One of the rules I created for the 50-state quest is that I count the paddle as the state from where I launch. Lots of waterways wind along state borders; those paddles can’t count as multiple states. I can paddle the same body of water in different states (for example, I could count Lake Michigan for Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and/or Michigan) as long as they were four separate paddles with four different launch spots, one in each state. (Although I likely would not do this, as it is sort of beside the point of seeing the country, and experiencing different waterways.)
So, Carter Lake, an oxbow lake* that used to be part of the Missouri River, posed a problem. It is surrounded by Nebraska, but the Supreme Court ruled in 1892 that both the lake itself and the city of Carter Lake were, in fact, Iowa. It is the only place where Iowa is west of the Missouri River. (Liz and I had originally intended to paddle Saylorville Lake or Lake Red Rock or somewhere else near Des Moines, but we had to change our route.) So, we drove around and asked some kind Iowans (wearing Hawkeye shirts, of course) where there was a public launch on the Iowa side of the lake. Once there, we paddled underneath plans taxiing at the Omaha’s Eppley Airfield, alongside large lily pads and next to a skateboard park.
*As an art history major in college, I studied Thomas Cole's The Oxbow frequently. I was very excited to paddle on an oxbow lake. (Hmmm, I wonder if I can paddle that particular Oxbow in Massachusetts.)
Bottom photo credit: Liz Littman
Carter Lake, <em>Iowa</em>, United States of America (Directions)