Paddling with a purpose

Mo River trek
Linda and Gary De Kock depart from the Optimist Park boat ramp after a lunch break.  The De Kocks are traveling the Missouri River by canoe for their Paddle for Purpose fundraiser.

Couple canoes Missouri River to raise funds for nonprofit

Linda and Gary De Kock stopped for a lunch break at Optimist Park Tuesday Tuesday, August 7,  on their-90 day, 2,300-mile canoe adventure on the Missouri River.

Their journey, which began at the confluence of the Jefferson and Madison rivers near Three Forks, Montana, will end at the mouth of the Missouri River near St. Louis.

The trip is a fund raiser for Water for People, a Denver-based organization with the goal of,  “helping to create a world where everyone has access to water and sanitation forever.”

Gary spent most of his career in waste water management. The couple was to stop in Omaha to attend an event for young professionals in water and waste water management.

This is not the first long distance canoe trip for the De Kocks who are affiliated with Paddle With Purpose River Voyages.   In 2014 they canoed the Mississippi  River from the headwaters in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

Canoeing the Missouri has been a  much different, and a much greater challenge for the couple who are from Grand Rapids, Mich.

Missouri river out in the west is much wilder and much more remote, Linda said.

“People are few and far between,” she said.

Due to strong winds and severe storms they felt particularly vulnerable on the big lakes and reservoirs.

“The weather has been crazy,” Linda said.

While camping at Fort Rice on Lake Oahe they took shelter in a vault toilet during a big storm and possible tornado.  While canoeing Lake Sakakawea they were nearly run over by a fishing boat because the driver did not see them.

Linda said Montana is “gorgeous”  and the bluffs were amazing, but it’s the people they’ve met along the way who tell the story.  Many have shown genereosity to the De Kocks.

Mo River trek
Linda and Gary De Kock stop for a lunch break at Optimist Paris in Blair.

After the tornado, they were looking at the ruins of their tent and trying to figure out what to do next when someone drove in a pickup.

“ I have a cabin  up the hill, and we have an extra bedroom,” the man told them.

“At 2 o’clock  in the morning, they took us in,”  Linda said.

On Monday night, the couple stayed at a campground at Pelican Point in Tekamah. A man stopped to see what they were doing.

“The guy gave us a couple of beers, gave us a hug and then left, Linda said.

Canoeing is something the De Kocks enjoy.

Gary grew up sea kayaking in the Great Lakes.  He said most people who live on the Great Lakes sooner or later learn to canoe.

One of the couple’s first dates was a conoe trip.

“And I still hear about how I dropped my paddle,” Linda said.

Over the years, most of their vacations have been water based, but until the trip down the Mississippi the couple never in their wildest dreams imagined doing something like this.

When they paddled the Mississippi, Linda said they both knew that something really important, and big had happened.

“I didn’t know what it was, and still don’t know, but I now date my life from before I paddled the Mississippi, and after,” she said.

“That was a milestone and this trip will be the same,”  she added.

The De Kocks expect to reach their destination around Sept. 28.  By then, they’ll have traveled through seven states-Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri.

They’ll have covered 2,341 miles with the goal or raising $10 per mile for a total of $23,410.  All funds go directly to benefit Water for People.

“I don’t believe in miracles, I expect them,” Gary said as they departed from Blair and headed down river.

Mo River trek
Gary and Linda DeKock continue on  their 90-day trek down the Missouri River to St. Louis.

* This article and the accompanying photos were published in the Friday, August 10, 2018 Washington County Enterprise.  Thanks to Leeanna Ellis for editing my article.


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