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Paddling in the shadow of history

Brad Schaff and Sid Schaff paddle a canoe on the Meramec River in Missouri. Provided photo

Scout Troop 33 retraces Lewis and Clark expedition route

Lewis & Clark explored an unknown wilderness in 1804. Two centuries later, a group of DeKalb Boy Scouts followed in their footsteps. As their final summer adventure, Boy Scout Troop 33 traveled to Missouri. Their adventures took them on a tour of St. Louis museums and then out to explore some of Missouri's beautiful outdoor areas through caving and canoe trips. In St. Louis, Scouts went to the top of Gateway Arch for an unforgettable view of the city. They toured the Museum of Westward Expansion, Missouri Historical Museum and the St. Louis Science Center to see exhibits on the Lewis & Clark Expedition, the 1904 World's Fair, a special IMAX film on Lewis & Clark and several other historical and scientific interactive exhibits, which included coming face-to-face with a full-scale animatronics Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur. They toured the St. Louis Zoo, one of the nation's largest, where they saw everything from a rare snow leopard to rhinoceros, lions, assorted apes, birds, penguins, etc. Another highlight was visiting the unique City Museum, a special place filled with fanciful artwork that you could walk through, slide through and climb on, with artificial caves, aquariums and a giant ball pit. It was part playground, part art project and part museum. In the great Missouri outdoors, they went underground at Onondaga Caverns for a caving experience and also enjoyed canoeing on the Huzzah and Meramec Rivers, which flow through the Ozark hills. The weather was perfect for canoeing. Probably the highlight of the entire trip was paddling in the same waters as Lewis & Clark during their famous exploration of the mighty Missouri River. They chose to re-enact one day from the Lewis & Clark Journal, paddling where the famed explorers had paddled. On June 7, 1804, Lewis & Clark paddled a section of the Missouri River west of current-day Columbia, Mo., where they spotted signs of buffalo and sent out hunters. Meriwether Lewis and six men paddled up a creek where they found salt springs, a high limestone cliff with flint, Indian writings and a den of rattlesnakes. Today that creek is known as Moniteau Creek near the city of Rocheport, Mo. The Scouts began their canoeing adventure on Moniteau Creek near where the salt springs had been. They maneuvered through logjams on the narrow creek, paddling past the limestone cliff Lewis had described in his journal. The Boy Scouts didn't see any rattlesnakes or flint or Indian writings that day. They paddled under an old railroad trestle now used for the Katy Bicycle Trail and finally onto the great Missouri River. Instead of Indians to greet them, some friendly fishermen waved them on. The Scouts paddled by a great tugboat, under the Interstate 70 bridge and past a series high limestone formations known as the Moniteau Cliffs. Lewis & Clark wouldn't recognize the river today, but those high rock cliffs remain unchanged. Turkey vultures soared high above the Scouts as though racing with their own shadows upon the cliffs. The Scouts met a giant river barge, a challenge unknown to Lewis & Clark. The resulting wake created by the great barge produced ocean-size waves, making for some exciting canoeing, with canoe bows rising into the air and crashing down upon the water. Lewis & Clark conducted one of the greatest expeditions of exploration in our nation's history exactly 200 years ago. Scouts found that viewing museum exhibits and watching it portrayed on an IMAX screen was very impressive, but going outdoors and reliving a portion of that historic expedition was even better, providing them with a unique and enlightening glimpse into American history. This was their last summer adventure, treasured days of discovery with nonstop excitement through museums, monuments, camping, caving, canoeing and reliving history. It was a fitting climax to an incredible summer filled with adventures. The Scouts found memories to last a lifetime. Troop 33 is sponsored by First Lutheran Church in DeKalb.

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