Author Topic: Boy Scouts on Katy Trail  (Read 27576 times)

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Offline John Nettles

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Boy Scouts on Katy Trail
« on: October 06, 2006, 05:12:27 pm »
Wow, I get to do the honors of being the first to ask a question on this forum.

My son is in Boy Scouts and his troop is considering a multi-day trip along the Katy Trail in Missouri next summer.  What do I need to consider (other than my sanity) if we do take 10-25 twelve to fifteen year old males on a trip like this.  Most are not that experienced so some of the obvious (lower miles, get bikes in shape, etc.) will be factored in.

What about stuff "you wish you knew before you had done this" type stuff?

Thanks in advance!

Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!


Offline TheDaltonBoys

Boy Scouts on Katy Trail
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2006, 10:42:09 am »
...and as luck would have it TulsaJohn my brothers and I actually rode the KATY. BTW...haven't forgotten about you...TXDOT Highway Dept. is across the street from where I work, so still working on your other route. Facilities for getting food/water can be slim along the KATY do a Search for "KATY Trail" and click on the menu item that has the words "...mileage and more" and therein you will find a wealth of information. Camping areas are not exactly proliferate, the KATY Roundhouse near Boonville is exceptional for you and your Boy Scouts. Sedalia at the MO. State Fairgrounds, but after Boonville camping takes a little more to arrange, but can be done. Avoid Cooper's landing, (more adult oriented with alcohol and late night carousing and no the Dalton Boys didn't camp there), instead try the "Trading Post" just down the trail no more than maybe 3-5 miles...Robert & Maggie are the proprietors and they might be able to accomodate you. The MO. Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) KATY web site will be helpful as well. At the Sedalia KATY Station there is a MO. Park Ranger who's job is to patrol some of the KATY and he does it primarilly on a bicycle, (I want his job). He is a wealth of information and can facilitate maybe you all staying at a small town's city park. It is a pug, or crushed limestone surfaced Rail/Trail and as you well know part of the L&C Trail. Doesn't require mountain bikes as the surface is pretty manageable the whole way. If other questions pop up let me know...and enjoy the KATY, its a hoot!! Enjoy the Voyage....Mark of the Dalton Boys

Offline bdouglas

Boy Scouts on Katy Trail
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2006, 10:58:23 am »
Tulsa John,

So glad to hear that you are headed out on an adventure with the kids. I'm not sure if you have seen Adventure Cycling's newest publication, but Pedal Pioneers: A Guide to Bicycle Travel, aims to not only to lead folks through the process of planning a youth bicycle trip, but also shares over 20 different youth bicycle tour leader's experiences. It is a very valuable resource. Check it out at

Happy bicycling,

Becky Douglas
Outreach and Education Coordinator
Adventure Cycling Association

Offline judyrans

Boy Scouts on Katy Trail
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2006, 04:10:22 am »
My son is in Boy Scouts and his troop is considering a multi-day trip along the Katy Trail in Missouri next summer.  What do I need to consider (other than my sanity) if we do take 10-25 twelve to fifteen year old males on a trip like this.  Most are not that experienced so some of the obvious (lower miles, get bikes in shape, etc.) will be factored in.

For information about whats along the trail, see . It has information about distances between towns, and services available.

Ive ridden parts of the trail 5 times, three times with the Santa Fe Trail Trip (sagged, East-bound)), and twice on Lewis & Clark Trail trips (sagged, westbound then east bound). The three SFT trips were short, from Booneville to New Franklin or Booneville to Rocheport. The L&C trips were from St. Charles to Booneville in 2002 and return in 2006.

The surface is generally chipped limestone. The bikes will get filthy!!! I would not recommend skinny-tired bikes. My 700X35 touring tires worked very well, although there were a few places where the surface was loose and the rocks more rounded. Riding on a paved road takes less energy than on the trail. However, the nearby roads are generally very hilly and do not always closely follow the trail.

