Non Float Trip

by kfrego

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is located in the badlands of North Dakota. I’m serious. There is a National Park in North Dakota. The park is separated into a 46,000 acre South section and a 24,000 acre North section. Buffalo herds are maintained in the natural surroundings of both areas. The Little Missouri River flows through both sections of the park. Our family, along with Dick Thompson’s family, and two other families decided to spend a long weekend camping at Squaw Creek on the North section. We arrived mid afternoon and set up our tents, awnings, etc in the campground. We had made excursions along the riverbank and collected firewood for our weekend. As the sun was setting three of the boys in our group were out investigating the area around the campground. They had encountered a small herd of buffalo and came running back to camp. Not long after, just before dark, a Ranger drove through the campground shouting through a bullhorn “Buffalo in the campground, buffalo in the campground” warning campers to stay close to their camps. The herd of 30 animals would go to the river for water and return to their grazing areas behind the campground. We drank beer, played family table games, and scared the kids with spooky stories well into the night. Every time the kids strayed a little we hollered “buffalo in the campground” and they would scurry back. We spent half the night shaking each others tents and shouting “buffalo in the campground” as the kids screamed inside.

Myself and Dick Thompson returned to the park about three weeks later with my son Jamie and Dick’s son Allen. We brought our 17 foot Grumman canoe so the boys could float the Little Missouri river about 5 miles from the campground to the highway 85 bridge. The river ambled slowly through the low hills of the badlands. The boys launched the canoe and headed downstream. We broke camp and loaded everything in the van at a leisurely pace. We arrived at the bridge  5 miles below and there was no sign of the boys in the half mile of river upstream. We drank all of our coffee, snacked a little bit, and checked the river. After several hours we were wondering how long it should have taken the boys. Our first glimpse of them told the story. They came into site walking down the middle of the river, one on each side of the canoe, sliding the canoe through the shallow water. When water got up to their knees they could paddle until they hit the next shallow shoal. They spent more time walking than they did floating. They were covered with splatters of mud from walking the river. Both boys were glad to get off the river and into the van.

The boys didn’t enjoy their North Dakota float trip……..but they won’t ever forget it.

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