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Months have led to weeks, weeks to days, and now finally, time for the 2011 South Dakota Kayak Challenge has finally arrived. However, record breaking water levels on the Missouri River and more than 85,000 cubic feet of water per second being released from at least one of the major dams on the Mighty Mo, spells dangerous conditions for paddlers this spring. It’s disappointing that the race was cancelled, but it’s also a great reminder of the awesome power of  Mother Nature. We should never take her for granted and cherish the times when conditions allow us to enjoy her.

Swollen Missouri River

Journal photo by Tim Hynds

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It might seem like a long way off but Memorial Day weekend will be here before I know it. That’s a significant weekend during any year, but this year especially as it’s the weekend of the first ever South Dakota Kayak Challenge. The planned trip consists of 72 miles, starting in Yankton, SD and ending in Sioux City, IA, traveled during an estimated 36 hours by some of the most hardened and seasoned paddlers in the region. It’s a trip I’ve wanted to take ever since I moved back to the Dakotas in 2006.

So what’s the problem?

I’ve always envisioned the trip taking place on a warm sunny day, with a small cooler of beer between my legs and maybe a fishing pole hanging off the gunwale. No deadline. No sweat. A trip down South Dakota’s Missouri River in May could prove to be quite the opposite. The month of May, at least in the upper mid-west, is quite often cold, windy and rainy. Factored with the big water of the Missouri River, paddlers could be faced with… less-than-desirable conditions.

So here’s my dilemma: Do I make the trip knowing that chances of poor weather and tough paddling are very high? Or do I sit this one out and let my first experience on the Missouri be a more pleasurable, relaxing one? You know how these things go. If I stay home, I’ll regret it. If I go, I may regret it. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.

It’s time. Time to slap on some sunscreen, crack open a beer, and paddle our way to glory… or something.

Some high school buddies, including myself, Jason Ratkovec, Bernie McGill, Jeremy Reiter and Russ Bader, are all heading down to Eminence, Missouri, for the The 4th Annual Manly-Man River Excursion. It will be the first year Andrey Hiebner, another buddy from “back in the day”, won’t be making the trip. It will not be the same without him, but it does mean more beer for the rest of us.

The plan is to paddle the Jack’s Fork River, in the beautiful Missouri Ozarks. I plan to take lots of pictures so check back soon! This pic is from two years ago…

Campsite along the Jack\'s Fork River, 2006

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