The 2002 trip took place in mid-June, a VERY HOT mid-June. It featured kamikaze turtles that would meander across the trail then suddenly stop and pull in their heads and feet. There were a number of dead turtles, I dont know if it was a result of their kamikaze movements or people deliberately running over them. There was a fair amount of shade, but if you stopped to rest in the shade you were immediately attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes.

The 2006 trip took place during a period of drought. As a result we saw few turtles (they preferred to hang out closer to the river, I guess), and the mosquitoes were fewer in number. However, only a few days before there had been a huge thunderstorm. The storm knocked out power to 500,000 homes in St. Louis, and knocked over a couple of tents belonging to people in our group even though we were 400 miles away. The storm knocked lots of small branches off trees, quite a few large branches, and even a couple of full trees onto the trail. There was also serious erosion in places. I also ran over a medium sized black snake (non-poisonous) thinking it was a branch. I avoided several other snakes stretched out across the trail. Hopefully, the mess has now been cleaned up.

We stayed in the Hartsburg, MO American Legion Park, where the flushables couldnt deal with paper. We went to a nearby church where 11 of us took turns using a single shower. (OK, it was an inexpensive tour.) The mayor joined us for dinner and pointed out where the water level had been in the park a few years before when the Missouri flooded. The top of the backboard was visible, but not the basketball hoop. She also told us about how they dealt with the flooding.

While we were in the park we watched a black snake climb easily up a tree. It made you wonder what was above you in the tree-covered sections of the trail!

We also stayed in the Hermann, MO city park, which had a nice picnic shelter. On the way out in 2002, we stayed at a city park in St. Charles by special arrangement. A police officer came by at 11 pm or so and locked the bathroom doors. We left the next morning before they were unlocked. At least they didnt turn on the sprinklers.

There's a tunnel at Rocheport. Take off your sunglasses. On one of the SFT trips someone became disoriented in the darkness and ran into a wall.

Personally, I wouldn't go out of my way to take a trail. It was a very tedious 2.5 days/150 miles. Flat gets to be very boring. With all the branches, snakes, loose limestone, and culverts you could never really relax, either. We were there on weekdays, generally early in the day, so we avoided the weekend crowds who often ride eradically.

Offline judyrans

Boy Scouts on Katy Trail
« Reply #4 on: October 12, 2006, 04:21:39 am »
The Complete Katy Trail Guidebook,
All New, Updated & Revised 8th Edition

This Guidebook may have useful information. I've never seen or used it.

Offline WaltGaber

Boy Scouts on Katy Trail
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2006, 12:55:42 am »
When we lived in Tulsa, I led two different scout cycling trips on the Katy Trail for Troop 8.  My son and I (almost 12 at the time) rode the trail a couple of months prior to the first outing -- so we knew what to expect for trail conditions, trailheads, facilities, etc.  I also found the MO DNR website to be a good resource.

For both troop treks, I had several adults that indicated they'd prefer to provide support and/or only ride partial days. So, we drove to the start in Clinton and shuttled our vehicles along with us to carry gear and provide SAG support.

The first year,, we had a couple of pick-up trucks and a 15-passenger church van. We used the van for SAG and the trucks for gear - the van met us at each trail-head, the trucks went on to the next night's campground, shopped for food, etc.. For that trip, the minimum requirements were 1st class, 14 years and 6 weeks of training rides (1-2 rides per week increasing mileage from 5 to 30 miles) and everyone rode 55-60 miles per day.

The second trip
, was opened up to some younger scouts (success of the first trip led to pressure from families to include younger siblings). I broke the group into two segments -- older scouts rode the full mileage (50-60 miles per day) and the younger scouts rode half that and were shuttled the other half. This time, I had more parents that wanted to ride, so I tried a different approach -- we just had one vehicle travel with us during the day. The younger group started later each morning and were shuttled to their starting point -- so the SAG was able to adequatly cover both groups. Upon arriving in camp, I left two adults with the scouts to set up camp and prepare dinner while the other adults took the SAG vehicle back to shuttle the remaining vehicles forward.

