Segment #1: "The Upper River"
Benton to Coal Banks Landing (42 miles)
segment of the river is entrenched in a milewide, steep-walled valley
composed of black-colored Marias River Shale, capped by the yellow
Telegraph Creek Sandstone. The Missouri River here has a meandering habit,
with bottomlands and islands, many covered with lush groves of
This is rich habitat for deer, pelicans, geese, ducks,
eagles, and many other birds. There are four Lewis and Clark campsites,
including their camp at the mouth of the Marias River, the site of an
extremely important decision point for the captains, and which they named
Decision Point - the location of a BLM interpretive site that is easily
accessed from the Upper Missouri by canoers. Several important fur
trading posts, most notably the American Fur Company’s Fort McKenzie,
were located on this stretch of the river.
This segment of the river is
largely bounded by private land, so off-river hiking opportunities are
limited. The river's flow is faster here than in the lower segments, which
we typically exploit to travel this segment in two days and one night.
entire fleet of canoes is made in the USA by Wenonah Canoes of Minnesota.
These high-tech, high-quality canoes are a delight to paddle.
canoes are made of Kevlar and fiberglass, and they are the best canoes in
use on the Upper Missouri River.
canoes are characterized by light weight and exceptional
makes them far easier to paddle than aluminum and plastic canoes. All
canoes are not created equally.
use carbon fiber paddles, which weigh an incredible 12 ounces; they
prevent upper body fatigue during a day of paddling. Other paddles
2-3 times more. They retail for $150 each; we're the only outfitter
canoes range in length from 18 feet to 24 feet, providing ample room for
people and gear, and imparting high stability and
seaworthiness. They are
very safe canoes to paddle.
who are too young to fill a full paddling position in a canoe can ride as
passengers with their parents in optional third and fourth seats which we can add to the
canoes. See Paddling with kids.
many of our trips we utilize a large square-back canoe with a small, quiet motor - our
"gear boat". Typically we load it with the heaviest gear to
lighten the load in the canoes. A guide cruises ahead of the canoes to
secure our party a choice campsite for the evening.
of our canoes have padded bucket seats, and good, solid backrests, both of
which provide a high degree of comfort and lower back support.
to pictures and specs for our canoes used on our guided
trips and in our rental program...
Segment #2: "The White
Cliffs of the Missouri
Coal Banks Landing to
Judith Landing (46 miles)
many to be the most spectacular stretch of the Upper Missouri River, this
is also the most popular. Stephen Ambrose, in his Lewis and Clark book, Undaunted
Courage, described the White Cliffs as “one of the most beautiful
places on Earth”.
stretch of the Upper Missouri floaters pass
three Lewis and Clark campsites, Indian habitation sites - where tipi
rings and petroglyphs can be still seen, , and
several still-standing homestead buildings dating to the 1900's.
Adventurous floaters can take a
vigorous climb up to the “Hole-In- The-Wall”, and there are abundant
hiking opportunities from all of the BLM designated campsites in the White
No longer meandering in
nature, the river follows a relatively straight course, and has cut a
spectacular 800 foot-deep canyon through the white-colored Eagle
Sandstone, which forms breath-taking 300 foot high cliffs. Unusual
formations called “pedestal rocks”,
toadstools, are common, and in many places are so numerous as to form
“gardens”. The sandstone cliffs contain an intircate labyrinth of dark
brown-colored veins, called dikes and sills, some over 20 feet thick, that
were formed by the injection of hot magma. These dikes and sills are
highly resistant to erosion, and frequently form spectacular vertical
walls. Geologists who visit this area consider it to contain textbook
examples of landforms produced by intruding magma. Captain Meriwether
Lewis was awe-struck by this area, and in a lengthy journal entry
described “scenes of visionary enchantment”.
Segment #3: "The Badlands of the
Upper Missouri" aka "The Missouri Breaks" : Judith Landing to Kipp
Recreation Area (61 miles)
1000 foot deep canyon, this rugged stretch of the river is the wildest and
the least traveled, making it a personal favorite of ours. Combined with
the White Cliffs section it makes an excellent 6 day trip, which we
consider to be the premier extended experience on the Upper Missouri.
Hundreds of thousands of acres of
spectacularly beautiful public lands flank the river, providing
innumerable hiking opportunities - the best hiking in the entire 149 miles of river.
There are 6 BLM
Wilderness Study Areas. Many old homestead buildings are found
here, as well as some important sites in the Upper Missouri’s steamboat
history, and five Lewis and Clark campsites. The Nez Perce National
Historic Trail crosses this stretch of the Upper Missouri. Captain Clark's
first view of the Rockies site is an awe-inspiring place to visit in the
wild Bullwhacker Creek area, a 5 mile hike back from the river.
opportunities to view herds of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep exist in some
locations and elk are sometimes seen. The dominant rocks are those of the Judith River Formation (70
million years old), which is made up of strong, thin layers of sandstone,
and alternating thick layers of weak siltstone and shale. This combination
produces the landform known as badlands - or "The Missouri
Breaks", where erosion has run rampant and
produced hauntingly beautiful scenery. There are spectacular examples of
geologic faults. Some locations contain dinosaur bone beds (which are
protected by federal law), and are the destination for some of our hikes. The banks of the river do not support many
groves of trees, and shady campsites are more scarce. The tops of the
"breaks" are covered with Ponderosa Pine. This segment ends at
the downriver boundary of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National
Monument and the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River.