Kayaking on Lake Desoto | Desoto National Wildlife Refuge | Steamboat Bertrand Collection Museum | July 2022
Ever since we visited Desoto National Wildlife Refuge in October 2020, we knew we wanted to come back as soon as we bought a kayak. Ideally we wanted to visit when migration season was in full swing, but we since learned that they don’t allow boating during that time. Unfortunate, but that’s okay, we can respect the birds.
The Friday of Fourth of July weekend started out cool and overcast with light showers; a refreshing break from the hot and humid weather that has taken over the area for the summer. We decided it was the perfect day to kayak to both enjoy the cooler weather and beat the holiday weekend busyness. Driving US-30 to Desoto brought back memories from our first visit, back when this area of Iowa and Nebraska was still so new to us.
We started our paddle at the put-in site near the Steamboat Bertrand trailhead. The water was quiet, still, with no one else in sight. We took our time, leisurely paddling here and there, enjoying the stillness and watching for birds. We ended up going almost as far as the museum/visitor center before turning around. The whole ride was very relaxing for us, though Charlotte got a little impatient with our lack of paddling towards the end.
Afterwards, we decided to check out the Steamboat Bertrand collection in the visitor center, which was closed last time we visited. Since Charlotte wasn’t allowed, we took turns with going inside and watching her. I volunteered to watch Charlotte first, thinking she’d probably just want to sniff around the parking lot and boardwalk along the lake. I was wrong — she almost immediately picked up on some scent and proceeded to follow it with a very fast-paced walk all around the trails surrounding the visitor center. We ended up walking almost a mile, keeping a quick pace the entire way, even with the sun breaking through the clouds and the weather warming up. She never did find whatever it was she was smelling, but by the time we ended up back at the museum, we were both out of breath and exhausted.
We sat down at a bench near the entrance, and shortly after Curtis emerged and saw us there. “Let me guess, she sat here the whole time and waited for me?” He asked. I laughed and told him all about our adventure. Lucky Curtis got the easier shift of watching a very worn-out Charlie while I toured the museum.
The museum was very impressive and absolutely worth revisiting Desoto on its own. The Steamboat Bertrand collection was much bigger than we had imagined, with shelf after shelf filled with items that were recovered from the sunken boat. I only vaguely remembered the details that we had learned about it from two years ago, but seeing all this made me realize it was so much bigger than what I pictured, and the efforts that went into recovering all these items were even more impressive. Some of our friends from AZ had talked up this museum and told us that this is their favorite National Wildlife Refuge, and now after we’ve thoroughly explored the trails, lake, and museum, we can see why! Besides the Steamboat collection, the museum also has information about the birds and animals that live here, the history of this area, and an excellent indoor area for bird watching.