An incredible journey St. Louis native

An incredible journey

A St. Louis native travels the length of the Missouri River from its headwaters to the Arch via kayak to raise money for Missouri River Relief  

By Brett Auten

Your summer vacation photos look nothing like Mark Fingerhut’s.

Fingerhut, a St. Louis native, and resident, just polished off a mind-bending trip, traveling the Missouri River via kayak. Fingerhut began his journey on May 14 on the Madison River near West Yellowstone in Montana. On Aug. 17, after a stop in St. Charles the day before, he completed his journey some 2,400 miles later at the St. Louis Arch where a gathering of friends was there to greet him.

Fingerhut, 39, raised $4,000 for the Missouri River Relief, which is an organization that hosts many events around connecting people with the river and to recognize it as an important resource.

Fingerhut said he was motivated by the opportunity to explore the entire river and bring attention to the cause of exposing people to the wonderful resource the river provides.

“It has been a dream for a long time,” Fingerhut said. “I didn’t know when it would happen until about a year ago. I wanted to do what I could do to help them and others who protect our waterways.”

His journey included kayaking through the Missouri River Breaks National Monument, and on to two more large lakes in North Dakota and South Dakota. After the Dakotas, he traveled on to Nebraska, Kansas, and back to Missouri, where he ended his trip in St. Louis.

Fingerhut consoled David Miller’s book, “The Complete Paddler: A Guidebook for Paddling the Missouri River from the Headwaters to St. Louis, Missouri,” daily and also met several, “River Angels.”

“At various spots, these were people willing to help out,” he said. “I got to stay in a few houses and get a shower. It was great to get a cold beer and a warm, or cool, place to sleep. It refreshed my body and spirit to encounter so many positive people.”

But no book or River Angel could shelter him completely from Mother Nature.

“One night, in North Dakota, I was camped underneath a tree when the most violent storm I have been in came through,” he said. “For about an hour-and-a-half, it was constant lightning and thunder.”

Fingerhut works as a software consultant at O’Fallon’s Ungerboeck Software, a company he has been at for 13 years and graciously gave him some extended time off so he could pull off the adventure.

Before finishing the trip, Fingerhut stopped off at the Festival of The Little Hills. There, he met friends at Main Street’s Cassandra Erin Studio and spent, “a cool, couple of hours,” walking around and taking in the sites.

Fingerhut’s 20-foot-long cedar kayak that carried him was created by Shane Camden, a friend of Fingerhut. Camden owns the Timber Longboard Company in St. Louis and recently opened a business in New Haven called Paddle Stop New Haven. Camden specializes in stand-up paddleboards and Fingerhut’s was his first kayak. It more than passed the test with flying colors.

To read and see more about Fingerhut’s journey, you can follow his blog paddlestlouis.com.

“I wanted to share my experience and not only inspire people to get out on the river but also value it as a resource,” he said. 

CUTLINE: Submitted photos 

Cover-River1 Mark Fingerhut’s view as he completed his journey on Aug. 17 from the headwaters of the Missouri River to St. Louis. 

Cover-River2 Mark Fingerhut stands with some fellow kayakers during his journey down the Missouri River.