Just Paddling Through

From left: Jim Emanuel, Martin Trahan, Jill Brown, Gary De Cock and Linda De Cock prepare to set out in their canoes Friday morning.

Canoers traveling the Missouri for charity and adventure recently came by Yankton.

On Thursday, a number of long-distance canoers paddling down the Missouri separately, caught up with each other at the Gavins Point Dam.

"When you take a long river trip you very seldom run into people who are doing the same thing, and when you do, it’s magic, an instant bond," said Linda De Cock, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who, with her husband Gary De Cock, began the trip downriver in Three Forks, Montana.

Jim Emanuel of Helena, Montana, landed at about the same time as the De Cocks, followed by Canadians Martin Trahan of Montreal and Jill Brown of British Columbia.

Emanuel and the De Cocks set out separately from Three Forks, the confluence of the Jefferson, the Madison and the Gallatin rivers that form the Missouri.

"The confluence is where Lewis & Clark had to make the big decision of which river was going to take them over the divide to the Pacific coast. They stayed there a long time and searched up all the rivers, and decided to go with the Jefferson." Emanuel said.

The De Cocks and Emanuel are paddling for charity. The De Cocks are affiliated with Paddle with a Purpose River Voyages. The money they raise will go to Water for People, a charity formed to promote the development of high-quality drinking water and sanitation services for people everywhere. So far this trip has raised 22 thousand dollars for the cause.

Jim Emanuel’s project is called Braiding Currents. He is raising money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and expects his trip will raise nearly 14 thousand dollars for childhood cancer research.

The cause behind Trahan and Brown’s journey is more about discovery and experiencing life. Trahan won the 2017 Dream Adventure Contest presented by NRS, a canoe and kayak outfitter based in Idaho.

"Our (purpose) is about adventure for the sake of adventure; you don’t have to have a cause, you can just go out and do this for yourself, to experience the culture and the people," said Brown.

So far, for Brown and Trahan, the trip has been just that: an adventure.

"We put in at Astoria, Oregon, on the Pacific coast and paddled up the Columbia River and the Snake River to Lewiston, Idaho, and portaged with the canoe to Helena, Montana, over the great divide," Brown said.

In all, they walked for 20 days with their canoe and gear loaded on two push carts, for a total of 370 miles, before reaching the Missouri River.

Throughout the journey the canoers had to be on the lookout for bad weather, which did strike at various points along the way.

"The thing is, when it gets really bad, you find these wonderful people. The people of South Dakota have treated us like royalty. They take us into their homes and they feed us," Linda De Cock said.

"I got a message from the South Dakota Canoe and Kayak Club before we started, saying, ‘We have you covered,’ and they have. They have been there at every dam," she said.

Brown and Trahan’s experience of America was in the people they met along the way too.

"We have found generosity for our entire journey from the Pacific Ocean, the whole way, people stopping while we were hiking, giving us baked goods, giving us money, anything they can, whether offering us a ride or asking if we were okay," Brown said. "It’s been continuous, never ending, and for us it’s been a complete highlight and the most unexpected part of the journey. "

Next the canoers will paddle to Sioux City, Iowa, then Omaha, Nebraska, and on to the Mississippi River.

The De Cocks end their trip in St. Louis. When Emanuel gets there he will decide whether to continue on to Louisiana or Florida. Trahan and Brown will continue through to the Florida Keys in the Atlantic Ocean.

"It’s an amazing way to discover a country: by its rivers," Trahan said. "It’s important to live your dreams."

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