Staff Writer

Smoke Signals

Sep./Oct. '09

Bi-Monthly Magazine

My First Canoeing Adventure

Randy Bublitz

Hello again friends. I mentioned my first canoe trek in our last talk. I figured I would go into a little more detail this time about my Grand Adventure on the Missouri River in Missouri. It all started back in 1993. A friend of mine (Bill Patterson) contacted me with the proposition that we take a canoe trip together, one he’d learned about from a computer bulletin board. I didn’t know anything about computers then, but he filled me in. A bunch of guys in MO. were planning a period canoe trip down the Missouri River and were looking for other adventurers to go along. Bill proposed that since he was an avid canoeist (which I was a real amateur) and I had more ‘primitive’ experience that we would make a good team and that we should do this. Long story short, we decided to do it. Unfortunately, that year proved to be a record making flood year and the Missouri River was closed to navigation. It was decided to try again the next year. My original partner could not go that year (1994) but my good friend and NAF brother, George Thompson, and I decided to drive out there and participate. At the last minute George found out his work vacation had been cut short, and he couldn’t go. I called the Missouri boys with the sad news that we wouldn’t be able to participate, as I couldn’t make the long drive (west coast) and back by myself in the allotted time. Within hours they had called me back with the suggestion that I fly out there. They’d help with anything I needed help with, gear, transportation, lodging, etc… Because, if I couldn’t participate, they’d have to scrub the trip, as there were only 3 of them- another paddler was needed to make two, two man teams. With my good wife’s encouragement I agreed.

This would be the second time I’d be on a jetliner… wow this was really turning out to be an adventure. I mentioned in the last article that I had never met these fellows in person, only written and phone communication. I was able to send a bunch of gear, including my flinter trade gun, paddles, etc… via UPS to the guys, so it was waiting for me. I still brought a lot of my gear as luggage, and boy did I get strange looks from the baggage handlers. The next thing I knew, I was winging my way to St. Louis, MO., wearing my low crown – wide brimmed hat so it wouldn’t get crushed and so I would be easily recognized by guys who didn’t know me at the airport.

James Kyle met me at the airport. He was the leader of this expedition. He was host, tour guide, etc… I stayed at his home before we left for Fort Osage, our put in the river spot. We picked up the other two expedition members the next day, Don Clement and Bruce Carron on the way to Fort Osage. Jim’s wife drove and dropped us off, so we wouldn’t need to come back for a shuttle vehicle. It was a long drive, nearly across the whole state. It was a good thing that Jim’s wife was driving, as there was a jug in the car, and we were imbibing as we got acquainted. We stopped on the way and robbed a corn field of some fresh corn. We arrived at Fort Osage, just east of Kansas City, just as the State Park was closing on a Sunday afternoon.


.... Grady Mannis was the factor of Fort Osage, living in the factor’s house within the stockade. Fort Osage has it’s own history, which you should research. Grady met us as he was shooing the last visitors to the Fort out the gates. He showed us to our quarters (the soldiers quarters), allowed us to unload, etc… He then gave us an exceptional behind the scenes tour of the fort, trading post, etc… My most impressive memory was when he took us into the basement of the trading post. It was stacked rock foundation walls, with a red line along it (unevenly) horizontally – below the red line was original foundation! We toured the graveyard and gave our prayers to Zeonos Leonard, John Walker (brother to Joe), etc… gravesites. Wow, what a way to start an adventure. We then cooked our supper in the fireplace of the soldier’s quarters, and spent a quiet evening contemplating what was ahead of us. We spent some time getting everything ready for our big adventure.

Monday morning was foggy and cool. We dragged canoes and gear down from the Fort to the river. We loaded up and were sent away with a friendly wave of the Fort’s factor. The mist was rising off the waters of the mighty Missouri River. The scene was eerie, and perfect if we were filming a movie. Here we go boys…. St. Charles, here we come. Don Clement and James Kyle shared a canoe. I was in the bow of Bruce Carron’s canoe. Bruce was born and raised in Ste. Genevieve, MO. He was a river man, and I was glad to be his partner. If anyone was good on the river, he was. He taught me so much in those 6 ½ days on the river. Now we are on our way. We have only 310 channel miles to go until we reach St. Charles (where Lewis & Clark ended their voyage of discovery) in just 6 ½ days.

310 channel miles equals 310 ++ miles in reality, as there is lots of criss crossing the river, and side excursions up tributaries (to visit Daniel Boone’s grave for example). When averaging our miles and days traveled we averaged 47 miles per day. Our longest day was 60 miles. This is too much. I wondered about signing up to be a ‘galley slave’, and was assured that with the current, etc..,it was not too much. WRONG- We should have done this trip in 10 days, minimum. But, we did it and I’m proud of our accomplishment.

It seems this article is already getting long, so I’ll call an end to this as part one. I’ll talk to you again next month with more about my first Big Canoe adventure.

Again, if any of you have questions about doing canoe trips, how to organize, etc… whatever…don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d be glad to offer any suggestions. I’m no expert, but I’ve done a lot of river miles. See you next month.      Yfab,                                     

Randy Bublitz

N.A.F. #8






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