River Relief staff and volunteers spent the better part of a week preparing an event fit for river queens and kings. When the guests arrived at Katfish Katy's boat ramp near Huntsdale, they were whisked downriver in massive "plate Boats" used to haul trash during cleanups.
They stepped out onto the soft brown sand of California Island to find an elegant open-air dining room, complete with china, white linen tablecloths and napkins. Each table was decorated with wildflower arrangements and aquatic-themed centerpieces featuring some of the quirkier items found during river cleanups. A light east breeze swept the island as the sun set and the temperature drifted down through the 70s.
Before long, 100-plus river lovers were strolling the island with iced tea, lemonade, or adult beverages in hand. Live, original music - on river themes, naturally - serenaded the guests as they toured a scale model of the Missouri River from South Dakota to St. Louis. At one point, everyone was invited to stand by their hometown or favorite spot along the mock river (cleverly constructed using blue trash bags). Old "river rats" renewed friendships, and people who had been long-distance collaborators for years enjoyed first-ever face-to-face meetings.
And dinner ... sheesh, you wondered if they were trying to kill you! Fried catfish, hushpuppies, jambalaya and an extravagant spread of desserts.
The ceremony that followed dinner was mercifully short. Missouri Stream Team - a cooperative effort of the Conservation Federation of Missouri and the Departments of Conservation and Natural Resources - received Missouri River Relief's Partner of the Year Award for helping keep the Big Muddy a beautiful place to paddle, camp, fish, hunt or idle away an afternoon with a book.
I have always been impressed with Missouri River Relief's dedication and achievements. It makes me think of the Victor Hugo quote, "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come." If you like the idea of rediscovering and reclaiming Missouri's most spectacular waterscape, visit http://www.riverrelief.org/. Or you could just show up at the Carl Noren River Access across the river from Jefferson City at 9 a.m. tomorrow and help clean up the middle stretch of the river.
By: Jim Low