Upper Missouri River
Starting in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana, the Missouri River flows across the west and empties into the Mighty Mississippi above St. Louis. We paddle the fabled "White Cliffs" area of the upper Missouri in remote north central Montana. This stark and beautiful area was made famous by the journals of Lewis and Clark, who marveled at the unique features of this landscape in 1805. Visit this interesting and historic place and see the area much as Lewis and Clark did over 200 years ago. Call us to arrange a trip for your group today!
- Fabulous camping in the shadows of the famous "White Cliffs"
- Multiple day hikes to places like "Hole in the Wall" or where Clark first saw the Rocky Mountains
- Wenonah Champlain canoes and excellent camping gear
- Two experienced Wilderness Inquiry guides on every trip
- All shuttles and transportation
The Missouri River in Montana is an under-the-radar paddler's paradise. The slow, meandering river takes you through some of the most outstanding natural rock formations in the country. Trace historic explorer and trade routes with ample time for day hikes along the shore. You will be immersed in a landscape that has remained unchanged for centuries and that you will never forget. Wilderness Inquiry will not be running any Upper Missouri canoe trips in 2015, but we can make arrangements for custom groups on our regular and family itineraries upon request.
- Paddle this great wilderness area and experience it in much the same way as Lewis and Clark did. After visiting historic Fort Benton, put in at Coal Banks for six days of canoeing routes used by riverboats, fur traders, and the Blackfoot tribe. See all the iconic sites – the Hole in the Wall, Citadel Rock, and Eye of the Needle, while keeping your eyes pealed for majestic bighorn sheep, sparrow hawks, and elk on the shores
Standard 6 day itinerary that can be customized
Itinerary Details Request Trip QuoteTake the kids out on the Missouri River to witness one of America's vast, iconic wildernesses. Be sure to keep a look out for prairie dogs and golden eagles while paddling along the crystal-clear waters. Stop at one of Lewis and Clark’s sites, Slaughter River, and read some of their journal entries for a fun history lesson. Swim at riverside camps or simply lay back and enjoy the cool river breeze
Standard 6 day itinerary that can be customized
Itinerary Details Request Trip Quote
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Visitors to Montana’s Missouri River will step back in time two hundred years to the time of Lewis and Clark, and experience both the Big Sky country of Montana and the historic Mighty Missouri just as these famous explorers did more than two centuries before.
The Missouri River runs through the 377,000-acre Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument, created by President Clinton in January of 2001 and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The 149-mile Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River, designated in 1976, flows through the monument.
In the Missouri Breaks of central Montana, modern visitors can view a landscape that has remained unchanged for centuries. These rugged badlands, scenic White Cliffs, and high rolling prairies attracted the Blackfoot Native Americans, Lewis and Clark, and a few hearty settlers, all of whom turned out to be mere visitors. The region has been described in many ways: “scenes of visionary enchantment” by Lewis and Clark, Karl Bodmer described a formation as “it was like an old Gothic Chapel with a chimney and pines...growing around the wall,” and William Clark also wrote of the country as harsh and desolate. Stephen Ambrose’s acclaimed book, Undaunted Courage, and Ken Burns’ documentary have also generated interest and attracted people from throughout the world.
With a vision of the United States spreading from ocean to ocean, President Thomas Jefferson conceived of an expedition to explore the vast expanse of the Louisiana Territory and the Pacific Northwest. Jefferson gave the expedition its primary objectives to find a transportation route through the Louisiana Territory to the Columbia River and in doing so to learn about native cultures and the resources of the region. President Jefferson chose his personal secretary and friend, Meriwether Lewis, to head the expedition. With the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark embarked upon an epic adventure of discovery, which included traversing this very same stretch of Montana’s Missouri River. Their epic adventure stands the test of time and will continue to amaze and inspire people for generations.
The picturesque White Cliffs and numerous igneous intrusions have been slowly exposed by the meandering Missouri River. Since carving its way through millions of years of rock, the Missouri has helped geologists unravel the geological mysteries of this land. Exposed layers of shale and sandstone indicate the presence of a great inland sea: various angles of this layering represent folding, faulting, or uplifting and the many caves, pillars, and arches are results of differential erosion. Geologists theorize that the Missouri River once meandered its way to the Atlantic Ocean, but a great glacial mass that formed over what is now Canada altered its course to the south and east near Coal Banks Landing. The combination of these geologic events formed the impressive, yet harsh, region that Lewis and Clark would experience with their “Corps of Discovery.”
The wild inhabitants of the land have remained much the same since early exploration. Ungulates, including bighorn sheep, mule deer, antelope, and elk, still roam this land and browse on the vegetation. Bald and golden eagles, prairie falcons, and sparrow hawks perch on the cliffs or soar overhead. The fertile bottomlands and riparian zones also support diverse wildlife such as sharp-tailed grouse and prairie dogs.
While traveling the river with Wilderness Inquiry paddlers will camp at sites used by Lewis and Clark, read from their expedition journals, and view the same landscape that awed these legendary explorers. Our groups discuss local history and current issues pertaining to land rights and endangered species. The Missouri Breaks provides visitors with a true American adventure and a taste of early 19th century exploration.