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Floating the Mighty Mo

It’s definitely summertime and that means time to enjoy our waterways. Join me in recalling my last float trip down the Mighty Missouri and through the famous White Cliffs.

Our first stop was in Fort Benton, MT at the Upper Missouri River Breaks Interpretive Center. We learned some good tips on floating the river and also bought river maps.  The Wild & Scenic Missouri stretches for 149 miles and is contained in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. The area has been multiple use for many years, cared for by ranchers and farmers who make their living off this land.

We launched our canoes downstream at Coal Banks Landing, a BLM campground near Virgelle, MT. The Missouri River throughout this float is easily navigable with the current at about 3.5 miles per hour. We packed plenty of drinking water, bug repellant and sunscreen. There were six people in our group and three canoes.

Day one was clear and sunny. We taught the beginners in the group some paddling techniques. There was a shady nook for our lunch and we hiked some just to stretch and see the area. We found tipi rings on top of the river bluff and had incredible views.

We paddled about 18 river miles the first day to Eagle Creek Campground where we would spend the night. The white chalky cliffs were just beginning here and it was interesting to look at the ever changing sandstone and imagine what it would look like 10 years from now.

After unloading coolers and dry bags it was time to put up our tents. Let’s just say putting up a tent poses small challenges for me. There has got to be an easier way to do that! I managed to get the tent erected though and it didn’t blow away during the night. And, I slept well after all that paddling!

Day two was fairly hot so we paced ourselves and had a couple of splashing contests. We floated past an abandoned homestead and had a leisurely lunch nearby. After we had camp set up at the end of the day we did some more hikes in the slot canyons of the White Cliffs.

Our third and final day found the terrain changing again. We floated to Judith Landing and arrived at noon. There is a small store at Judith Landing and it seemed busy with other floaters and shuttle vehicles. By time we finished lunch our shuttle was there. It is 44 miles back to US Hwy 87 and we chatted nonstop, recounting the canoe trip.

I was definitely ready for a shower but I also didn’t want to give up floating the river. My promise to myself was to start planning another river trip with a launch at Judith Landing and take-out at James Kipp recreation area. This would encompass the entire 149 Wild & Scenic miles of the Missouri. Maybe that’ll happen next month!

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