This trip offers an intimate visit to the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, designated to protect this spectacular ecosystem and its rich historic legacy. Our big canoes, replicating those of the early fur traders, make the perfect platform for spinning yarns as we float downstream. To complement the knowledge of guides, most departures are accompanied by expert historians and authors with in-depth knowledge of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
From our launch at Coal Banks Landing, the river carries us from a wide, meandering valley into the famous White Cliffs area – a deep, rugged gorge where steep, eroded cliffs reach a depth of nearly a thousand feet and reveal ten million years of geologic history. Wind and water have eroded the dazzling white sandstone and created massive rock crags and magical castles that loom above the river. A storybook of geology unfolds as we continue downstream to the Missouri River Breaks. Summer days are typically hot and dry and the cool river water welcomes swimmers.
We set up our luxury camps on the river’s bank while golden eagles, hawks and falcons soar above. Cottonwood, juniper and pine grow along with sagebrush, cactus and wildflowers, providing food and shelter for beaver, prairie dogs, antelope, deer, elk and big horn sheep. The smooth and pleasant current makes this a trip anyone in reasonable physical condition can enjoy and is also a great family vacation for paddlers age five and up. Our 34’ canoes each carry up to 14 paddlers and two talented guides. 17’ canoes are also available.
Day 0: Travel from your home to Great Falls, Montana. Meet with team leader at a local hotel at 7:30 pm Pacific Time for a one hour orientation meeting to answer any last-minute questions and give you your waterproof bags to pack. Your adventure holiday has begun.
Day 1: Depart at 7:30 am in our bus for a two-hour ride to the canoeing trip launch point. Along the way we stop for a brief visit to Montana’s first town, Fort Benton. From here we continue to “Decision Point” at the confluence of the Missouri and Marias rivers. We the proceed on to Coal Banks Landing where our staff prepares you with a thorough safety orientation while your personal gear is loaded onto our cargo raft.
We launch on the river and enjoy paddling a few miles before stopping for a delicious riverside lunch. We travel between 8 and 11 miles the first day and arrive at camp around 4:30 pm. After you carry your personal gear to the tent of your choice, enjoy free time for swimming, hiking, reading or just relaxing. Hors d’oeuvres are served around 6:00 followed by dinner around 7:30. After dinner a campfire is lit and an evening of laughter and sharing begins. Included: (L), (D).
Day 2: We wake you around 7:00 am with the smell of fresh-brewed coffee. Breakfast is served around 7:30 and while we clean up the kitchen you pack up your personal gear. The canoes and cargo raft are loaded and we depart from camp about 9:30 for an adventure-packed day of canoeing, great Western scenery and fun. Soon we arrive at Eagle Creek where Lewis and Clark camped on the night of May 31, 1805.
We spend several hours hiking in the vicinity of Eagle Creek and Neat Coulee. After lunch we paddle downstream passing Citadel Rock, a massive igneous intrusion immortalized by German Prince Maximilian’s artist Karl Bodmer in 1833. We arrive in camp by 4:00 pm with plenty of time to hike to the “Hole-in-the-Wall,” swim and relax. After dinner and the evening campfire, watch for a glorious star-studded sky. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: We proceed on the mighty Missouri, at times paddling and others just drifting with the gentle current. The impressive landmarks of Steamboat Rock and Dark Butte loom on the horizon. We pass the May 30, 1805 camp of Lewis and Clark. They stopped here after a miserable, rainy day on which they only made 5.4 miles. We stop at one or two pioneer homesteads and imagine life 100 years ago.
Eagles soar overhead. In the late afternoon we pass Slaughter River where Lewis and Clark camped on both their upstream and downstream journeys. It’s a satisfying day of history, paddling and nature. Tonight’s camp is within walking distance of a prairie dog town and with binoculars and a spotting scope we can observe their antics and social behavior. Another night of camaraderie and sharing. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: As we float today we hear the remarkable Indian legend about Arrow River. The river canyon widens and we float through the Judith Basin where the first military post, Camp Cooke, existed from 1866-1870. The Judith Basin was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 because of its rich history. Within a few miles we enter the Missouri River Breaks and a completely new landscape. Tonight’s camp features a superb mud bath, excellent hiking opportunities and is our last night on the river. Included: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: You may hike downstream a mile, or float, to the Hagadone Homestead where we explore old horse-drawn farm implements, the original homestead cabin and pioneer life. After a few more miles we stop for lunch, then continue to our take-out point at the Stafford/McClelland Ferry, arriving around 2:00 PM. We carry personal gear to the waiting bus and climb aboard for a three-hour drive back to Great Falls. Enjoy a hot shower and change of cloths and then meet your guides for hosted dinner at a local restaurant around 7:00 pm. Included: (B), (L), (D).
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USA Montana Outdoor: Water Drifter Canoeing/Kayaking/Rafting Archeology/History
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