We camped on both trips.  I did quite a bit of research and calling ahead of time to arrange the camping locations.  We got free camping for all but two nights -- typically in community parks and fairgrounds of the many small towns along the way.  We used one commercial campground (Katfish Katy's) and the youth hostel in Tebbetts.  Since we had support vehicles following us, one night was spent on the Daniel Boone farm -- our service project was harvesting part of a field of popcorn on the farm.

Now for the advice section:
1) I think the training rides are critical -- not just for physical preparation, but also to cover bike maintenance, working as a patrol/crew, trail etiquette, etc..  A big part of the preparation is building confidence in the youth that they can ride 50-60 miles a day and have fun doing it.
2) Research and plan your overnight locations carefully.  You cannot spend the night on the trail, so you'll need pre-arranged sites for camping. This article may be a bit dated, but was useful for my planning:
3) Do a bit of research about some of the history, geography and nature aspects you'll encounter along the way -- there is much to include: Lewis & Clark, Daniel Boone, MKT railroad, Missouri River (floods, navigation, animals/birds/fish), St. Charles.  I created a list of topics and asked each scout to prepare some background info on one of the topics for sharing with the group.
4) Have a plan for handling medical emergencies and note that there are some sections where cell phone coverage is spotty.
5) I'd suggest traveling in groups of about 5-6 youth and 1-2 adults -- and group the riders by their natural pace.  You'll have some push-back from scouts that want to spend the whole time with their friends -- but there will be plenty of time to do that in the evenings.  If a group contains too great a range of riding abilities and strengths/weaknesses, everyone will become frustrated.  Insist that no one travel alone.  Concerning 2-deep leadership -- although some groups only had a single adult while traveling, the groups were not that far apart and we typically met up at trailheads with the SAG vehicle for snacks and liquids.  And the groups were expected to keep moving from one trailhead to the next except for photo/nature stops.

I can probably put you in touch with a couple of the Tulsa scout leaders that participated in these trips.  Also, let me know if you have specific questions.

BTW, since we've moved to Pennsylvania, my son and I have done a couple of other similar trips.
Summer 2005 we joined a Massachusetts Venturing Crew ( on a supported trip from Montreal to Boston.
Summer 2006 the two of us cycled/camped unsupported from Washington D.C. to our home in PA:

Offline John Nettles

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Boy Scouts on Katy Trail
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2006, 10:44:25 am »
Thanks for the detailed informtation.  I have ridden the trail recently twice so I know what to expect as far as that goes.  Your advice about grouping the scouts by pace and what to do with the partially riding adults was the type of insight I was looking for.  We are in the midst of our 2007 summer programming and this will help a lot (if I can get them past the mental hurdle of "yes you can ride 50 miles per day").  Thanks!

Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!


Offline AJB

Boy Scouts on Katy Trail
« Reply #7 on: January 05, 2007, 12:02:25 am »
Hi, what a nice topic.  I have been a leader with the scouts here in New Brunswick Canada and have completed a similar project in 2005.  A 5 day ride to participate in a Jamboree.  As Walt mentioned, training is critical and I would say more for the mental than the physical.  The best part of the trip was what happened when you removed all the nintendo, mp3, gameboys and such away from a bunch of young boys for a few days.  It took a day or two but all of a sudden, they would focus on the tasks at hand and could follow and give constructive input into conversations.  You will be sad to see your trip finish so soon.  Once the kids value their responsabilities in the mission, you will be in for a great trip.  We got strong winds and heavy rain and the kids just loved it.  It is in projects like these that you will see the true spirit of scouting as BP intended it to be.  Good Luck

This message was edited by AJB on 1-4-07 @ 8:04 PM

Offline trainingpants

Boy Scouts on Katy Trail
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2007, 08:40:30 pm »
Tulsajohn, the Katy is a great for a group of youth.  I'd make sure they
ride in small groups with an adult.  Remind them to be aware of road
crossings.  There are so few of them the kids tend to blow on through
without looking.  I had a close call at this.  Also, the surface can be
slick so bring lots of bandages : )

Good for you for taking these young men on an adventure they won't
soon forget!

