Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Nebraska Tailwaters at Gavins Point Dam and Yankton, SD

May 30 - June, 4, 2017:

We expected a 40 mile trip on route 12 from Ponca State Park to the Nebraska Tailwaters Campground, but unbeknownst to us a bridge on route 12 was closed resulting in a 25 mile detour.  It wasn’t a big deal and it was a nice scenic drive through farm country, but a really big detour.  This is a predominately corn country with blocks of hay fields and livestock pastures which results in a hilly, rolling patchwork terrain that is very scenic.

This all was once Dakota Territory long ago, I like the seal

 The Nebraska Tailwaters Campground is a Corp of Engineers site adjacent to the Gavins Point Dam on the Missouri River.  The campground is stretched out along the river after the Dam.  I had never heard the term “tailwaters” before, but that’s what the river exiting the Dam is known as.  The Corp of Engineers have a very nice visitors center nearby and they give tours of the Dam.  We learned that there are six Dams on the Missouri River from this point north for flood control, irrigation, power, water quality and recreation.  The Lewis and Clark Lake formed by the Gavins Point Dam is huge at 30,000 acres, but is in fact one of the smaller of the six lakes. 

View showing Lewis and Clark Lake behind the Dam

This is the tailwaters next to the our campground

The 60 mile section of the Missouri River from Yankton south to Sioux City is the last truly natural, wild stretch of the river, (No dams) although with the five dams upstream I don’t se it being that wild, regardless it has been designated as the ”Missouri National Recreation River".  The river and the lake make this a very popular fishing and boating area and there must be thousands of campsites in the area.

A Lewis & Clark expedition journal entry mentions a meeting they had at the present site of the dam visitors center with the Yankton tribe of the Sioux in 1804.  The Yankton tribe had a settlement at the present site of Yankton.  The town of Yankton was founded in 1858 shortly after the Dakota area was opened for settlement and became the Territorial Capital of Dakota Territory.  Yankton was a popular riverboat port due to its flat level riverfront.  Yankton’s most famous person is former NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw who graduated from high school in Yankton.

A painting of the "Far West" one of the most famous
riverboats to dock at Yankton

The Great Northern Railroad Depot built in 1893 was moved
here from its original location.  The last passenger train was in 1953.

A reconstructed Territorial Capital building in a riverfront park

The first Mayor of Yankton looking rather dashing

One of the nicest buildings in Yankton

This was a beauty too

They have a few great sculptures around town

The old telephone building is still looking good

The Dakota Theater is very nice

The Meridian Bridge, built in 1924, crosses the Missouri River connecting Nebraska and South Dakota at Yankton.  It is a double deck bridge design with a lift section for river traffic and quite remarkable in its day.  It was replaced by the Discovery Bridge in 2008 and converted into a walking path.
We went on a couple of other hikes through forest areas to overlooks on the Lewis and Clark Lake.  We had to scramble through a huge tree felled across the trail by a Beaver, amazing that a beaver would chew through a tree this big and I wonder how they will get it to the water, they are amazing animals.

View from the lower deck of the Meridian Bridge

View from upped deck of the Meridian Bridge, we did
the whole circuit across

The Discovery Bridge is not as interesting

The hike took us down almost to the river

Then to the edge of the golf course

The beavers left this obstacle in our path

The prize was this vast lake view

We originally planned to stay here only two days, then decided to stay through the weekend.  As a result we had to move two campsites to a site that we were able to reserve, our shortest move ever.  This is a dedicated fishing crowd here, they are out in the early morning hours on the river.  This is first time I have seen this new and very popular fishing method where you stand upright on the boat on a raised platform and fish with a bow and arrow, seems unfair to me ?    They are catching huge fish near the dam approximately 3 feet long.

This looks sort of dangerous to me and the guy sitting on the dock

This is the proper way to fish ?

Twinkles is able to renew her South Dakota drivers license at the agency in Yankton and is very happy with her new ID photo.  Everyone is going to have to see it.

