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Canoe Trip on the Wild & Scenic Missouri River

It was clear and sunny Saturday morning and twelve of us launched a canoe and a catamaran on the Missouri River at Judith Landing. The landing area is also referred to as the PN Bridge for the PN ranch nearby. The catamaran-type craft was made of two canoes lashed together with comfortable seating. We were floating with river guide Terry Selph who owns Hole In The Wall Adventures based in Lewistown. I’ve floated the upper stretch of the wild & scenic river but have always taken out at Judith Landing so this would be a new experience for me.

We visited briefly with the BLM river ranger stationed at Judith Landing. Registration is not mandatory on the Missouri but the BLM keeps statistics about river usage. The ranger said river traffic had been down, due mostly to the rainy weather we had for several weeks.

We were the only group launching at Judith Landing so it looked like we’d have the river all to ourselves. The weather was great for a river trip and the temperature was predicted to hit near 90 degrees.

Hole In The Wall Adventures features education on the river in addition to recreation. Terry knew the history of the PN Ranch and the still-standing ranch home and barn. As we floated we stopped periodically to see homestead remains along the river. We also heard some Lewis & Clark history since this was the same river the expedition came up over 200 years ago.

The river current on the Wild & Scenic Missouri averages 3.5 miles an hour during summer so this is an easy float. We did have several small rapids but the majority of the float was very calm.

Our float took us as far as the McClelland Ferry and we took watercraft out on the south side of the river. Just for fun we called the ferry operator and had him float over and take us across, then back.

There are three river ferries in Russell Country – Carter, Virgelle and the McClelland. The ferries are all on the Missouri River and are operated by Blaine County and Chouteau County. They are seasonal, usually March or April is when they are put in the river and they are taken out around October or November. There is no fee to take them.

The day’s float ended up being longer than what I had planned, probably because we took frequent breaks to check out area history. The river was refreshing and calming, even with the sun shining on us most of the day. All in all, it was a wonderful day – great river recreation, a fun group of people and some interesting education.

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