Costa Mesa, California
October 20, 2023
Dear Family & Friends:
Some of you may remember my encounter with Jim Kurz on June 7, 2023. Jim was paddling upstream on the Missouri River to explore the Missouri Breaks area of the River. I was paddling downstream, headed for the James Kipp Recreation Area. I pulled over and had a nice conversation with Jim. When I told him I needed to drive into a city to resupply, he offered me the use of his car, which was parked at James Kipp. I used his car for that purpose on June 8-9.
Jim’s body was found in the Missouri River on June 11, a few miles south of James Kipp. A huge storm rolled in on the evening of June 7. We think Jim’s campsite near Bull Creek was hit by high waters and, while trying to secure or retrieve his canoe, he was washed into the River and drowned.
Jim was 78 years old and had two children, Nathan & Polly. He was highly educated, earning a Ph.D from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He was active in education and community affairs. He was also an adventurer, who particularly enjoyed canoeing. In fact, Jim wrote three books about canoeing. His most popular book was “Out my Backyard,” which documented his 2009 upstream canoe trip from Wisconsin to Three Forks, Montana. Most importantly, Jim was a kind and gentle person, as evidenced by his allowing me, a complete stranger, to use his car for much-needed resupply purposes.
Norm Miller, who established the preeminent website on the Missouri River (“The Missouri River Paddlers,” https://www.missouririverpaddlers.com/) and I would like to do something to memorialize Jim’s life and his spirit of adventure. We are thinking of a plaque that could be placed at his last campsite on the River, in Ladysmith, Wisconsin where he lived or at the Headwaters State Park, in Three Forks, Montana. We are also considering planting trees in his honor since he was an avid environmentalist. If you are interested in helping us raise money for this purpose we, and Jim’s family, will be grateful. For a $10 donation, we will mail you his book (postage included) “Out My Backyard.” Donations can be made by mailing a check to Norman Miller: 415 S. 14th Street, Livingston, Montana, 59047, or through Venmo @Norman-Miller-63. Please be sure to provide your mailing address.