A River’s Perspective by Rich Burns
About this time a hundred years ago, the grade had been completed on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River Meridian Bridge Project, but the other side still had to be finished. The sand pump that had been used to build the grade was being moved to the Dakota side of the River before ice flows became significant enough to shut the entire job site down for the winter. The temporary pontoon bridge used for river crossings during the summer was left open to allow for “slush ice” movements downstream. It was said to be too dangerous to make a river crossing at Yankton as winter started to approach, so if a person needed to get to Yankton from the Nebraska side, they had to go all the way to Sioux City to cross the Missouri River!
As I drive to and from Yankton in 2022, I often look towards the Meridian Bridge and see people walking along the pedestrian-bike path of Meridian Bridge Trail. Rarely do I think about what it must have been like here before the old bridge was built. But while kayaking and going under the Meridian Bridge, I slow down and get a whole other perspective—the River’s perspective. It’s a fascinating point of view. From the Missouri River, one can feel the force of the river and see the why the people in Yankton were motivated to build the crossing in the 1920s.
The MNRR still flows as it has for thousands of years. Its islands, once occupied by Native Americans and camped upon by the 1804 Lewis and Clark Expedition, are still there for all of us to explore. The River still possesses the resources necessary for native plants, fish, and animal populations—it remains a vitally importa nt ecosystem. This is all a part of the River’s perspective. The challenge today is getting the word out about why seeing things from the River’s perspective is so important. Unfortunately, many people don’t know or remember what makes the MNRR so special. In 1978, people pushed Congress to designate the 59-mile section of the Missouri River under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and it was in 1991 that Congress added another 39-miles of the Missouri River, 20-miles of the Niobrara River, and 6-miles of Verdigre Creek to the original 1978 designation. Those two sections were designated the Missouri National Recreational River (MNRR) because they are the only parts of the Missouri River that remain unchannelized.
Today, FOMNRR recognizes the Missouri River’s perspective by celebrating what the River means to our quality of life. Every community along the MNRR recognizes the significance of the river as part of their history, and as an important part of their lives now. And it is part of every American’s heritage.
As a small non-profit organization, we can’t accomplish anything without your support. During this time of year, I would like to encourage everyone who believes in what FOMNRR represents to support our mission, goals and programs. With your help, we can enhance our River’s Perspective.
The Majestic Meridian
“I have kayaked the Missouri River many times
and am always in awe of the beauty of the
majestic Meridian bridge.”
Quote and photographs by Yankton resident, Lisa Schulz.