From Yankton, SD to Sioux City, IA

After covering the 5 miles from Gavin’s Point Dam to the boat ramp at downtown Yankton, I spent the rest of the day having a few beers at Ben’s Brewing while catching up on some blog posts, then went around the corner to Cheers/the Blue Pig for a New York style pizza. Of course I couldn’t say no to adding my new favorite ingredient on to the pizza, sauerkraut. I talked with the owner for a few minutes about my trip, and his story about being a Wall Street guy who moved to South Dakota after the 2008 crash to open a NY pizza joint because there was none here was pretty interesting itself. I then got a message from another local paddler, Chuck, who picked me up, then had me join him and a buddy for a late dinner and sharing of river stories. Chuck dropped me back at the riverfront as the sun was setting, and I stealthily erected my tent behind the outfield fence of a baseball field among some trees. I’m pretty sure camping is not allowed there, but I took my chances.

After getting nailed with the sprinklers from 5:30 to 6am, I packed up and got on the water. As I was getting ready to paddle away, I heard someone calling to me. Turns out it was Jarett Bies, who had been coordinating river angels for me the past few days. Coincidentally, he was at the boat ramp helping his boss do some repairs to his boat. We talked and made tentative plans to meet up later before I took off. It was a warm day but I made good miles on the flowing river. I was getting close to Ponca State Park in Nebraska and exchanging messages with Jarett. I paddled on past Ponca until about 7pm to make 53 miles on the day and take out on the South Dakota side of the river where Jarett could easily reach me. He brought my boat and me back to his house where him and his wife Laura offered food, a shower and some cold beers.

With only about 20 miles left to reach Sioux City, IA, I slept in a bit at Jarett’s then enjoyed a good breakfast from my last SD river angels. Jarett and his wife are frequent paddlers and organize two races on the Missouri – the Fort to Field 50 and the South Dakota Kayak Challenge. Although next year is the last year he will be organizing the SD Kayak Challenge, I hope to come back to do one or both of these races in the coming years.

Being a beautiful Saturday afternoon, the 20 miles of river to Sioux City was packed with rec boaters, pontoon boats and wave runners. The river was a little wavy as a result, but not a big deal. I stuck close to the shore to avoid any close calls, and made crossings when I had plenty of clearance. As I got closer to town, there were some massive houses built on the shore, apparently unaffected by any flooding this year. Looking at the map, there was one last tiny strip of South Dakota, where the Big Sioux River joins the Missouri and which forms the border between South Dakota and Iowa. I stopped to get a picture on it:

Sioux City was going to be a rest stop for me – taking 2 full days off. My sister and two nephews were coming to see me as were my parents. I arrived in Sioux City a day before I had been projecting so the first thing I did when arriving at the marina around 4pm was to call around to a few hotels. My sister Lynn and two young nephews Henry and Clayton were going to get in late Saturday night after the delay of tire problems and the long drive from Peoria, IL. I found a relatively basic hotel downtown and walked over. After a shower, I got a quick dinner and had a nice chat with interesting local Sioux Citian and juvenile probation officer, Moon. He gave me a few ideas for how to spend the next couple days with fanily around town.

As I was winding down for the day in my nicely cooled hotel room, my sister and the kids arrived around 11pm. Two young boys after 7 hours cooped up in a car – wow! Their rambunctiousness could hardly be tamed but eventually they settled down.

The next morning, we headed over to the Sergeant Floyd River Museum then next door to the very cool Lewis and Clark Museum. The Sergeant Floyd Museum is on an old riverboat and has many cool aritifacts from early civilizations, the exploration of the river and the west, the steamboat era and modern uses of the river. The highlight for the kids (and me) is going to the captain’s bridge where you can ring the bell on the top of the boat.

The Lewis and Clark Museum right next door to the boat was excellent as well, complete with animatronic likenesses of Thomas Jefferson, Sergeant Floyd, and Lews and Clark. The museum does a good job catering to kids as well, allowing them to collect various stamps in a mini-passport as they hit different exhibits.

My parents arrived in the afternoon. After a nice lunch as it started to rain a bit we went to a different hotel on the east side of town. I had my kayak tied up securely at the marina. They told me it would be $15 a night to keep it there. I paid for the first night and told them I might make alternate arrangements for the other two nights. I thought I might load the boat on my sister’s or my parent’s vehicle but decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. (Eventually when I departed SC on Tuesday, the marina was closed, so I unfortunately couldn’t pay the balance…sorry guys, I.O.U.)

The kids got to enjoy the hotel pool, then later in the day we all drove up to the nearby Sergeant Floyd Monument. Sergeant Floyd was a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition who got sick 98 days into the trip. Eventually, he died near present day Sioux City. He was the only fatality on the entire 3-year journey, which is pretty amazing itself. It’s likely he died from a ruptured appendix, untreatable during the early 1800s. The sandstone obelisk sits on the bluffs above Sioux City and provides some pretty nice views of the town and the Missouri River valley:

The next day, we all drove out to Stone State Park just north of Sioux City, checked out a couple overlooks and hiked a trail around a nice lake. We then went to War Eagle Park – where a beautiful statue pays homage to a Sioux Chief named War Eagle who as ‘friend of white man’, ensured good relations between early explorers and settlers and was generous enough to offer two of his daughters in marriage to an early fur trader. Please, enjoy my daughters.

Back to the hotel for more fun at the hotel pool with Henry and Clayton, then we had plans for my birthday dinner then a Fingerhut family vacation tradition – go to the local minor league team’s stadium to watch a game. I learned that there was a nearby establishment that was, get this, a combination toy store/bar and grill all housed in the same building, which turned out to be a medeival castle for some reason. The kids loved the toy store and it was hard to pull them away so we could head next door to eat. The bar and grill portion was pretty underwhelming, but we enjoyed all being together and catching up.

Afterwards, the minor league game was entertaining, with former Cardinal Jeremy Hazelbaker making his Sioux City Explorers debut, and flamethrower Pete Tago throwing a complete game shutout 3-hitter for the Explorers. Henry and Clayton were delighted to run the bases after the game.

The next morning we said our goodbyes. Lynn and the boys dropped me back at my boat at the marina where I loaded up my gear. I had found a baseball where I had camped behind the field in Yankton a few days ago and had that in my kayak. Of course the kids found it and wanted me to autograph it for them. Wow – their hero Uncle Mark, doing an amazing paddle journey on the Missouri River – sure I’ll autograph the baseball. But, wait: “Uncle Mark, could you sign Jeremy Hazelbaker so our dad thinks we got the ball from the game???” So of course I signed Jeremy Hazelbaker’s name on the ball. Disaster was averted after Clayton dropped the ball off the dock into the water which I then retrieved as I paddled out.

I left the marina cove and hit the open water of the Missouri and was on my way once again. I couldn’t resist exploring a tunnel before leaving town:

A few more days of paddling would get me to Omaha. More updates to come.