On the first pilgrimage Storm and I made out west we stopped over for one night in a campground on the Missouri river just outside of Yankton, South Dakota. Without ever discussing it or even remembering the exact name of the campground, we both filed that area away on our bucket list for a revisit. As we head east, we have our opportunity to travel through southeast South Dakota and stop for a week near Yankton. Things have gotten considerably more complicated since 15 years ago when we first camped here. Now sites must be reserved online, preferably 90 days in advance, or if lucky you might catch one of the sites held in reserve for first come first served (after the person on them leaves – they have 14 days to keep the site once they get it). As I explained in an earlier post, to get one of those you have be online ready to click on it when it changes to “available” at 7am or you will be out of luck for at least another day.
After some online failures or if you prefer “practice,” I reserve a site at the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area. On July 4th, our big old coach lumbers into the cottonwood seed flurry of this shady green park on the banks of Lewis and Clark Reservoir. We are just in time to relax in our folding chairs along the shoreline and take in fireworks from several cities around the lake along with the more informal glow of the lightning bug nighttime airshow surrounding us.
Biking, hiking, swimming, boating or just plain relaxing are some of the things that this park offers. We also visit the Gavin’s Point Aquarium and Fish Hatchery where we see a snapping turtle who has a sign on his tank proclaiming “this turtle is NOT dead.” It seems that the turtle has learned exactly where to be to catch the food when feeding time arrives so he stays right there with his mouth open. The aquarist have even added his favorite live fish treats to the tank to lure him to swim around to gobble them up, but he has decided that it is so much easier to just wait for the free food so he remains immobile waiting for an effortless meal.
One of our favorite stops was the hydroelectric plant at the dam. Photography is not allowed on the powerplant tour (gotta protect the secret 1950s technology). This tiled, spotless facility is like a step back in time as it still looks much as it did when it was completed in 1957. As a special treat at the tour end, the plant supervisor made himself available for questions. He shared with us the fact that the plant components manufactured in the 1950’s were so well engineered that they most of the original generator parts are still in use. After Storm grilled him about vibrations in the shafts and lubrication of the bearings, the supervisor wrote a list for us of great sight-seeing tips for the surrounding area. I dragged Storm out of there, but not before we learned that there is a severe shortage of hydroelectric powerplant operators, an extremely well-paying job for which the Corps of Engineers is willing to train new applicants. If you are looking for a career change, check out the nearest dam cause this sounds like a sweet gig. Click here for the Gavin’s Point Powerplant 2016 tour schedule as you really should try to stop here if in the area.