The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Mayor of the Meramec

  • STEELVILLE - It is a hot-summer day in June and both sides of the low-lying bridge on Thurman Lake Road are full of old-fashioned summer fun.
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  • STEELVILLE - It is a hot-summer day in June and both sides of the low-lying bridge on Thurman Lake Road are full of old-fashioned summer fun.
    Children — young and old — are jumping off the bridge into a swift-moving swimming hole. Canoes and kayaks with weary sunburn paddlers are ending their float trips. Fisherman are tossing lures nearby.
    "I used to come here years ago when the place was called Fagan's Canoe Rental," said Mark Dessieux. "Fifteen years ago I bought it and renamed it Adventure Outdoors."
    It is a destination spot for float trips, camping, fishing and great memories on the Meramec River. On a typical weekend during the summer, it is not uncommon for him to put out on the river close to 300 floaters.
    One of those floaters is Amy Ward from St. James. She has had nothing but good experiences with Dessieux. She and her family have been coming here for family float trips for several years.
    "We typically have around 30 family members who come each year," Ward said. "Mark is great. He has even sent one of his drivers up with one of his busses to pick us up in St. James. And after we get back to his place, he has even cooked up some pork steaks and chicken for us."
    Phelps County Bank President and Chief Executive Officer David Connell shares a similar sentiment.
    "Mark has taken this place to the next level. He is a great guy and always has a smile on his face," said Connell. "He has always been accommodating to us whether its been an individual float or a big family one."
    Connell said that in his home state of Tennessee, the rivers are not nearly as clear and beautiful as the Meramec River around Adventure Outdoors.
    "Mark has certainly helped me embrace the great Missouri summer tradition of the float trip," he said with a smile.
    Gone Fishin'
    While 90 percent of his business is float trips, Dessieux is an expert fishing guide for a nine-mile stretch of the Meramec River above his rental spot. According to him, this section of the river is a trophy-trout fishing area that is stocked with trout and maintained by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
    "We put in just above the (Maramec) spring and work our way down," he explained. "It is not uncommon for us to haul in 50 to 100 trout and bass in a day."
    His guided fishing trips usually include him and two others in his jet boat.
    Kent Boyer of the Steelville area has been a regular on the river with Dessieux for more than 10 years now.
    "Mark is about the nicest guy as anyone out there. He knows where the 'honey holes' are. When we go out, it is guaranteed we will haul in a ton of fish."
    Page 2 of 2 - Dessieux explained that because of the natural spring water (at Maramec Spring), the water temperature is a constant 57 degrees, making it fishable all year-round.
    He came into running an outdoor adventure business after a 17-year career with the Missouri Department of Conservation in St. Louis.
    "I had had enough and when this place came open, I bought it," said Dessieux, a Potosi native.
    His peak season begins around May 1. It is then that he and his crew which include his two sons, Devin, 22, a student at Webster University, and Dane, 19, put up the picnic tables and haul out the canoes and rafts for another summer.
    Things die down after Labor Day but he remains open for floats until as late as November.
    "It is a lot of work," he said. "By August, I'm burnt out."
    He told the Daily News that his best customers come from St. James, Rolla and St. Louis, but they have come from as far as California and every place in between."
    "The key to our success is our location," he said. "We have so much to offer. As well, I've learned over the years, that if you provide consistent good service and treat people right, it goes a long way."
    While Dessieux, 54, knows that one day in the not-too-near future he will have to turn over the reigns of his outdoor business to some who can flip canoes a little faster than him, he couldn't imagine doing anything else.
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