By Bob Foley, FOMNRR Board member
Many river enthusiasts enjoy the Big Muddy with a canoe, a kayak, a paddleboard, a packraft, or a rowboat. Most use human powered watercraft for leisurely pursuits. Others race competitively. A few engage in expedition or long distance paddling. Here, on the Missouri River, we know them as “through paddlers.”
These intrepid souls follow historic “paddle strokes” left by native peoples, fur traders and explorers who plied the Missouri River to transit, to amass wealth, or to satisfy human curiosity. Most every “through paddler” intends to travel the entire 2341 mile Missouri River from the Montana Rockies to the Mississippi at St Louis; some in a single trip, and others in stages over several years. A small number travel another 1500 miles down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico on a ‘sourceto sea’ journey of personal accomplishment. While the number varies, a typical year sees about a dozen paddlers attempting a descent–fewer than the number who scale Mount Everest. Indeed,“through paddlers” surely qualify as endurance athletes!
In 2004, Livingston, Montana river guide Norm Miller completed an up-river journey from St Louis to the Pacific Coast to honor the Bicentennial of the 1804 Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition. Motivated to share his experience, Miller formed a group, Missouri River Paddlers (MoRP), as a resource for future ”through paddler” trip planning. Norm researched those who made past descents of the Missouri River and posted information about these historic trips on the MoRP website to connect paddlers worldwide.
In 2015, Miller and other river-alums organized a ”through paddler” reunion, which they named the ‘MoRP Rendezvous’ after the historic fur trader marketplaces. Interest grew for another gathering, so MoRP set the second Rendezvous for 2022. Coincidentally, 2022 marks the bicentennial of the 1822 “Ashley’s 100” expedition that created the ‘rendezvous trade system’ used by the Rocky Mountain Fur Company.
Nearly 100 “through paddler” alumni and associates plan to attend the 2022 MoRP Rendezvous from July 30 to August 7. They hail from 15 US states and Europe. Many have never met personally, but all share an experience of expedition paddling. Together, they’ve paddled 300,000 Missouri River miles–more than the distance from earth to the moon. Like kindred trappers at historic rendezvous, long-separated paddlers eagerly await the camaraderie at this gathering, where they can renew friendships and share adventures.
Anyone with a love of the Missouri river is invited to paddle the whole week, or a day, or to come to camp and just say “hi.” The MoRP Rendezvous begins at the between Randall Creek at Fort Randall Dam on July 30 and ends on August 7 at Scenic Park in South Sioux City. See the Events Calendar on the FOMNRR website for the week’s schedule.
Check the MoRP website https://www.missouririverpaddlers.com/ for more information.
David Mays of South Dakota Canoe and Kayak Assn and Bob Foley of FOMNRR assist Norm with local details.