Editor's note: Flip Putthoff, outdoors reporter, was one of 18 paddlers on a five-day journey down the Missouri River through the heart of Missouri. The trip took place Aug. 27-31 and covered 65 miles of river from Bonnots Mill, Mo., near Jefferson City, to Washington, Mo. just west of St. Louis. Here are excerpts from a journal he kept along the way.
Wednesday, Aug. 26: The gang's all here in Bonnots Mill, Mo., for our Missouri River canoe and kayak expedition. We'll start tomorrow by paddling two miles down the Osage River to meet the big, wide and wonderful Missouri. At 2,341 miles, it's the longest river in the United States.
They call it the '"Mighty Mo" or "Big Muddy." The Missouri doesn't live up to its murky nickname for our trip. The water is low and the river is the clearest we've seen it. Still there's a nice current of 2 to 3 mph for a gentle push downstream.
Our group is from all over -- Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky and Missouri. I'm the lone Arkansan. Most of us are alumni of the annual Great River Rumble paddling trip on the Mississippi River so we all know each other. The rumble was canceled this year. It's nice we've gotten together for this adventure.
Aug. 27: We're off and paddling on a weather-perfect morning down the Osage. It's the main river that forms Lake of the Ozarks several miles upstream. The Osage is slow, unlike the peppy Missouri. In two miles, we reach the Mighty Mo. Here the current grabs our boats and launches us downstream like a slingshot. Just sitting in our boats and not paddling, we're drifting at 3 mph.
The 13 miles to our overnight stop in Chamois, Mo. passed in a flash. We landed at the boat ramp in the Chamois riverfront park where we'll camp for the night. Our trip leaders -- driftsmasters, we call them -- arranged for all our camping weeks before departure.
There's a bit of car shuttling to take care of each day. That offers a fine opportunity to see the rural Missouri countryside, which is simply beautiful here on the northern edge of the Ozarks. The two-lane highways are curvy, hilly and fun to drive.
Aug. 28-29: Oh what a start to an exciting morning. Turns out a bridge is out two miles down the highway from Chamois. That means a 30-mile detour to shuttle the cars.
Our chief driftsmaster, Mark, chatted with a couple of local boys at the Chamois country store and mentioned the detour. No problem, the guys said. We were welcome to take a private two-mile dirt road shortcut through "the bean field." A farmer was letting the townspeople cross his land to avoid the detour.
"Only thing is if he's irrigating, it'll be too wet," the guys added. "You might get stuck." Oh happy day.
We figured that's why tow trucks were invented. Our car caravan bumped along the dirt lane, kicking up dust through the bean field. The road was dry and saved us a long drive. Soon our flotilla bid adieu to Chamois for 13 more river miles downstream to Gasconade.
The little town of Gasconade is at the mouth of the Gasconade River, a long and pretty Ozark stream that flows for 280 miles. Talk about a welcome. The town was happy to let us camp in their city park. We'd barely got our tents up when the mayor stopped by to welcome us.
She unlocked the park's concession building and restrooms for us. A beautiful sight was a shower with unlimited hot water. We were welcome to it, the mayor said.
Aug. 29-30 : Today was our shortest day at seven miles, from Gasconade to Hermann, Mo. The trip is flying by and the weather is perfect.
Hermann is known for its German culture, festivals and wineries. We paddled into town around lunchtime. Lovely downtown Hermann is right on the river. A couple of us wandered over to a deli on the main drag for a bite to eat. Friends and neighbors, I enjoyed the best Reuben sandwich I've ever had.
Several in our group had reservations at motels or bed and breakfasts in town. The rest of us renegades camped in the park on the river, with permission from the city.
On thing is constant about paddling on the Missouri or Mississippi rivers -- trains. Tracks run right beside both big rivers, sometimes twin tracks side by side, like here in Hermann. You get used to sleeping mere yards away from mile-long trains rattling your tent poles all night.
The next morning started our longest day on the river -- 16 miles from Hermann to New Haven, Mo. All these Missouri River towns are so nice, especially New Haven with its historic, well kept homes and streets.
Time flies, and this is our last night to camp. It's unusual in a group of 18 folks to have four musicians in the bunch. We all have a blast picking and singing in the evenings. Jan, who has the loveliest voice, used to do programs for the Missouri Department of Conservation. She's written all kinds of nature songs for kids.
Aug. 31: We're itching to get on the water. Radar shows thunderstorms could hit around noon at our final take-out at Washington, Mo. The sky darkened minute by minute on our 14-mile day from New Haven to Washington. Thunder rumbled in the west. We put mettle to the paddles and covered the 14 miles in two hours, thanks to the Missouri's fast current.
Safe in Washington, we lashed boats to our trailers or roof racks to start for home. Lightning flashed as we said our good-byes to end a fabulous trip.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Paddle and pedal
Much of Missouri’s Katy Trail bicycle and pedestrian path runs parallel to the Missouri River. The trail, with its crushed-gravel surface, stretches more than 200 miles through central Missouri.
That makes the Missouri River an ideal destination for a pedaling and paddling trip. Outfitters operate in some river towns to provide boats and shuttle service. Bicycle rental is available at some towns along the Katy.
Source: Staff report