Sipke Deboer, from Pequot Lakes, Minn., kneels next to his 19-foot kayak, which he is taking down the Missouri river to commemorate the journey of Lewis and Clark. He carries all his supplies, including eight days worth of food, in side his kayak. He will end his journey in St. Louis, Mo. (Capital Journal photo by Christiana McCormick)
For a Lewis and Clark adventure of his own, Sipke Deboer decided to close his business and brave often dangerous waters alone in a kayak.
Deboer began his kayak trip down the Missouri river to commemorate the journey of Lewis and Clark on May 19 in Three Forks, Mont., after a year of planning.
He said he covers an average of about 35 miles each day but has traveled up to 60 miles in a day.
Deboer made it to Pierre on Tuesday, the 40th day of his journey, and will end in St. Louis, Mo., where Lewis and Clark began.
“I thought it would be too hard to paddle upstream, the way Lewis and Clark went, so I decided to go the opposite way instead,” said Deboer.
He had always read about and heard about Lewis and Clark, and he wanted to experience a similar journey.
“A friend actually got the idea in my head in 1999, and I’ve wanted to do it ever since,” Deboer said.
Deboer may not be traveling the entire route Lewis and Clark took or going in the same direction they did, but his kayak trip is an adventure as well.
“It’s definately a treacherous journey,” said Deboer.
He said that as he was going down “the ledges,” a series of small but dangerous waterfalls, at Morony Dam near Great Falls, Mont., he was thankful for the excellent training he has received.
“I got hit in the chest hard with a wave and almost flipped my kayak. I honestly thought I was going to drown,” said Deboer.
But even though he has gone through some rough spots, Deboer is enjoying himself.
“The trip is more enjoyable than I thought,” said Deboer. “The most important thing is the people.”
He said that he was surprised to find so many people going up and down the river in canoes and kayaks.
There is even a kind of river communication network, he said.
“You can always find out who is coming and going from where you are when you stop along the way,” Deboer said. “You meet so many people with interesting stories.”
Deboer even acquired a couple traveling buddies at Fort Benton, Mont.
There he met Benno Hirschi from Switzerland and Julian Wedgewood from London.
The three traveled together until Bismark, N.D., where Wedgewood stayed behind to get some repairs done while Deboer and Hirschi kept going.
“Julian is faster than we are,” said Deboer. “He’ll be catching up soon.”
Deboer said that Hirschi didn’t even know about Lewis and Clark when they met.
“Benno just got the idea in his head to go on this trip and two days later he had bought a kayak and was going down the river,” said Deboer. “He didn’t even have a map.”
Originally, Deboer had planned on the trip taking about 50 days. Now he knows that it will take over 60 days.
“My shop will still be there whenever I get back,” Deboer said.
Deboer owns an instrument repair business in Pequot Lakes, Minn., which he temporarily closed so he could kayak down the Missouri.
Lewis and Clark began their expedition in 1804 at St. Louis, Mo., and followed the Missouri upstream until Three Forks, Mont., where three rivers converge into the Missouri.
Then they followed the Columbia river and made it to what they named Fort Clatsop, near Astoria, Ore., before going back to St. Louis, Mo.