How the Keelboat Center Got Built

By | October 17, 2013

Keelboat at Blue Lake
I have been going up to Lewis and Clark State Park near Onawa, Iowa for years now to show visitors the keelboat moored in Blue Lake and to attend the annual fur trade re-enactors event held on the second weekend in June. The Iowa state park is located about 80 miles north of where I live in Omaha, Nebraska, on the other side of the Missouri River. One of the first videos I will be posting on YouTube features the new keelboat center at the park.
Butch Bouvier built the first keelboat with volunteers from the Onawa and Sioux City, Iowa areas. It is a full size, 55 foot replica of the original boat that went from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Fort Mandan in North Dakota in 1803-1805 and is now on display in the keelboat center. Butch has built seven keelboats on display at interpretive centers across America. He also built the keelboat featured in the Ken Burn’s Lewis and Clark documentary film.
Back in 1991 at our first Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation chapter meeting in Omaha we passed the hat to give money to build the keelboat center. So when a group of us attended the dedication of the keelboat center in August of 2013, we had a special reason to feel proud. The head of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources spoke at the dedication, and he said something that is so true. The keelboat center got built because of “Patience, persistence, and the refusal of a few key people to give up.” This video is a “shout out” to Butch and his wife Cathy, who supports him in his work in building historic boats; to Bev Hinds and her husband, the late Strode Hinds, who have done so much for the keelboat center and the Sergeant Floyd National Historic Monument in Sioux City, and to the people on the keelboat excursion ride who are dedicated to marketing the Lewis and Clark Trail across America.

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