I just returned from a 4 day trip down a section of the Missouri River from Coal Banks Landing to Judith Landing. My dad and I had wanted to do a multi-day canoe trip for years and finally the stars aligned and we were able to put in at the beginning of October.
We chose to do a short section of the river at a slower than average pace to give us a bit more time to explore on shore. It also proved to be a good choice since the days are starting to get pretty short this late in the season. We averaged about 12 miles a day, which works out to around 3 hours of paddling. The river is quite low in October only flowing at 5600 cfs, compared to its yearly peak of 17,000 cfs in June each year. You can find the current flow at the on the USGS site.
Once on the river, it was easy to see why the Upper Missouri is a national Monument. The section we paddled is known for its white cliffs. As a climber, I couldn’t help, but drool over the miles of 100-300 foot sandstone walls. The only comparable place I have seen this amount of sandstone is the New River Gorge in West Virginia. But, anyone will appreciate the aesthetic beauty of the walls surrounding the river.
One of the highlights of the trip was hiking up Neat Coulee from the Eagle Creek Boat Camp. This coulee progressively narrows resembling a whitewashed Zion slot canyon. This walk should not be missed.
Overall, the camping was excellent. I, however, expected it to be less developed. Most of the boat camps have vault toilets and fire rings. The sites have been so heavily used that that the the grass had been worn away to bare earth. While it isn’t exactly a remote wilderness experience, it is for the best, as coping with the thousands of boaters who make the float each year means that concentrating the impact will actually preserve as much of the area as possible. Luckily, my dad and I avoided the hordes of people by rolling the dice on a late season trip. In fact, we only saw one group of people cruise by on a motor boat late Saturday afternoon (after September 15 the motorized craft restrictions were lifted).
It was a great experience with none of the stress of a climbing trip or the sacrifices of a backpacking trip. The scenery is breathtaking. The canoeing is easy (think giant moving lake). If you like the outdoors and just want to unplug and unwind for a few days, I highly recommend it.
- Distance: 44 miles
- Time: 4 days
- Outfitter: Upper Missouri River Guides