Offline JoeTor

Boy Scouts on Katy Trail
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2007, 10:32:32 pm »
The Katy Trail is perfect for your Boy Scout Troop.

I coordinate a middle school bicycle club at Compton Drew Middle School in the city of St.Louis.
For the past 5 years, we have a 3day/2night bicycle trip on the Katy Trail from St Charles (eastern) to Jefferson City (middle). The distance is 110 miles and we bike 65 to Herman, then 45 to Jefferson City.
Our first year, we had the fewest participants (17) and one year we had 42. We average 32 on the trip.
In Herman, we stayed at an abandon school the city owned, and in Jeff we stayed in a hotel.

Your troop should not have a problem with this trip, if they are in physical condition. Check out Brett Dufer's Katy Trail Guidebook for all the info you may need. Also, I would be glad to help.

I have biked the Sedalia to St Charles (west-east) portion, about 190 miles staying at B&B's.

Joe Torrisi
Missouri Bicycle Federation

Offline litespeed

Boy Scouts on Katy Trail
« Reply #10 on: April 21, 2007, 08:33:46 pm »
I did the Katy Trail last July from Clinton to Dutzow (across from Washington) last year on my way back to Florida from Utah. Here is a portion of my journal:

I headed east over very hilly, straight, lightly traveled secondary roads to Clinton. After a bit of poking around I wound up at the surprisingly large, modern sports/meeting/fairgrounds complex where I was allowed to pitch my tent and use the facilities - shower, etc. My goal, the Katy Trail, which almost crosses the state, ran right by the place.

They warned me to get going early as there was mudboggin' the next morning. No problem. At dawn I was off on the Katy Trail, the longest rail-to-trail in the country. This trail is packed limerock and goes from Clinton across Missouri to St. Charles, a suburb of St. Louis. It is a converted railroad bed so it's pretty leisurely cycling. And lonely. I saw scarcely another soul on it for the westerly portion. Very rural and pleasant, though. It was a pleasure not to have to worry about traffic day after day. In Sedalia, the largest town I would see on the trail, I had to pick my way on a circuitous route over back streets. A lady in the tourist center in the old depot told me there was a problem with the RR right of way. If the trail took it over they would have had to clean up a contaminated site. I stopped for the night at The Katy Roundhouse near New Franklin. It is a very nice campground/restaurant. I pitched my tent, showered and had a fine meal at the restaurant. I was lucky to hit it on a Saturday as they were only open on weekends. It was really sweltering so, for the first time, I left the rain fly off my tent.

The trail now followed the Missouri River. The railroad often flooded out - one reason it was eventually abandoned. The storm that came through while I was in Le Cygne had damaged the trail - knocked down some trees and made some small washouts. But they had gotten right on it and cleared the trees. The washouts were no real problem. Things got more scenic with views of the river and picturesque bluffs to the left. At one point I found a sleeveless shirt on the trail. I eventually overtook the owner, a teenage kid bicycling the trail with his father. They were from Bourbonnais, Illinois - near Kankakee. I ran into them a couple more times that day and found them at the campground near Bluffton, where I stopped for the night. It was still mighty hot. The campground owner offered me an air conditioned cabin at a discount but I passed.

The next day I continued on the trail to Dutzow where I got off. I had no intention of picking my way through St. Louis - a distinctly major city. Anyway I crossed the bridge to Washington. It was "not recommended for bicycle travel" in the guidebook - narrow two lane with no sidewalk or shoulder. I just waited for a long break in the traffic and hammered. I made it most of the way across before traffic got behind me. In Washington I stopped at a Dairy Queen for my first root beer float since Clinton. A few more fairly hilly miles and I was in the KOA near Stanford. They served a simple but quite good barbeque dinner.

This message was edited by litespeed on 4-21-07 @ 4:40 PM