The hottest day of the year (so far) may not be the best time to paddle down a small, sheltered stream, but there I was. Apple Creek is a small, muddy tributary to the Missouri River. It winds through most of Burleigh County, but the section I paddled started at Swenson Park, on Highway 1804 just south of Bismarck. There is a low-flow dam just upstream from the park (you can see it on the other side of the highway when you put in). If you put in further upstream you’ll want to be aware of this obstacle.
The water in the creek is warm and muddy. Depending on water levels, the banks are likely to be muddy as well. The current isn’t very strong, especially later in the summer. Paddling against the current is no harder than paddling on a lake. This may not be the case in the springtime, when runoff swells the creek considerably. The creek is not the most refreshing place to be on a hot day, but it doesn’t take a lot of effort to get to the Missouri River.
As you travel south, you’ll get excellent, close up views of the river bluffs below University Of Mary. Much of the hillside below the campus was burned in a grass fire in the early spring of 2015. Some bluff faces are bare, giving you a view into the geological history of the area.
The creek enters the Oahe-Burleigh County Wildlife Management Area before reaching the river. A survey marker on the east bank of the creek marks the WMA boundary. Depending on the vegetation, you should also see signs near the fence line by the marker. The land between Swenson Park and the WMA is privately owned.
The creek enters the Missouri upstream of The Desert landing. The creek actually enters on a side channel, not the main channel. You’ll know you’ve reached the Missouri when the water becomes noticeably clearer and colder. If the conditions are right, you may see a hard line where the rivers meet.
There are a number of trip options. A point-to-point trip can be made from Swenson Park to The Desert. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could even go from The Desert to Swenson Park. An out-and-back trip can be started from either Swenson Park or The Desert. If you do start from The Desert, expect roughly an hour to paddle upstream to the side channel. Between Swenson Park and the Missouri takes roughly 1.5 to 2 hours in either direction.