GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The scale of time under which Churchill Clark operates would be daunting to many.
He has two and a half months of canoeing ahead of him, he’d already been on the water for about two weeks and it took him two and a half months to carve the canoe in which he’s floating.
But none of that fazes Clark, who is traveling from Twin Bridges to St. Louis, Mo., in a 250-pound handmade dugout canoe.
“I’m on river time now,” he said, while stopped in Great Falls last week.
Clark is a descendant of Capt. William Clark, a leader of the Corps of Discovery, and first learned about Clark, whom he said is his great-great-great-great-grandfather, when he was 5.
“My dad told me when I was 5 years old about my descendancy,” Clark said.
As a 5-year-old trying to wrap his head around what an explorer is, Clark asked his father if his famous relative went camping. Ever since his father replied that he did, Clark has wanted to retrace the camping trip of his great-great-great-great-grandfather.
Clark was able to fulfill that dream a decade ago during the Lewis and Clark bicentennial when he spent two and a half years as part of a group that re-enacted the Corps of Discovery’s journey.
On that trip he followed the explorers’ route up the Missouri, but then returned on the Yellowstone River.
Now he’s getting a chance to see the downstream version of the Missouri River.
“This is kind of a joy ride for me,” Clark said.
During the two-and-a-half-year re-enactment, Clark learned how to make a dugout canoe.
After a work accident left Clark blind, he decided to carve his own canoe, which he lovingly named “Knotty, the dugout canoe.”
In 2011, he floated through Nebraska on the Platte River in “Knotty” with the intention of continuing on the Missouri River to St. Louis. However, high waters that year forced him to cancel the Missouri portion of the trip.
While waiting for surgery to correct his blindness, Clark continued to work on the canoe, trimming it down from 600 pounds to about 250.
After his surgery, he decided to take another try from the Missouri River.
Clark arrived in Great Falls on July 14. He stopped at Oddfellows Park, waiting for a shuttle ride around the five dams.
The Medicine River Canoe Club has been offering shuttles for canoeists and kayakers for many years, said Jim Meade of the Canoe Club. A sign at Oddfellows Park lists a number for boaters to call. PPL, which owns the dams, helps fund the shuttle rides.
Meade guesses that Clark is the seventh or eighth person to call for a ride this summer.
“This is only the second canoe I’ve had this year,” Meade said.
Most people are in kayaks.
Meade drives the travelers to Fort Benton or Carter Ferry, where they can relaunch.
Clark estimates that he’ll arrive in St. Louis at the end of September. He’s taking his time on this trip. It’s somewhat of a reunion tour, giving him a chance to reconnect with people he met during the bicentennial.
“This journey is very special to me in so many ways,” he said.
Once he completes his trip, Clark plans to launch a business building dug-out canoes.
You can follow Churchill Clark’s journey on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/knottythedugoutcanoeonthemightymo
The original story can be found on the Great Falls Tribune’s website: http://gftrib.com/1ncp5UB
Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com