Canoe trip through the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument


The Route:
Coal Banks to Kipp Landing

106 miles by water

Jim Bailey 
Jeff Bailey 
Mike Reilly  
Tom Kaminski
Bob Alspaugh

Mike Alspaugh
Hans Krohn
Bill Yacovissi

Pictures Expand When Clicked On.  Click here for a musical slide show of the trip.

Two days of travel finally had us arrive at Johnsons Campground in St. Mary Montana.

Next morning we drove to the Many Glaciers Area of Glacier NP to hike the Grinnell Glacier Trail. 
After relatively flat ground around the lakes the trail begins to climb.
Jeff, Mike, and Tom continue up the trail.
The trail become steeper and climbs even more as you look down on Grinnell Lake.
The trail is a little unnverving along this waterfall. 
A moose is heading downhill toward the lake.
Grinnell glacier is the long ice sheet in front of the cliff.  A sizable waterfall is flowing from the glacier.
After a long and hard hike you come up the the glacier and the lake trapped between it and the morraine.
On the way back we encountered a herd of mountain sheet climbing back up the mountain.
After the hike we enjoyed the atmosphere of the Many Glaciers Hotel.
We regrouped on the deck and after a brew headed to Great Falls.
We stayed in a couple of cabins in the Great Falls KOA.
We began the second part of the trip with a visit to the Lewis and Clark Center in Great Falls.

On June 13 Lewis arrived at the Great Falls of the Missouri River, but to his astonishment there were five separate falls, not one as the Indians had said—and they went on for a 12-mile stretch.

More than a month would pass before the expedition was around the Great Falls and onto the next stretch of navigable water. Beyond rose the Rocky Mountains.

After the L&C Center we drove to Fort Benton to meet the outfitter and then to Coal Banks to begin the canoe trip.
It was good to finally get into the canoes and start down river.
Mike looks happy to be in the canoe and on the river.
Hans and Tom are also launched and underway.
Bob and Mike are fully loaded and underway as well.
Jim and Jeff start down the Missouri River beginning a 106 mile trip.
There were large herds of cattle along the river at the beginning of the trip.

This picture near Eagle Creek is reminiscent of the Karl Bodmer painting.

In 1833, Prince Maximilian zu Wied, named the doorway of this strange world the White Castles,

“Two towers, crowning hills on the south bank adorned with windows.” “Here, on both sides of the river, the most strange forms are seen, and you may fancy that you see, colonnades, small round pillers with large globes or a flat slabe at the top, little towers, pulpits, organs with their pipes, old ruins, fortresses, castles, churches with pointed towers…

Our first night's camp at Eagle Creek, river mile 56.0.  It was a little strange to camp in the grass as it was not what we were used to.
Next morning we took a hike up Neat Coulee.
The going got tough in the slot canyon after awhile. 

There were lots of bald eagles along the river for most of the trip. 

Lacking trees in the grasslands they mostly perched on the rock formations.

You actually miss the portaging when you don't have to do any.  There's no chance to get out of the canoe and stretch.  Of course if there are portages we would complain about those as well.
I thought the scenery on the trip was beautiful if somewhat subdued.
A typical lunch break along the river.

There were Lewis and Clark campsite markers that marked the day the Corps of Discovery camped at a particular location.  I thought it was neat to find these but they were not easy to find as most were buried in the bushes. 

As you can see Lewis and Clark camped here on May 5, 1805.

Periodically we would pass abondoned homestead and ranches.

Our second night's camp at Slaughter River mile 76.8 on the river.

It was a nice camp with benches and a shelter as you can see.

The McClelland/Stafford Ferry at river mile 101.8 is still in service.

It reminded me of the ferry in True Grit.

Our third nights camp at McGarry Bar river mile 103.3. 


I walked up a bluff behind the camp and got this picture.  It provides a nice view of the overall setting of the camp.

This was a very nice camp as you can see.

This picture is looking downstream from the top of the bluff.

We stopped at the Middleton Homestead to look around for awhile.

It is strange to think of someone living here, isolated along the river, ecking out a living from the land.

Our fourth nights camp at Lower Woodhawk, river mile 131.2.
The next morning we launched the canoes to complete the trip.

Our final camp at the Kipp takeout river mile 149.

This turned out to not be a good way to end the trip.  We got there in the early afternoon.  The trip was over and everyone was ready to head home but we had to wait until 10 am the next morning to be picked up by the outfitter.  It was hot with lots of bugs and nothing to do. 

Next morning we were picked up and returned to Fort Benton, drove back to Spokane for the flight home the next morning.

The End