Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Missouri River Overview

Home from the banks of the Missouri.

Ibi’s back home. The trip to the Great River Rumble on the Missouri River took her 576.8 miles by road to the event, 159.7 miles by water from Jefferson City to the confluence with the Mississippi at Hartford, IL, and 1188.6 round trip including everything door-to-door.

I am now something I hadn’t been in a week---DRY! Between cooling in the river, sweating a gallon a day, literally, Rumble showers (I’ll explain.), and more sweating, I was wet continually. That sounds uncomfortable, and it was, so the question should obviously arise as to whether I’d recommend such an event. Absolutely! If you’ve never done such an organized paddling event, there are a lot of reasons for signing on. To be balanced, there are a few negatives, and I’ll go over those, but let’s concentrate first on why you should join the next Great River Rumble, or such a similar event. Before starting, a thank you to Jean for updating the blog for you while I was on the river.

1. If you enjoy sharing a great experience with people who share your passion for paddling, you will find yourself surrounded by dedicated and enthusiastic folks. The events take a tremendous amount of planning and organization, and the work is done entirely by volunteers. Even the group’s chairman is unpaid. They dedicate their evenings, weekends, and vacations for much of a year to put on each function just so they can join in as an equal with everyone else.

2. You will share the water with people of all skill levels. Some are experts in their field, and will share what they’ve learned with evening tutoring sessions, and if you’ve expressed an interest and desire to learn, will paddle alongside frequently during the day to refine your stroke.

3. If you feel uncertain of your skills, but would like to sharpen your abilities while staying safe, there is no better setting. You are never out of sight of others that are able to come to your aid. People come with all skill levels, and if you roll, you certainly won’t be either the first or last. There was only one day during the week without a capsize, and as many as one to three on the other days. There is a pace boat, a sweep boat to make sure no one falls behind or gets separated from the group, and three rescue/assist powerboats. If you capsize, everyone around you blows their whistle to attract the attention of the rescue boat. They will pull you from the water first, round up your floating gear, pump your boat dry, and then either tow the boat astern while you ride in the powerboat for awhile, or help you get right back in your boat. While one paddler did slip on a ramp and injure her wrist, there was not a single boat-related injury that I heard of.

4. There are skills related to technique, and there are also skills needed for different types of water. I would love to paddle the full lengths of both the Missouri and Mississippi, but have never paddled on either. This was a great opportunity to get firsthand experience in a safe and controlled setting. If you need to learn about wing dams and their hazards, boils, whirlpools, eddies, ferrying, hazards of operating around fixed objects like buoys, bridge piers, or moored barges, picking the side of a river that provides the most favorable current or best landing locations, or what to expect when meeting large commercial traffic, you can experience all of these without betting your life on what you don’t know. With a better understanding of what is happening on the river, you can return to the river on your own with greater confidence.

5. One of the best reasons for such outings is the chance to meet new people and make friendships that may last your lifetime.

Tomorrow, I’ll go over some of the negative aspects you should be aware of. Sorry, but there is nothing shocking here, no exposes, but some realities of such events you should know to join in with your eyes open.

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