For most of these students, this is their first time paddling a canoe. Dufur says looking out for 26 teenagers is manageable, but as he loads the third pair of students onto their canoe, another pair already paddling tips over. Sev Behrer then jumps into the creek to retrieve the wet students.
“No one has ever tipped over two minutes into the trip,” Dufur says. “I’ll have to keep an extra eye on them.”
After that, no one falls into the Big Muddy. Along their route from Rocheport to Huntsdale, the city kids look with awe as they float underneath the Interstate 70 Missouri River Bridge. The caravan stops three times, twice for fierce water fights and once to see the Torbett Spring and waterfall, which comes out of the Lewis and Clark Cave.
There is also a fourth stop, three-quarters of the way into the trip. Dufur, feeling confident in and proud of the students’ paddling skills, calls everyone together in the middle of the river. The students, holding onto each other’s canoes, listen to the sounds of the river as Dufur explains how Lewis and Clark and other explorers used the same waterway for their expeditions ages ago.
“In general, everyone seems to have a negative perception of the Missouri River,” Dufur says. “Maybe it’s because of the 1993 floods they saw on TV. I’m here to show them the river’s beauty.”