the first American and first woman to travel the Missouri river system from source to sea. 3700 miles in a kayak named Blue Moon. It was an honor to finally meet her after following her trip on Facebook. Check out her page: LoveYourBigMuddy

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I got my tent set up and showered for the benefit of everyone around me and we all headed for dinner across the river in Iowa. At dinner they made me and Janet honorary members of the chapter and even made a contribution toward the trip on behalf of the members. One of those members, Della, picked up our tab.

I went to bed that night tired but full and happy I was taking the next two days off.

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2 comments on “Into Omaha
  1. Alice and Rick Tinklenberg says:

    And the stories keep getting better !! I must say, I will be sad for them to end. But all good things do come to the end and we are all the better having experienced them.
    Rick and I plan to be at the arch for your landing in St. Louis on Saturday, the 21st !! We will be there around 2 or there about so that we will not miss your arrival !! We hope your travels in these last few days stay on schedule for you and safe to the end. We are headed for a few more days of heat, cool at night, so here comes our Fall season and some of the Indian Summer days!! See you on Saturday !!

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