Local adventurer attempts to simulate a portion of historical float that started in Glendive

Brendan Heidner
Sunday, November 20, 2022
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Dave Fuqua stands on the bank of the Yellowstone River recently showing off his immersion suit he plans to use to float the Yellowstone River for two days next year. Fuqua made an attempt to do the trip this year, however only made it one mile out of town before his suit malfunctioned. 

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Capt. Paul Boyton, a showman known as the Fearless Frogman, set out in 1881 on a river float in a rubber survival suit, leaving from Glendive on a journey to St. Louis, Mo.

One local adventurer is making every effort to raise awareness of one ambitious 19th Century figure who set off on a unique exploit beginning in Glendive after not finding any historic record locally of the event.

Glendive native Dave Fuqua – more commonly known as Dinodave – recently set off on a two-day expedition on the Yellowstone River only using an immersion suit as his mode of transportation.

In an interview on Monday, Fuqua said his brothers told him a few years ago of a story about Paul Boyton, a showman in the 1800s known best as the Fearless Frogman.

“Ever since then, I was like, ‘I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to read more about him,’ (and) I just want to tell more people about this (guy) because I thought it was the coolest story,” he said.

On Sept. 18 of 1881, Boyton set forth on his longest and final river float in a rubber survival suit much like the one Fuqua used for himself.

Boyton’s journey started in Glendive that fall day and ended 1,675 river miles later in St. Louis, Mo.

“It’s amazing more people don’t know about him, it’s such an incredible feat,” Fuqua said, noting he found no historical record of the account at the Frontier Gateway Museum. “This guy should be known.”

According to Fuqua, the suit that Boyton used in his many floating adventures first started as a simple test for the inventor of the suit who was a lifeguard at the time.

He would later be known for embarking on several floating journeys in the rubber suit.

“He was getting quite the reputation,” Fuqua said, noting he was joined in Bismarck by a reporter who floated with him the remainder of the journey to St. Louis.

From Fuqua’s individual research, he discovered Boyton to be an “eccentric” person who sought to entertain others and draw attention to things that are out of the ordinary.

“I think it was just attention, I mean, he was a showman” he said.

Some may question why Boyton started his float in Glendive, but Fuqua explained - from what he read it was the best starting point upstream on the Yellowstone River.

“He chose Glendive because it was as far as he could go and not get stuck,” he said.

Following his research, Fuqua decided to raise awareness of Boyton’s efforts the best way he knew how; floating the river in an immersion suit.

“I thought it would be cool to float the river for two days just as far as I could go,” he said. “I’ve spent my life on the Yellowstone River, so I’m very comfortable with the river.”

With hopes of spending two days floating the Yellowstone River in his immersion suit, Fuqua noted he only made it one mile out of Glendive before his suit malfunctioned and cut his trip short.

“I just went for it,” he said. “My mistake was I didn’t wax the zipper like I was supposed to and my zipper malfunctioned and so we’ll try it again (next year).”

Despite the outcome of his first attempt to do as Boyton did, Fuqua said he plans to try again next year, hopefully with greater results.

He added he will likely attempt the trip again beginning either late summer or early fall in 2023.

As Fuqua already looks forward to his two-day exploit next year, he hopes he can float approximately 30-35 river miles and land somewhere between Savage and Sidney.

“My focus is Glendive,” Fuqua said, adding he believes the unique event could give Glendive even greater notoriety. “It’s a cool part of Glendive history and I don’t want it to get lost.”

Fuqua encourages those who want to learn more about Boyton and his efforts to float the Yellowstone River in his immersion suit to watch his video documenting the process on his YouTube channel: Dinodave Paleo Adventures.

“It’s a historical thing we should be proud of,” Fuqua said.

Reach Brendan Heidner at news@rangerreview.com.