I took a trip to Montana this summer (July 2011) with my three sons and a friend. We floated/paddled down the Missouri River Between Loma and Judith Landing. The 4 day adventure left us wanting to return for another trip. I’ve been attending some other canoe trips over the last few years, and really enjoy them. We use our backpacking equipment and combine it with boating for a great time. The water level was high this year due to above average snowfall in the northern Rockies, which left many people too scared to float the river. It worked out great for us as the water wasn’t as fast as most feared and there was almost no one on the river.
To plan this trip I bought a copy of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument Boater’s Guide. This is a really good book and well worth the money. It has the river broken down very nicely, page-by-page, and shows all of the Lewis and Clark camps from 1805 and 1806. I also used the Paddling Montana book as a reference.
We arrived in the evening of July 9th at Wood Bottom (near Loma) and camped at the boat launch area. When we woke, early, on the 10th we realized just how high the water really was. We called the boat rental service who delivered the extra canoe needed, right to us.
We set out on the first leg of the trip which included padding from River Mile (RM) 20.5 all the way down to the Little Sandy boat camp at RM 46.5. While this sounds far, at 26 miles, it wasn’t too bad as the water moved at a good pace and the wind was behind us.
Not having led multi-day trips on my own before I discovered the Igloo Marine cooler wasn’t even close to being adequate for the job. Almost all of our ice was melted by the time we reached the Coal Banks Landing. We stopped there for ice and the kids went for a ride with the ranger to get a block of ice for us. Live and learn, I guess. You need block ice, and a better cooler, to survive the 90 degree temps.
We arrived at the Little Sandy Boat Camp with plenty of time before dusk. While there, we discovered there were free-roaming cows in the camp area. We weren’t sure if this was supposed to be the case, but having the clumsy beasts roaming around did make us a little concerned.
Day 2, the wind picked up and made paddling tough for a while. It was right in our faces and given that we had little canoe paddling experience we learned quick that you need to keep the bow facing into the wind as much as possible. Paul was paddling the sit-on-top kayak and had a great time!
The White Cliffs were pretty neat, making a stark contrast to the surrounding green.
Along the route we stopped at the Eagle Creek Boat Camp, RM 56 for lunch. It was quite hot, so the boys and Jeff stayed near the boats and I went for a hike to the bluffs which overlook the river.
One thing to note. Even though you are required to carry wag bags or a chemical toilet, there are outhouses at the developed boat camps.
After Eagle Creek the wind really died down and we had a pleasant float. Given the mosquitoes along the shore we decided to make and eat lunch while on the river, holding the boats together.
There we some nice rock formations along the way . . . .
After we passed Citadel Rock at RM 62, we paddled into Hole-in-the-Wall Boat Camp which at RM 63. This camp looks to be relatively new and has some interesting amenities, namely, shelters for cooking and a fenced off area to keep the cattle away.
There was an interesting castle looking rock behind camp . . .
As it got closer to dark, Luke did a little fishing and we couldn’t believe what he pulled out.
The Hole-in-the-Wall camp was named for this nearby rock formation. We floated downriver after packing up camp and I went for a hike up there. There is a well-worn trail.
When I returned, we continued our journey down-river.
We floated/paddled all the way from RM 63 (Hole-in-the-Wall) to Rm 81.3, The Wall Primitive Boat Camp. This is a nice site under mature cottonwood trees. Behind the camp is a sometimes-noisy prairie dog town.
The last day of our float was an easy one. The Wall camp is at RM 81.3 while Judith Landing is only 7.2 miles down river at RM 88.5.
After arriving at Judith landing we waited for the shuttle to arrive which took us back to our truck at Wood Bottom. As a final stop we took a walk up to Decision Point near the put-in.
With four drivers, we made the 850 mile trek, back to Colorado Springs, over night . . . non-stop. Phew! What a trip.
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