The rivers are different when the sun goes down.
As the heat of Missouri summers recede and the daylight fades, the moon and the first stars take over the show. If you’re lucky enough to be out there, paddle in hand, you’ll see the world transform.
“Generally, the water tends to be a lot calmer at night,” says St. Louis adventurer and experienced kayaker Mark Fingerhut. “There’s not a lot of wind. It’s like a glass surface … You’re immersed in the sky.”
Fingerhut is a veteran of afterhours escapades. He’s competed multiple times in the three-day boat race across the state, called the MR340, and he once kayaked the Missouri River from Yellowstone to the Gateway Arch — both feats that kept him on the water for many a starry night. Recently, we profiled his 24 Hours from Home Challenge, during which he and nineteen friends set out to see how far their feet could take them from their front doors. That undertaking saw him trekking solo for hours through the dark on a Mississippi River levee.
Whether it’s paddling, running or cycling, the addition of moonlight adds a new element.
“It’s not a customary thing to do to be out in the night in the wilderness, so it’s a fun adventure,” says Fingerhut, who has a day job with a software company.
He recommends linking up with guides or others who head out to play as the sun goes down. “Safety in numbers,” he says.
He’s recently been helping out at Paddle Stop New Haven, a newish outfitter that offers sunset (and morning and day) trips on the Missouri little more than an hour’s drive from St. Louis. For the Mississippi, he also recommends Big Muddy Adventures, which leads a popular “Full Moon Float” to a river island below the Chain of Rocks, where paddlers are treated to dinner cooked over a campfire.
If you’re more of a landlubber, St. Louis is filled with nocturnal adventurers. Fingerhut is part of the local chapter of the Hash House Harriers running/drinking club that hits the darkened streets on boozy jogs. And he’s a fan of the late-night bike rides that pop up in warmer weather: “You’re in a pack or maybe 40 [to] 50 riders, and you’re basically taking over the street.”
Those DIY moonlight rides tend to wax and wane, but somebody at your local bike shop will know the latest if you ask nicely. Or you could join the wheeled masses when the Moonlight Ramble returns in August for its 57th witching hour ride.
You can go as big or as small as you like when it comes to afterdark adventuring. And it doesn’t really have to be an adventure at all. A relaxing night on a small, still lake never disappoints.
“It’s pretty cool,” Fingerhut says. “You can get out and check out the stars.”
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