With the opening of the second phase of the Dardenne Creek Blueway late in 2023, paddlers now have even more miles to explore, unplug, and take in one of our region’s greatest natural assets.
“We’re so lucky to have all our rivers and creeks,” said Bob Wohler, local attorney and avid paddler who has been out on the blueway many times and says it’s one of the most calm bodies of water he’s paddled. “I encourage people to go sit in a kayak and have that peaceful, easy feeling. Every season has something to offer. It’s always an adventure.”
The Dardenne Creek Blueway is the first of its kind in Missouri. Similar to a hiking trail — but on the water — the blueway includes signage to guide paddlers. St. Charles County Parks Department maintains the blueway, keeping it free of trash and debris to ensure an enjoyable time for canoers, kayakers, and stand-up paddleboarders.
Adventures on Water and Land
Phase 1 of the Dardenne Creek Blueway is 3.5 miles, winding between 370 Lakeside Park in St. Peters and Riverside Landing in St. Charles, Missouri. The second phase adds another 5.2 miles, connecting 370 Lakeside Park to Lone Wolff Park.
Also new is a second boat landing in 370 Lakeside Park on Dardenne Creek. The first landing, on Sanford Creek (which connects to Dardenne), is occasionally inoperable with low water levels, says Ryan Graham, director of St. Charles County Parks. This new option, which includes metal stairs and a kayak ramp, is functional at various water depths.
In addition to taking in the scenery and wildlife on the water, blueway users can also enjoy the amenities offered by the connecting parks. Riverside Landing offers primitive camping, a play area, and a self-serve station for kayak rentals. Located at the intersection of Dardenne Creek and the Mississippi River, Riverside Landing also offers more experienced paddlers access to the latter waterway.
The 500 acres of 370 Lakeside Park include opportunities for fishing, camping, archery, hiking, and biking. Rentals are available here, too, including kayaks, paddleboards, canoes and bikes.
Recreation to Inspire Conservation
Beyond providing a great recreational option close to home, St. Charles County has another important goal in mind for the blueway: to educate people about the importance of maintaining our waterways.
“We’re located between these massive rivers, and most of us take them for granted,” Graham said. “We hope opening up access to these waters helps people realize that these areas are beautiful, full of wildlife, and need to be protected.”
St. Charles County alone has approximately 1,300 miles of waterways. Any trash that isn’t properly disposed of ends up in the drainage system and eventually makes its way to our creeks, streams, and rivers. This isn’t a small problem: To prepare for the first phase of the blueway, Graham says his team removed between nine and 10 dumpsters full of trash. That’s a lot of trash for 3.5 miles.
“For many people, the Dardenne has always just been there. It’s an underappreciated resource that people think of as being muddy and dirty,” Graham said. “But we’ve done a good job of removing debris and getting that waterway open and contributing to a healthier habitat.”
St. Charles County Parks hosts stream cleaning events to motivate the public to get involved in conserving the waterways. “It’s a good way to give back to the community while also getting exercise and recreational enjoyment,” Graham said.
If you’re interested in helping out, check the St. Charles County Parks website for information on upcoming events.
More Blueway Coming Soon
St. Charles County Parks is targeting a 2024 opening for Phase 3 of Dardenne Creek Blueway. This will add 3.2 miles, connecting Jack Gettemeyer Park to Lone Wolff Park. There are five phases planned in total; upon completion, the blueway will be approximately 19 miles long, stretching from Bluebird Meadow Park in Dardenne Prairie to Riverside Landing Park.
“If we open up a new phase once a year, I think we’re on the right track,” Graham said, noting the massive amount of work to get each phase open — typically an intergovernmental agreement with another city, a sizable clean-up job, and planning and constructing boat landings.
The Dardenne Creek Blueway is just the first in the works. St. Charles County also has plans for Big Creek Blueway, which will flow more than 12 miles between Indian Camp Creek and Flatwoods parks through Big Creek and the Cuivre River. Graham says additional boat rental stations may be put in place as well.
Note to paddlers: Water levels on the blueway vary with rainfall. During drought-heavy periods, it can get shallow, making paddling more difficult. Graham says his team is working on a study that would help with control measures and ensure there’s adequate water on the blueway at all times. In the meantime, you may want to check the St. Charles County Parks website and social media pages for important updates.
For additional information about the Dardenne Creek Blueway, contact the St. Charles County Parks Department at 636-949-7535 or visit sccmo.org/2248/Blueways.