A documentary premiering this Monday evening on Channel 9 at 7 p.m. will make the case for something many folks in this area have known for a long time — the Missouri River Valley is one of the most beautiful places in the state, country, maybe even the world.
Nine Network Producer Patrick Murphy spent some nine months traveling the area, taking in the scenery as it changed with the seasons, meeting people who live and work here and learning more about how the landscape influences and inspires people.
The result is an hour-long film, “Where the Rivers Run,” featuring images from along the stretch of Missouri River that passes through Franklin County and interviews with local people, including Rich Deppe, who runs Deppe Farms with his brother Jim just outside of Washington, and Gary Rice of Astral Glass in downtown New Haven.
Aerial footage used in the film was captured by Tony Carosella, New Haven, using drone technology.
“Weaved throughout this film are his beautiful drone shots of the river, the hills and farms, the wineries, Washington, Hermann, the bluffs at Rochport,” said Murphy. “If nothing else, I think people will really love the visual beauty of this documentary.”
“Where the Rivers Run” was inspired by the 25th anniversary of the Katy Trail this year, said Murphy, who in 1999 created a documentary about the rails-to-trails project based on his own three-day trip riding its 200 miles. This film, like the first, is dedicated to Ted and Pat Jones, who are credited with making the Katy Trail a reality.
“(The Katy Trail) connects people to our region in ways that they couldn’t be connected before, particularly city people,” said Murphy. “I’m a St. Louisan, and personally, when I first rode the trail in 1999 . . . I didn’t know how beautiful that part of the country is.
“It’s so incredibly beautiful, it’s honestly one of the most beautiful places on earth,” he added. “Those of us in the city, don’t realize that 45 minutes from (St. Louis) is paradise.
“It’s physically beautiful. It’s economically diverse. It’s a wonderful place to visit, but you have to get off the main road to see it, so what this documentary does is it focuses, not just on the trail — the trail is the vehicle to be able to see all of these things, and there is a section on the trail, how it got started, how it was a railroad and how now people from all over the world are coming to see it, ride it — but it also talks about the incredible story about how the rivers and the valleys and the hills were formed geologically,” said Murphy.
There are segments about the food, the wine and the “locavore” or local food movement. There also is a section on prairie and the restoration of prairie, and another on artists who use or are inspired by the landscape and images in their work.
These include Julie Wiegand, Lyon, and Bryan Haynes, Labadie/St. Albans.
“I feel so lucky to live here,” said Murphy. “I really think that we Missourians, particularly people in St. Louis and Kansas City, we really underestimate where we live. We think that if we want to go on vacation, we have to go to California or someplace that’s really exotic, but we have something here that is just as exotic, diverse and beautiful.”
The original Katy Trail documentary was about going from town to town and visiting the people, visiting the history and taking a journey through time, geography, the landscape, said Murphy. This new film is more about what the existence of Katy Trail has been able to open up to the region — an appreciation of such a diverse wealth of landscapes and resources and stories, he said.
Rich Deppe spoke to Murphy in August about his family’s experience with farming in the area.
“We talked about rural America, what it is today compared to when my dad was farming, how times have changed and our experiences living in the country and farming,” said Deppe, a third-generation farmer.
“He wanted to talk with a local farmer who lived close to Washington and what it was like, living in the rural area but being close to a good size city, how that all ties together, the working relationship between the two, and our experiences.”
Deppes Farm is just outside of the Washington city limits. It includes 4,500 acres, about half of which is along the Missouri River bluffs and the other half in the bottomland.
The family owns about 2,000 acres and rents/leases the rest. They raise swine and grow corn and soybeans.
Murphy was amazed by the views and asked questions about the terracing and conservation practices used on the farm, said Deppe. He had planned only to spend about 45 minutes at the farm, but ended up staying most of the afternoon, Deppe recalled.
Although Washington isn’t a large part of the film, it is mentioned and there is an aerial shot that shows the downtown area, said Murphy.
A bigger segment of the film features New Haven and people like Gary Rice of Astral Glass.
“The big deal was the connection the city has to the river and the recovery of a river town,” said Rice. “Really seven years ago this was pretty much a ghost town down here.”
Last year Murphy featured the recovery of downtown New Haven in a segment on the Nine Network’s Arts America series.
Since that story aired, Rice has become involved with the efforts of Dan Burkhardt, a St. Louis area businessman who has a farm in the Marthasville area and owns Peers Store near Marthasville, to bring conservation and commerce to the area.
Rice was one of the speakers at a one-day conference Burkhardt hosted last summer, “Commerce and Conservation Along the Missouri River,” in Washington.
Burkhardt wants to preserve the natural beauty of the valley and at the same time make it a major destination area for visitors.
“His vision is that the communities between Hermann and the confluence should market themselves as a region, because in those communities it’s amazing what you will find,” said Rice. “Not one of the communities along the way is really a two-week vacation spot, but the entire stretch could be, spend a couple of days in each town.”
One of Rice’s ideas to help promote that is to create a river taxi.
“You can have a week’s-long ticket, so you stay in a B&B in one town, jump on the river taxi and go to another community down the river and stay there . . . The people who run the river taxi would have some knowledge of the river and the communities so it can be really educational,” said Rice.
“It’s a beautiful stretch of river,” he said. Unfortunately, not many people get to see it from the vantage point of the river.
Something a lot of people don’t understand, said Rice, is that the river, outside of big cities, is not heavily industrialized. It is a natural beauty, inviting and welcoming.
“The big thrust is to help people recognize what the Missouri River Valley has,” said Rice, “to bring attention to this region.”
“Where the Rivers Run” will air Monday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m., and be repeated Wednesday, Nov. 18, at 2 a.m., Saturday, Nov. 21, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 22, at 10 a.m.