My arms still feel like rubber, but it’s worth it because I would never trade the experience of canoeing down the Missouri River.
As a journalist, my job is to cover stories, whether it’s ceremonies, luncheons or, more recently, keeping up with the changes that have come because of the recent COVID-19 pandemic. All the while, it’s also my job to remain objective and invisible, so it’s not often that I get to experience the adventure for myself once, let alone twice, and along the way I learned about the river’s history, the unique perspective it offers of Fort Leavenworth and myself.
On June 23 and Aug. 8, myself and the Lamp photographer Prudence Siebert, along with retired Lt. Col. Gary Linhart, chief of Army University Press’ Military History Instruction Team, joined Neil Bass, DPW natural resources specialist, for a 10-mile, two-and-a-half-hour excursion down the Missouri River from Kickapoo to the Centennial Bridge in Leavenworth — a trip that could be replicated by anyone with the desire, ability and resources.
“The Missouri River is probably the most under-utilized recreational river in this part of the country,” Bass said.
According to the National Park Service, the public can use appropriate watercrafts, such as canoes, kayaks or boats, to explore the Missouri River, all the while experiencing a piece of history.
“Exploring the river by canoe or kayak is a great way to see … what Lewis and Clark may have experienced during their 1804 and 1806 travels,” the official NPS site says.
It’s also an opportunity to see Fort Leavenworth from a whole new perspective because, during both our trips, the birds flying low, the cool breeze, the fullness of the trees and the clear blue sky were made even more picturesque when we got a glimpse of the Combined Arms Center Headquarters clock tower in the distance as we came around a bend.
As we paddled the canoe and came within closer and closer view, I got a unique look at this post landmark that I see daily as I drive through Grant Gate. But, with the tree coverage hiding the rest of post, the unique visual of the clock tower “standing alone” in the center of nature became one I won’t soon forget.
Finally, canoeing the historic river gave me a chance to test my own skills and perseverance. I’ve only ever canoed twice before, once around Smith Lake on post and once at Table Rock Lake in Missouri. This was an entirely different experience.
While Siebert and Bass — along with Graceland University senior Emma Cleland-Leighton, DPW natural resources intern, on June 23 and Terry Trafton, a friend of Bass, on Aug. 8 — traveled by jon boat, Linhart and I were in the canoe.
Having more canoeing experience, Linhart steered from the rear, while instructing me on how and when to paddle. It got dicey at times when we got sucked into a current or two and, in the case of the second trip, we fought against strong winds that made us turn in a circle, but with teamwork we were quickly able to maneuver ourselves out to where we were peacefully floating along again.
Now that my feet are wet, and I feel more comfortable, maybe next time we’ll have to try that nearly eight-hour, 25-mile excursion from Atchison.