trip has been made many times, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1998 and
as recently as 2000. The trip is very enjoyable and just plain
fun for folks like us history buffs. Little did I know how much
we would be on the water after the first adventurer and how far
we will have traveled in years to come.
MILL, MO. TO FT.
de CHARTRE, ILL.
This was our first
long canoe trip in uncharted waters (at least to us), one of our
group has been there before and now we follow, plans are made at
my store in Masonville, Colorado - Buckhorn Rendezvous. Many
show for the planned meeting, some are questionable (modern
canoer's just looking for another trip), they are history real
fast. Bonnet's Mill, MO. to Ft. de Chartre ILL. is a big
adventure for everyone, until the time frame is shown, several
others leave the meeting. Equipage, food and personal items are
next, more leave - hey we're starting to get to a workable size.
"What else can we bring up" says Jed Smith, one of the
organizers and only one in the group to have made the trip
before. Plans for everything we can think of are made, we have
one year to being prepared - Jan. 1986
Wallace, KS, another meat hunt - buffalo - running, shootin',
guttin', packin', all this is for our needed first canoe trip of
any distance, on big rivers with a large group, have more people
interested from other parts of the country. Going to de Chartre
with 35 plus paddlers, we have been working on this trip since
the previous years trip. Making allot of long distance calls,
letters back and forth planning every step of the way, moving
equipment, men and vehicles entails a lot of work to be done in
a timely manner.
Apr. 1987 We
meet in Arvada at Jed Smith's house, this will be the place we
will meet at and leave from within a few weeks. Meeting and
looking over gear goes very well, everyone is excited.
May 21, 87
Leave Masonville for Jed's, will meet rest of group and leave
from this dispatch point early the next day. Driving to
Jefferson, MO and then on to Bonnet's Mill, MO, meeting others
at this prerranged put in point, vehicles will be taken by
friends to Ft. de Chartre. Everyone gets to Jed's, sleeping all
over his house, some get very little sleep, that’s OK they're
not doing the driving.
May 22, 87 We
load and unload some items that some want to take along, to much
stuff, packrats and we told them to go light! Total number from
Colorado is 22, will meet Frenchy with 12 more for a total of 34
men and 16 canoes, have a 20 footer with 4 men in it.
May 23, 87
After 18 hours of hard driving with little sleep we arrive in
Bonnet's Mill, park at camp grounds and wait for day light, get
a little sleep when Frenchy shows with his group and the drivers
for the vehicles. We load canoes and change clothes very fast
and put in on the Osage River, which we travel only a few miles
and come out onto the Missouri river and head south at mile
marker #130, we really get a lot of attention from the locals. I
notice that many are very quiet as we start our adventure, then
someone says they can't swim, we soon find we have several that
haven't been in the water since grade school, hell of a time to
let us know at this point.
Around an hour before
dark we find a place suitable for a camp and give the order to
pull in, it’s a damn “Chinese Fire Drill”, canoes going
every which way, finally end up with two camps about a 1/2 mile
apart. With everyone setting up their camp sites and then the
fun starts with each little group stealing each others firewood,
boys will be boys. I figure it will be early to bed, wrong it
becomes a large party with everyone moving around visiting with
others they haven't seen for a number of years, we had a lot of
fun but paid for it the next day with lack of sleep.
May 24, 87 All
are up early and packed while others police the area and we're
off in short order, its cloudy and a light shower welcomes us.
We pass mile marker #112, all in good shape and spirits, a few
still have a little pucker factor for the non-swimmers.
Ben Thompson (Capt.
Hook) is still riding Mike Ailor and now starting on Dennis Cox,
they need someone to make them think about other things, other
than not being able to swim. Never a dull moment between Jed,
Ben or Ken Klabon, always something going on, my sides are
starting to hurt from all the laughing. Starting to see a few
cranes and a few deer along the banks and back washes.
Find a great spot that
everyone can get into for a evening camp, Fire Drill starts
again, damn canoe race, everyone should see such an event, sure
that the locals get tickled from such a thing. Camps are now
setup in record time and the hell raisers are having fun at
their trade. Jed is yelling as usual about someone took his poop
shovel and didn't bring it back. As darkness sets in so do these
voyagers, finally a long day has ended.
May 24, 25, 87
We stop at Washington, MO get water and move on down river to
Crosby Brown's for our evening camp, right on time as planned.
Jed is using his usual mother-hen approach for our business
(makes be laugh), several new guys are talking behind his back
about being so pushy. This sounds bad but someone has to take
charge and by far Jed is the best and handles everything, he
would have been one hell of a military DI, everyone agrees.
May 26, 87
Leave Crosby's and travel 12 miles down river and stop at the
"Tavern Cave", same cave that Lewis & Clark stayed
in recorded in 1804. We walk about 2 1/2 to 3 miles with
mosquitoes working on us all the way, finally get back to canoes
and travel 4-5 miles within the St. Charles, MO area and setup
our camp, no Fire Drill getting better at our skills – thanks
May 27, 87
Arrive in St. Charles at 8:30 am, good time for this large a
group, make 30 miles to the Mississippi and you should see the
whip lash from the puckered butts when the non- swimmers see the
size of this body of water. Wait until they see the barges,
bridges and their supports or all the traffic moving around on
We do our portage in a
fast 1 1/4 hours, pretty good for the number of canoes that have
to be moved around this piece of land. The water is rough and
several almost go under at the "Chain of Rocks", we
camp on Mosenthine Island, good camp and the fellowship level
has really improved.
May 28, 87 It
was really warm last night with clear skies, today it is
beautiful and everything and everyone is working as good as any
team you have ever seen, nice, no problems and Jed gets a chance
to be quiet for a change. Now passed St. Louis and about 20-21
miles from the Fort will give us the chance for an early camp
and be able to relax a little.
May 29, 87 We
get a late start to arrive at 11 am, as we had promised the year
before, an easy 21 miles, now that we have become hardened to
the paddling. Lots of people waiting to see us land, they came
down from the Fort to help move equipment to the encampment.
May 30 through
Jun 3, 1987 We are telling our stories of our journey and what a
time we had, the people we met and their willingness to help,
they gave without receiving. There are good people out there, no
matter what the news media says. This trip like many to follow
would have been much hardier, if at all possible, if it wasn't
for the efforts of one Riley Cottingham, alas Jed Smith. The
original Mr. J. Smith would be proud of the one that wears the
name in the 21st century.
Washington, MO. visiting a cove while on the Missouri
River 1986. revisited in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1998 and as
recently as 2000. Probably my last long river trip do to
health concerns at 68 years old per the saw-bones. If you
have a chance to take a trip as described on this site, do
everything possible to make it happen, it will be one
you'll always remember.