The Missouri River town of Rocheport has been chosen as the new home for a replica keelboat used to celebrate the Lewis and Clark bicentennial, and the town is about to begin raising money to house it permanently.
The boat was donated by the Missouri Department of Conservation, which considered several towns before selecting Rocheport.
“They were looking for a good place for it and an historical fit,” said Susan McClintic, a member the Friends of Rocheport Society.
Rocheport was a stopover for Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their journey up the Missouri River and was the subject of a journal entry by the explorers.
The keelboat was built by Butch Bouvier, of Onawa, Iowa, in 2004 as one of three commissioned by different organizations in Missouri to celebrate the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition. It is a half-scale replica of the keelboat used by the Corps of Discovery.
Bouvier has been building Lewis and Clark replica boats since 1985, and he reckons that he has built more than anyone in the world, including seven full-size, 55-foot long versions. Bouvier said it takes him about four weeks to build a 28-foot-long, half-scale replica like the one that will stay in Rocheport.
He said he never uses plans when building boats.
“I never have because the old-timers didn’t,” Bouvier said. “It lends an air of authenticity.”
Now that Rocheport has its own keelboat, the town needs a place to keep it. As part of the arrangement for the keelboat donation, the Missouri Department of Conservation asked the town to provide a shelter to house it, said Shirley Wilson, another member of the Friends of Rocheport Society.
McClintic estimates the town needs $50,000 to complete the structure.
The Friends of Rocheport Society, a nonprofit historical preservation group that was formed in 1967, is holding the first fundraiser on June 16.
“It’s our big kick off,” McClintic said.
The boat, which is being stored at a private residence in Rocheport, will be on display during the festivities.
The shelter will be built next to the Dorothy Caldwell Memorial Museum in Rocheport so “people can go into the museum and then exit to view the boat,” Wilson said. Both Wilson and McClintic said the structure could be similar to one that was built to house a boat at the Walters-Boone County Historical Museum in Columbia.
“It will be a learning tool for not only the young, but the old, too,” Wilson said.
McClintic said the money raised with the initial fundraising will be put toward the architect’s fee and permits for construction.
“We’d like to have it well under way, if not completed, by this time next year,” McClintic said. “It’s a big dream, and we’ll have to come up with big money, but we’re hoping.”