Monday, July 17, 2006

Sunday, July 16, 2006
Ponca State Park to Weedland River Access

The sun rose in a cloudless sky, with a raucous chorus of yellow warblers and warbling vireos. Eastern kingbirds fluttered between perches and the turkey vultures began swirling above the loess bluffs.

Racin’ Dave Stevens, our priceless mechanic and camp visionary, set to work early organizing our 24-foot plate boat. I must admit, I was a little doubtful when he set our table up in the middle of the boat, with our gear packed beneath.

But it soon became obvious…the bathroom is less private, the bunks are kinda hard, but now we had our houseboat. Or at least a floating kitchen/mapping station. Our new home for two weeks!

This is not the Missouri River we know from down there in Missouri. In mid-Missouri, in what we call the Moniteau Bluffs Reach, the river is thick & brown, strangled by a strict, swift channel and wide, wide, wide.

During this first day, we saw many faces of the Missouri that we hadn’t met before. The first was the wild face. Shallow and sprawling. Sandbars lurking everywhere, just under the surface. And no trash. The occasional bottle. That was it. We took a reporter from Sioux City’s Channel 4 (Sarah) out from the Ponca ramp, but could find next to no trash to show her.
We loved it!

The next face of our beloved river was unrecognizable to us. In Missouri, people are still rediscovering the recreational value of the Big Muddy. Most of the folks down on our river are fisher folk. You can have a whole bend of the river to yourself for hours.

Not so near Sioux City. As we neared the city, the river narrowed and the speedboats came out in force. Nearly every sandbar was occupied. “Austentacious” trophy homes lined the banks. This is a town that knows its river well and loves it.

But, like all cities, the trash increased as well. We found a couple of dumpsites, and some trashy spots where people obviously party. One group of folks we talked to complained that they had cleaned one of their favorite spots three times, but the “kids” keep trashing it. Boy do we know that feeling! And several folks recognized us as the “surveying people???”

We’d never seen the likes of the Mlr-Tym Marina, with its long rows of covered boat slips. And the purty doc girls……

The Sergeant Floyd Museum, housed inside an old Corps of Engineers steamboat, was fascinating. A concentrated wealth of river artifacts and local river history.

And we met Mike Berger, who had his own crusade of cleaning up the small stream that spills through a pipe into the river just below the 20/77 bridge. With his friends, he had done cleanups there and monitored non-effluent pollution. They fought the city powers that be, and the Iowa DNR. As with so many crusades by individuals around the country, the demands of life itself took over. There was less time to do the hard thankless jobs of stream keeping.

It takes a community of supporting active people to keep an eye on our environment to protect our waters. This network of interested, engaged river lovers are what we are after. This is a big part of our mega scout project. So, while we are searching for trash spots, we are also searching for like-minded river rats. Folks who want to swim in clean and safe rivers, who want to work together to take care of our beloved Big Muddy.

If you are one of those people, please contact us. We all need to work together. The river strings together disparate communities. It's the connective tissue between folks that do not know each other, but share a common passion.

Email Us: or call 573-443-0292


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