American Creek Campsite

Francis Case Lake

South Dakota

August 18, 2023

Dear Family & Friends:

Reminder: Almost daily, I post short reports, with photos and videos, on my eightsummits Facebook page.

In my last post, I reported on my progress to the end of Lake Oahe. I was spending time with  Paul & Sally, River Angels who manage the Park on Lake Sharpe below the Oahe Dam. In order to handle personal and business issues at home, I declared an intermission and returned home for 10-days. The time at home was wonderful. I returned to the Park on August 11. That’s when I met Steve Ohrt, who is also paddling down the Missouri River from Three Forks to St. Louis, which is his home. Steve was spending time with Paul & Sally at the Park. With help from Paul, Sally & Jack, who also works at the Park, we launched our canoes on August 12.

August 12. Lake Sharpe did not welcome me back. Steve and I paddled 20 miles and found a good campsite at a boat ramp. Thunderstorms rolled in at 9pm and spoiled our dinner. The rain poured down all night and was accompanied by lightning and thunder. In the morning, our campsite was a muddy mess and water pooled inside my tent.

August 13. We planned to start the day early at 6am Another thunderstorm spoiled those plans. We ended up leaving at 10:30am. The Lake was like a roiled ocean with whitecaps and 3-4 foot swells. The winds exceeded 20 mph. We did not consider it safe to continue so we pulled off the Lake at 2:30pm and set up camp. We gained only 10 miles that day, which was discouraging. That night brought more rain. In the late evening, a large group of cattle wandered into our campsite planning to drink from the Lake. Fortunately, they bolted back up the ravine when they saw Steve.

August 14. I guess Lady Sharpe was listening to my complaints about her treatment of us. We had clear blue skies and tailwinds and gained over 30 miles. We also found a great campsite. We hoped to be off the Lake in two days.

August 15. This was a good morning of paddling. The water was glassy calm. We paddled up to the horseshoe bend (aka “Big Bend”) where the Lake makes a sharp u-turn. Once we made it around the bend, we encountered stiff headwinds which slowed our progress significantly. After paddling 21 miles, we called it a day, just 9 miles from Big Bend Dam, which is the end of Lake Sharpe. We stealth camped in the trees on the Lakota Sioux Indian Reservation.

August 16. After being visited by three curious horses, we were on the Lake at 8am and arrived at Big Bend Dam at 11am. We were happy to cover 9 miles in 3 hours given the headwinds and lack of current. We didn’t know how we would portage around the Dam to Francis Case Lake. We asked a maintenance worker at the Dam if portage services are available. He called Rudy, a Ranger for the Army Corp of Engineers, and Rudy was on the scene within five minutes with a trailer large enough to hold both of our canoes and all of our gear. Rudy took us to a wonderful Park on Francis Case Lake on the other side of the Dam. The Park host arranged a ride to a nearby city where we resupplied and had lunch. I had a huge burrito, which was one of my best meals of the trip. Steve had a concoction mash potatoes, corn, chicken & white gravy. We washed our lunch down with cold beer. For dinner, we had Doritos and sharp cheddar cheese. All-all, a great day. Tomorrow, we will be back on Francis Case Lake and hope to stop and camp in Chamberlain, which is about 20 miles down the Lake. The Lake is 107 miles long.

August 17. Another great day. We paddled 20 miles and arrived at the American Creek Campsite in Chamberlain, South Dakota. This is a really nice and clean Campsite. Only one big problem: one of the poles to my tent broke, leaving me with a non-functional tent. Definitely not good. That’s when Linda Ottoson came to the rescue. She had been following our trip. She and her husband, Larry, are regular patrons at American Creek Campsite. Linda helped us arrange two nights of tent camping and, without our knowledge, even paid for the second night. Then, she gave us the keys to her truck so we could drive into town for resupply and to allow me to purchase another tent. After shopping for resupplies, we had dinner at the Smoking Mule restaurant. I had a burger. Steve had chicken.

August 18. We took a rest day so I could test my new tent and prepare this report. Good thing, since high winds, waves & whitecaps would have made it a very difficult day to paddle on Francis Case Lake. Using Linda & Larry’s truck, we motored in to Chamberlain and had a great breakfast at the Main Street Cafe. My Mexican Skillet was wonderful. Steve and I enjoyed a pizza dinner at the Smoking Mule restaurant.

Linda: you are now officially christened a River Angel. Larry; thank you for your service to the country, with two tours of duty in Vietnam. You are my hero.

Bill, Sally, Steve, Paul & Jack

Starting on Lake Sharpe

August 12 Campsite

August 13 Campsite

Bill Studying Lake Sharpe


Eerie tree graveyard

Glassy water below Big Bend

Stealth camping on the Lakota Sioux Reservation

Our horse visitors

Big Bend Dam

Rudy to the rescue

Our fantastic campsite below Big Bend Dam


Big Bend Dam

Our campsite at American Creek Campsite with my broken tent

My new tent

My canoe

Mexican Skillet at the Main Street Cafe

Pizza dinner at the Smoking Mule

Steve, Linda & Bill

Linda & Larry