By: Leif Nordstrom
All aboard! Thursday night was another first for Missouri River Relief (MRR), as we teamed up with Columbia Parks and Recreation to host a Missouri River Sunset Excursion. This event invited Columbia area residents to join us for an evening filled with food, facts, and fun, while we enjoyed an intimate sunset cruise along the majestic Missouri River. 16 courageous guests joined us for the cruise, as we beat the heat, River Relief style.
We were treated to a delicious fried fish dinner, accompanied by some scrumptious sides which had been crafted by our very own Kristen Schulte (MRR Education Coordinator), including her famous broccoli salad, creamy potato salad, and irresistible strawberry-rhubarb pie. We got to know each other the old fashioned way – around the dinner table – as Kristen presented a brief introduction to MRR and its crew, including Jeff (Executive Director), Steve (Program Manager), Mel (Assistant Program Manager), myself (Leif, Summer Intern), and of course, Baby (Mascot – see adorable pictures below).
After dinner and introductions from the guests, we made our way down to the ramp to board, and divided the group onto two boats. While we didn’t let the heat ruin our night, I feel comfortable speaking on behalf of the group that we were all eager to feel what the MRR crew likes to refer to as the “river A/C”. As we cruised along, you could feel the relaxation washing over the group. With the A/C cranked up to a comfortable breeze, guests looked out onto the sparkling colors of the river, basked in the yellow-orange light of the fading sun.
As we motored towards a river bank, Captain Jeff began to point upwards, identifying an eagle that was hovering over the trees. Passengers gazed in awe, and as we approached the bank, we were able to locate the large nest of this majestic bird. Jeff explained to passengers that as the years go by, the nest continues to grow larger.
After our eagle-excitement dwindled, we brought the two boats together, to listen in as Kristen spoke about the various ways that the river has changed over time. Using historical pictures, guests were asked to make observations about the Missouri River between time periods. Kristen used this as an opportunity to describe several man-made constructs that have been used in the past to alter the river, including channels and wing-dikes.
We then motored upstream, passing by towering bluffs that were decorated with lush, green vegetation. Once we brought the two boats back together, Steve provided a brief history lesson about our particular location, as we were within sight of Torbett Spring. It is believed that Lewis and Clark had once ventured by this spot, which is decorated with several archaic pictographs left behind by an ancient people. Unfortunately, most of the pictographs were destroyed during the construction of the railroad above, where the Katy Trail now stands.
Next, Kristen asked the guests what they thought the bottom of the Missouri River might look like. Using maps provided by NGSS, she described how the texture of the bottom is very unique, and is continuously changing as the current rolls along.
As the sun began to dip behind the trees, we made our way back to the landing at Katfish Katy’s. Once back on land, Kristen briefly described some of the planning and management strategies that are currently being used to maintain the Mighty Mo, and its many organisms that call it home. With that, we were off, capping an educational, but relaxing, sunset cruise.
See you on the river!