We take a ride from Yankton on route 50 east to the Mulberry Bend Overlook and do a 3/4 mile hiking trail there.  It was very hot, 90 degrees and humid, glad we did it in the morning.  It is mainly in the forest with a couple of overlooks of the Missouri River.  Afterwards, we head to “Spirit Mound” about 6 miles outside of Vermillion, South Dakota.  This is a hill that was a sacred place to the native American Tribes.  Lewis and Clark were told by the Indians that “little devils or people with large heads lived who would kill anyone who came near”.  Of course they had to investigate and walked about 9 miles on a hot August day to explore.  They found no little devils but an incredible view from the top of the hill of wide open prairie with Buffalo and Elk herds as far as they could see.  This is spot where you can accurately say that you are standing in the very footsteps of Lewis and Clark.  They have planted native grasses with the goal of restoring this area to look as much as possible like the prairie that Lewis and Clark saw.

The view from top of the viewpoint

View from a trail viewpoint over the highway bridge

Sign along the trail to Spirit Mound

They are attempting to restore the prairie grass

This is where Lewis and Clark would have stood

Afterwards we go into the town of Vermilion, (see my last blog post), and had lunch at the Cafe Brule.  Almost every table was occupied and after seeing the menu and the food, it was obvious why, it was great. 
In comparison, the dining options in Yankton are very sparse, I truly don’t understand why, the river brings in many tourists to this area.  We were looking for a nice outside deck to have a drink in late afternoon and saw a place advertised as having a Tiki Hut with live music on the weekends.  When we arrived it was behind a trashy looking convenience store, nowhere near water with the ambiance of a dirty parking lot and boat repair shop behind it. The old downtown area in Yankton has several nice old buildings, but virtually no restaurants.  Conversely, there are many bars downtown, it is is a hard drinking town, they don’t waste time eating.  

I sampled of few of the the Yankton Bars. The Walnut Tavern, also known as the “Dead Animal Bar, has great outside murals and is clean and nice inside, but very very hunting and fishing oriented.  They call it the Dead Animal Bar because the interior is lined with all kinds of hunting and fishing trophies.  That doesn’t annoy me so much, but having to watch that A-Hole, Ted Nugent, on his TV cooking show and then killing a deer and posing with it is way too much to bear.
O’Mally’s Irish Pub is a nice establishment and from 4 - 6 PM you can get 2 beers for the price of one.
Ben’s has a great selection of draft beer and micro brews and is also a nice establishment.
The “Coming around Third Bar and Casino” (catchy name) usually has rough looking people outside on the bench out front, which really entices you inside, I continued walking.  
However the most notorious bar of all in Yankton is the Ice House where you stand or sit outside on the loading dock, and when finished smash your bottle against the dock wall, it's encouraged !  They only have domestic beers 6 for $10 packed in a bucket of ice, or $2 each.  It’s kind of dumb, but it’s on everyones “dive bar” list, Esquire Magazine voted it one of the best bars in America (No Way) and everyone comes here to do it or say they did it, including myself.

The front of the Walnut Tavern

Beautiful murals on the side of the Walnut Tavern

The great sign at O'Malley's Bar

Rounding 3rd sign is also interesting

The Pure Ice Company, see the broken glass under the dock

There was a music event on Friday night and all day Saturday in Yankton called the “Rockin' Ribfest" held at the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) Archery Center and Museum.  This center claims to be largest in the world and it may be true, it is huge.  As it is about 95 degrees and bright sun at the festival site, we waited until late afternoon to go which seemed to be what everyone else did.  They have this system where you buy tokens at one beer tent, then use them to buy beer at an adjacent tent and then you can walk around and drink anywhere provided your beer can is in a kozzie.  There was lots of food available, but surprisingly for a rib fest, not really much in the way of ribs ?  The final two bands that were to play are basically 80’s nostalgia bands which is not a favorite of mine, but better than expected.  The first band, has possibly the absolute worse band name I’ve ever heard, “Them Pesky Kids”.  Otherwise, I actually liked them, they were very good with the right hair and proper “guitar God” moves without being overly ridiculous.  The headliner Band after wards, “HAIRBALL”  was way more flashy with lights, flames and costume changes to match the particular songs vocalist. They obviously have been doing this show for a long time and have it down to a science.  As we are not really very familiar with the 80 music, we knew most of the songs, but had no idea what band did them.

Them Pesky Kids Band just rocked without the goofy costume acts

Hairball doing their "Gene Simmons - Kiss" performance

Hairball doing their "Axl Rose - Guns N' Roses Band" performance

And the crowd roared !

Continuing upstream, next stop is Niobrara, Nebraska;
Twinkles and Slick 


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