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Day: May 7, 2016

Falling water, rising water

I talked to someone a few days back who said there was “no water” in the river just below Pickstown. “A buddy of mine has been driving around on the riverbed” he said.

Yesterday the river seemed very low so his statement seemed to be an exaggeration reflecting that fact. This morning the water had fallen a couple more feet from last evening.

After a few hours though, I noticed during a shore break that my kayak started floating. I marked the edge of the water and sure enough it was coming up pretty fast. There was much more current as the day progressed and the sandbars were disappearing.

I had a headwind and then a sidewind and then suddenly I had a tailwind. I pulled over to think about using my sail. Having never used it I reviewed the instructions once more, it seemed pretty simple. I paddled back out onto the river and let the sail pop open. For the next hour I sailed up river! When the wind was light I couldn’t make any headway but when it was blowing really good I was going faster than I could paddle, which was absolutely delightful. The good wind left however, and although conditions were marginal later I gave the sail a whirl a couple more times, then I finally just stowed it. Under perfect conditions I think it will work great though.

As I neared the Fort Randall dam I really had to paddle. Far from there being almost no water the river was nearly full bank to bank. I’m curious what the strategy is, varying the dam’s water release so much.

There’s enough current that I decided to pull out at the first possible road access below the dam, making a longer portage and an easier paddle. I am camped here and will be doing the portage tomorrow with my wheeled cart.

Fort Randall Dam camp

Fort Randall Dam camp

I made two posts today due to lack of coverage yesterday. This is the second one. Colter.

Clark September 5th Wednesday 1804…we made a Ceeder Mast, our hunters brought in three bucks, and two elks this evening which we had jurked One of the hunter Shields, informed that he Saw Several black tailed Deer…

6th Septr Thursday 1804…I saw Several goats on the hills on the S. S. also Buffalow in great numbers

7th Septr. 1804 Set out at day light we landed after proceding 5 1/2 miles, near the foot of a round mounting which I saw yesterday resembling a dome. Capt Lewis & my Self walked up, to the top which forms a Cone and is about 70 feet higher than the high lands around it, the Bass is about 300 foot in decending this Cupola, discovered a Village of Small animals that burrow in the grown (those animals are Called by the french Pitite Chien) Killed one & Cought one a live by poreing a great quantity of water in his hole…the Village of those animals Covs. about 4 acrs of Ground… [I saw this distict hill today.]

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

Beyond the Niobrara

There was beautiful orange sunrise. I was paddling by 6:30. 

Missouri River  Sunrise

Missouri River Sunrise

Although the current was significant I was making steady progress. The river was braided, often with two or more channels split up by sandy islands, with some channels dead ends. 

Looking ahead I saw at least two channel options. I consulted the GPS app on my iPhone. I realized again how dramatically the channels change. It showed me on the left side, I was actually on the right.  

There was a spot where I had to sprint through some very fast water on a corner. I dug in. Compared to the water I was flying. I glanced at the bank and found I was going backwards. Cautiously I angled slightly across as I got slowly swept downstream. On the other side I jumped out and started walking my boat upstream. 

In places there was quicksand. The current moved the sand out from under my feet and I could feel myself sinking. No danger though, hanging onto the boat. For about 45 minutes I walked the kayak along one bank until it got too deep. Again I had to paddle across very fast water, then walked the kayak up the other side. I knew the railroad bridge marked the Niobrara so as I approached it I watched for the channel where the Missouri split off. Finally I could see: the Missouri had already split off. I was going up the Niobrara. 

That was a significant bummer, and confusing. How did I miss the confluence?  I knew it wasn’t far away, it had to be on this side of the line of bluffs, less than a mile away. 

The good news is I got to paddle downstream for a few hundred yards. I saw what looked like a side channel of the  Missouri, but after a mile found it was the main river. I’m not surprised I got fooled. The Niobrara had much more current. 

The Missouri was running clearer now. The Niobrara famously runs full of silt and debris. Now I was paddling in much slower current so I made steady progress. 

There were lots of eagles hanging out around the long ridge on the NE side of the river. 

I stopped at Verdel landing for water but the pump wasn’t working. I’ve got enough anyway. My mostly headwind turned into a sidewind. I used the high bank to escape it. For many miles there were cliffy bluffs on the left. With the moderate current I was making good miles. I stopped for a break on the fine gravelly shore. It was in the 80s so it was great having the shade of the cliffs.  

I had to get out and drag the boat through shallow water in places. Something I’ll be doing a lot I’m sure. 

I had to paddle a mile or two more than planned to find a good campsite. I must have come about 24 miles today! Colter

4th September Tuesday 1804 a verry Cold wind from the S. S. E, we Set out early and proceeded on the mouth of a Small Creek in a bend to the L. S. Called White lime, at 11/ 2 miles higher up passed a large Creek on the L. S. Called or white paint between those two Creeks (the latter of which is abt. 30 yds. wide) we passed under a Bluff of red Ceeder, at 4 mes. 1/ 2 passed the mouth of the River Que Courre (rapid R) on the L. S. and Came to a Short distance above, this River is 152 yards wide at the mouth & 4 feet Deep Throwing out Sands like the Platt (only Corser) forming forming bars in its mouth… [NiobaraRiver] Clark

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

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