Work and Play on the Missouri River

Missouri RiverSt. Joseph is fortunate to be settled along the longest river in the nation: a river that brings with it opportunities for commerce, recreation, and beauty. In its 2,320.7-mile-journey, the Missouri River flows past while ballplayers catch pop flies at the Heritage Park Sports Complex, visitors dine al fresco at the St. Jo Frontier Casino, school children visit the Remington Nature Center, factory workers make wire rope cables, downtown merchants flip their signs from “closed” to “open”, and employees in the St. Joseph stockyard area continue the livestock business that started here in 1887.

Towns along rivers often have rich histories. In 1826, Joseph Robidoux settled his trading post along the Missouri River on the spot that would officially become St. Joseph less than 20 years later.  In 1860, Johnny Fry, the first rider for the nation’s Pony Express, set out across this river to begin the 1,900-mile journey to California. In 1804, Lewis and Clark passed by on the Missouri River and commented on St. Joseph’s rolling hills. As the West opened up to new explorers, courageous pioneers crossed the divide into Indian territory in hopes of reaching the west coast of America, settling their family in a land of opportunity, and finding a profitable and enjoyable way of living. Today, people settle in St. Joseph with some of those same hopes.

Just as the Missouri River provided the perfect commerce route for Joseph Robidoux, it still provides that commerce for merchants of St. Joseph on its journey from the Northwest to the Southeast. Today, barges on the river combine with the supply chain along the adjacent interstate and rail lines, and the airport just 30 miles south of the city, creating an ideal location to move products in and out of this central region.

While lawyers, bakers, yoga instructors, clergymen, police officers, factory workers, and residents all share their workspace near the bank of the Missouri River, some residents visit the river to get away from work. Some seek its beauty along the St. Joseph River Walk, a paved pathway that winds a mile through a shady cover of trees alongside the river. Pedestrians and bike riders can pause to marvel at the rapid flight of a kingbird as it skims over the water in pursuit of an insect, at the skinny legs of a great blue heron, or the soaring flight of America’s bald eagle. Boaters and fishermen enjoy even more bounties from the river.

St. Joseph takes pride in its history and the river is the beginning of that history.  The St. Joseph Metro Chamber’s Parties on the Parkway concert series always ends the summer with a bash along the river’s banks near the Remington Nature Center. It is fitting to celebrate there—a full circle—saying farewell to summer near the exact spot where Joseph Robidoux welcomed travelers and pioneers to his trading post. The Missouri River gave the city its beginning and continues to help it grow in both commerce and recreation.