Montana’s Missouri River Family Canoe
Family Fun on the Lewis & Clark Trail
Treat your family to this canoe and hiking experience in Montana’s ‘Big Sky’ country. You will experience the upper Missouri River much as Lewis and Clark did 200 years ago. Start at Coal Banks Landing and float on swift currents beneath beautiful sandstone cliffs and white stone spires that the explorers compared to Europe’s finest cathedrals. Paddle past the Eye of the Needle, LaBarge Rock, Citadel Rock and Hole in the Wall–all spectacular landforms that grace this section of the river. Set up camp under cottonwood trees at Slaughter River, a Lewis and Clark site, and read from their journals. Look for mule deer and elk roaming the area and browsing on vegetation. Catch glimpses of bald and golden eagles, prairie falcons and sparrow hawks perched on cliffs or soaring overhead. Hear prairie dogs chirp and whistle from their extensive “towns” nearby (did you know that early settlers called them whistle pigs?). Explore abandoned homesteads within easy hiking distance of the campsite. End the adventure at Judith Landing, a historic area for the Blackfoot tribe, fur traders, and steam boaters.
DAY 1: Meet other families in Billings and travel to Coal Banks stopping to explore Fort Benton along the way. Get to know each other and prepare for a wonderful trip. Stay at Coal Banks Landing.
DAY 2: After breakfast at Coal Banks, pack up camp, practice canoeing skills, then start down river. Camp in the rich bottom lands along the river near the Eye of the Needle.
DAY 3: Enjoy the same white cliffs and scenic beauty that Lewis and Clark described as "scenes of visionary enchantment" when they first came through in 1805. Pass Citadel Rock and camp near the Hole in the Wall formation.
DAY 4: Spend most of the day paddling along the banks of the river. Camp at Slaughter River, where Lewis and Clark camped in 1805 on their way west and in 1806 on their return trip. Set up camp and read from Lewis and Clark's log.
DAY 5: Sleep in and enjoy a layover day at Slaughter River. Explore the geology of the river valley or search for wildlife. Take a dip in the river to cool off in the afternoon.
DAY 6: Look for big horn sheep along the bluffs as we paddle downstream toward Judith Landing, a historic area for the Blackfoot tribe, fur traders, and steamboats. Conclude the trip at Judith Landing after lunch. Those using WI's van transport can expect to return to Billings late that evening.
What To Expect
TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: The Missouri River flows through high prairie hills, covered by short grasses, sagebrush, and cottonwood trees along the riverbank. Generally speaking, the terrain is accessible, with sandy, level campsites and no portages. There are many steep cliffs where the river has cut channels and gullies in the soil and sandstone. The Missouri River offers a range of daily route options from very easy to moderate.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: You will travel in 17-foot Wenonah canoes, which hold two to three paddlers, plus all necessary gear. This is a great trip for beginners and seasoned paddlers. An average day's travel consists of 2-5 hours of paddling depending on the wind and weather. Travel distances run 10 to 14 miles per day with the exception of scheduled layover days. Hiking options will be available along the river. To protect the environment, WI uses "Leave No Trace" camping techniques.
WEATHER: Temperatures in the summer months range from 40 F in the evening to 100 F during the day. Rainfall can vary, and you should expect at least a day or two of rain. Strong head winds can also be a factor on this trip.
YOUR GROUP: The group size ranges from 10 to 14 participants, plus two or more Wilderness Inquiry staff. Each family group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds and abilities, including people with disabilities. The Missouri River is a kid-friendly vacation and also a great vacation with teenagers. Our trips are cooperative in nature. WI staff will assist you in whatever areas you need, however most people pitch in where they can. Part of the adventure involves learning about daily camp activities.
ACCOMMODATIONS: This is a family trip. At night you will sleep in a comfortable Eureka tent. Typically, there are 3 people per 4-person tent (although other arrangements can be made). Bathroom facilities consist of an outhouse or a foldable commode chair set up in a privacy tent. We make every effort to ensure privacy and cleanliness.
MEALS: The food we bring is plentiful, nutritious, and primarily vegetarian (because this keeps better than meat) and not to mention kid-friendly. You can expect meals like burritos, pesto pasta, and vegetable stir-fry for dinner; bagels and sandwiches for lunch; pancakes, french toast, oatmeal, and granola for breakfast. If you have special dietary restrictions, be sure to list them on your registration.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: Wilderness Inquiry will provide all necessary canoeing and camping equipment. All you need to provide is your personal gear, such as clothing and a sleeping bag. A detailed equipment list will be sent to you upon confirmation of your participation. If you need to borrow personal gear, that can usually be arranged.A note about the itinerary: Our trips are real adventures in the outdoors. While we'll make every effort to follow the itinerary listed here, elements may change due to weather or reasons beyond our control.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is your cancellation/refund policy?
Your 10% deposit is non-refundable. If you choose to cancel your trip:
For trips in the continental United States:
• 6 weeks prior to start date — we will refund fees paid minus deposit.
• Less than 6 weeks — we will refund 50% of the total trip fee, or 100% of fees paid can be transferred to a future trip.
• Less than 1 week— no refunds will be issued.
For trips outside the continental United States:
• 12 weeks prior to start date— we will refund fees paid minus deposit.
• Less than 12 weeks — we will refund 50% of the total trip fee, or 100% of fees paid can be transferred to a future trip.
• Less than 2 weeks — no refunds will be issued.
In the rare event that WI cancels a trip, or we are unable to serve you, all fees are immediately refunded, including the deposit. Unfortunately, we cannot be responsible for personal expenses such as airline tickets. To protect your investment in your travel plans we recommend purchasing travel insurance. Information on travel insurance is included in your trip confirmation packet. If after registering you wish to switch trips, you may do so subject to availability. Fees may apply.
Under certain circumstances, such as death of a family member, change in health status, loss of employment, etc., we may make exceptions to our refund policies. Please let us know immediately if your plans change!
Some of the trip information on your website is different than the trip catalog. Why?
WI typically creates and prints our annual trip catalog in December. At that time we do our best to have finalized trip itineraries and set our prices accordingly. However, sometimes there are changes to a trip that necessitate adjustments to our prices after the catalog has gone to print.
Would the Allagash and Missouri trips be appropriate for my 7 year-old son?
We recommend that kids 14 and younger go on a family trip. Both the Allagash and the Missouri trips are adult oriented. We do sometimes have adults bring kids with them on adult oriented trips - but typically these kids have lots of outdoor experience already, can canoe or kayak, and have done trips with groups of adults. Some kids are great in this type of environment; other kids do better if they have peers on a trip with them.
No Dates Scheduled
WI leads trips to the Missouri River but currently has no dates scheduled. If you have a group of 10 or more people interested, we can set up a customized adventure just for you! Click on the "Do a Custom Trip" button on the lower right hand side of this screen.
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