On the banks of the Missouri River in Osage County, Missouri is the tiny town of Chamois. With a population roughly of 396 people, it is a small American town with a huge heart, especially towards paddlers heading down the Mighty Mo. I first heard of Chamois in 2017 when I was in the MR340 race, we had thought about making a pit stop there while we tried to beat a thunderstorm but we kept paddling. Fast forward to 2018, Shane Perrin would create the 1st annual ”Mo River Ramble”. This was a simple float trip “not a race” in an effort to raise money for the City of Chamois who’s riverfront park was severely damaged in a flash flood. When registration opened for the Ramble I am not sure that Shane expected the turnout that he thought he would get. I want to say around 150 people registered for the event and majority of the paddlers showed up. We would start in Jefferson City and paddle roughly 30 miles down the “Mo” and take out at the ramp in Chamois City Park. Pretty straightforward huh? well, when the city of Chamois heard about what a group of Mo River paddlers wanted to do to help the town out, the town it’s self would spring into action. Not only would the city allow us to camp along the bank of the river, the fire department decided to chip in and provide lunch on a sandbar island halfway down the river, they also provided an amazing catfish dinner at the park. Shane was also able to get Missouri Local businesses to chip in and donate some really cool items for the raffle.
Growing up in a river town in Iowa I knew that some of the townspeople would come out and introduce themselves and hang out with us. What I did not expect was damn near the entire town would come out and hang out with us. Everyone introduced themselves, told stories, shared home cooking, and of course, laughed and enjoyed this group of hooligan paddlers. The Haystack, a local bar and grill opened it’s doors to us for cocktails and good times. The Mayor, Elise Brochu welcomed us with open arms and could not have been more kind. She would walk around chatting with paddlers and sharing laughs and drinks with us. This indeed was a town swarming with river angels.
Chamois Missouri “IS” small town America. With one gas station and general store, some churches, a welcoming bar, and a beautiful riverfront it’s the kind of town where you see the locals sitting on the curb watching kids ride bikes, helping each other when needed and just living the river life. Chamois sit’s almost directly in between the state capital of Jefferson City and Herman Missouri “German Wine town”. Chamois was platted “established” in 1856 and Lewis and Clark named the town after the local deer that resembled a Chamois ” a goat-like animal in France”. Chamois is pretty easy to get to taking Missouri Route 89 out of Jeff City which meets Missouri 100 just outside of Chamois. This route takes you through the Missouri bottoms and Herman wine country. Downtown Chamois is small but it still has a big heartbeat with the center of attention being the one local gas station and the Haystack right across the street.
Locals, Lunatics, and Pirates
Though Chamois is not the bustling towns of Herman, Washington, and Jeff City, it is still an oasis for Missouri river paddlers. The locals load their boats in for a day of catfishing, and on the weekends, island hopping. Then During one week in July, Chamois becomes a welcomed sight for the “Lunatics”, and not so right paddlers of the MR340. I say this because it takes a special breed of person to subject yourself to a race like this. Though Chamois is not an official 340 Checkpoint, it is a coveted stop for racers and ground crew because it is one of the few towns along the river where trains are not passing within feet of you. It also welcomes you with clean hot showers and a large pavilion to grab some shade. Usually, there will be some locals there to help paddlers get out of their boats and help them carry them up the ramp. Then there is the Pirates, yes it is a town of Pirates. The school mascot is a pirate and as of fall of 2018 is not the home of the “O-MO” Pirate Ramble. Another float trip that starts on the Osage river and takes you into the Missouri river back to the city park. This was the first year for the paddle and even though the weather was not on our side around 30 brave souls stuck it out and paddled the river.
Should you visit?
HELL YES ?, everyone should take the road less traveled and drive through Chamois. If you enjoy a beautiful drive through Missouri Hills and River Bottoms you should hop on Missouri 89 and Fuel up at the General Store and head across the street for a burger and a beer. When your down take a short half mile walk through town and visit the city park. The views from the park are stunning as you see the Missouri River cut through the heart of Missouri as it makes it’s way to the Mississippi River. When you’re at the Haystack, say hi to Scott ” the owner” and his wonderful staff, shoot a game of pool with a local and enjoy a drama free hometown bar.
Don’t miss out on a visit to this quaint little river town, it’s refreshing to look around and see a part of America that is still humble and down to earth. If you can, plug in your camper or pitch your tent at the city park and you might just meet a fun local who will have a drink with you.
Photo’s Courtesy of:
City of Chamois
Elise Brochu ” The Merrrrr”