Missouri National Recreational River

Missouri National Recreational River

The only portion of the Missouri River left unaltered by channels or dams can be found on the border between South Dakota and Nebraska at the Missouri National Recreational River. The Missouri National Recreational River contains 100 miles of free-flowing waters. This unaltered expanse features islands, sandbars, chutes, and snags, and in the sandy silt below lay the remains of at least ten steamboats.

The Missouri River, the second longest river in the U.S., originates in Montana and flows to the Mississippi River, just north of St. Louis. For more than 10,000 years, humans have been drawn to the majestic waterway. The Missouri served as a watercourse for American Indians, explorers Lewis and Clark, trappers, traders, and settlers, and played an integral role in the settling of the Far West.

Steamboats traveled the Missouri River until the late 1800’s. During this time, the Missouri was notorious for swift channels, chutes, sandbars, and backwater areas. From 1819-1897, more than 200 steamboats met their demise, sinking to the river’s silty bottom. In the 1900’s, extensive flooding of the Missouri led to the construction of numerous dams. The power of the Missouri was channeled for use in hydroelectric power and irrigation, and most of the mighty Missouri was tamed.

Visitors to the Missouri National Recreational River can experience power boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Experienced paddlers able to navigate snags, riffles, and currents up to seven miles an hour can also retrace the route of Lewis and Clark’s travels of the Missouri River. Swimming and sailing can be enjoyed in the calmer waters of nearby Lewis and Clark Lake.

Anglers of the Missouri National Recreational River are delighted by the plentiful species of fish, including walleye, sauger, largemouth and smallmouth bass, crappie, and white bass. During the fall months, hunters also prowl the area in search of Whitetail deer, turkey, duck and geese. The Missouri River ecosystem is a vital pathway for many species of migratory birds, and is home to many avian species. American Bald Eagles can often be spotted soaring overhead, along with Piping Plovers and Least Terns.

Although camping is not permitted in the Missouri National Recreational River, visitors can find lodging and camping facilities in the surrounding communities. Visitors to the area are certain to enjoy local attractions such as Niobrara State Park, Ponca State Park, and Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park. Also, Badlands National Park is less than a half-day drive away.

Categories: National Parks, Western SD

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