Missouri River Canoe Trip
Canoe trip on Montana's Missouri River
Lewis & Clark Expedition - Canoeing the Missouri River:
This family canoeing vacation traces the path of Lewis & Clark’s return voyage on the Missouri River in Montana. Guests paddle 34-foot voyageur canoes and a Lewis & Clark expert joins most trips to interpret and share information about the historic expedition. This is a gentle trip with great scenery and comfortable riverside camping.
Highlights include: visiting camps where Lewis & Clark stayed some 200 years ago, hiking incredible eroded sandstone crags, and exploring Native American cultural sites and pioneer homesteads. The weather and water is typically very warm and wildlife is abundant.
- Duration: 5 Days
- Length: 60 miles
- Intensity: Easy, Class I
- Season: June-September
- Minimum Age: 5
- Begins In: Great Falls, Montana
- Ends In: Great Falls, Montana
- Airport: Great Falls or Missoula, Montana
Grab a paddle and hop aboard one of ROW's 34-foot voyageur canoes to follow the Lewis and Clark Expedition along Montana's Missouri River. Lewis and Clark paddled these very waters on their historic expedition some 200 years ago.
This canoeing vacation is an ideal family trip that blends discovery and fun. Combining a Lewis and Clark history tour and scenic canoeing trip, you paddle, hike and explore as the "Corps of Discovery" wilderness adventure comes to life. You'll visit several camps where Lewis and Clark stayed, marvel at ancient Native American rock art and tipi rings, and ramble around long-abandoned homesteads where empty corrals, tool sheds and cabins look like the pioneering souls left only yesterday.
If rivers could talk, the Missouri would tell a story few other rivers could match. Upon its waters and banks was played the drama of every major theme of people's history on the Western Plains - the Indian cultures, white man's exploration, the fur trade, gold fever, the steamboat era, the collision of white expansion with the Indian's last stronghold and the resultant military occupation, and finally, the establishment of permanent white settlements, the range-cattle industry and farming. To help everyone learn about these themes in a fun, informative manner most departures are designated as "Journeys of Discovery" and are accompanied by talented authors and historians with specialized knowledge of the area. This factor alone sets ROW's Missouri River trips a world apart from most others.
To help bring a part of the river's history alive, you travel in 34' canoes that replicate those of the early voyageurs, or fur traders and are similar in size to the dugouts used by Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery. Each will carry up to 14 paddlers and two talented ROW guides, making the perfect platform for spinning yarns and pointing out the many points of interest along the way. For those who prefer a smaller craft, we offer the option of paddling a 17' Mad River canoe. The smooth and pleasant current with no rapids makes this a trip anyone in reasonable physical condition can enjoy.
The Missouri River's pleasant current makes this trip suitable for anyone in reasonable physical condition and is a great family vacation for paddlers age five and up. This canoe trip offers an intimate visit to the historic and scenic Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Our canoes replicate those of the early fur traders and make the perfect platform for spinning yarns as we float downstream.
From the launch at Coal Banks Landing, the river carries our canoes down a wide, meandering valley into the famous White Cliffs area. White Cliffs is a deep, rugged gorge where steep, eroded sandstone cliffs reach a height of nearly one thousand feet, revealing ten million years of geologic history. Wind and water have eroded the dazzling White Cliffs to create massive rock crags and carved castles that loom high above the river. A storybook of geology unfolds as we continue downstream from White Cliffs to the Missouri River Breaks.
Summer days are typically hot and dry and the cool river water welcomes swimmers. Each night we set up our luxury camp on the Missouri's riverbanks while golden eagles, hawks and falcons gracefully soar above. Cottonwood, juniper and pine grow along the Missouri River with sagebrush, cactus and wildflowers which provide food and shelter for beaver, prairie dogs, antelope, deer, elk and big horn sheep. Our 34-foot canoes each carry up to 14 paddlers and two talented ROW guides. Smaller 17-foot canoes are also available on the Missouri River canoe trip.
If you need to purchase some gear before your whitewater rafting trip, ROW has assembled the more common items at our ROWear online store, hosted by New Headings.
- Dates & Rates
- Below you will find all available instances of this trip. Roll over departure dates to see a complete list of departures. Roll over the demographic icons to get a brief overview of the demographic group.
Lewis & Clark Expedition - Canoeing the Missouri River
Day 0 - Travel from your home to Great Falls, Montana. Meet with ROW's team leader at a local hotel at 7:30 PM Pacific Time for a one hour orientation meeting to answer any last-minute questions and give you your waterproof bags to pack. Your adventure holiday has begun.
Day 1 - Depart at 7:30 AM in our bus for a two-hour ride to the canoeing trip launch point. Along the way we stop for a brief visit to Montana's first town, Fort Benton. From here we continue to "Decision Point" at the confluence of the Missouri and Marias rivers. We then proceed on to Coal Banks Landing where our staff prepares you with a thorough safety orientation while your personal gear is loaded onto our cargo raft. We launch on the river and enjoy paddling a few miles before stopping for a delicious riverside lunch. We travel between 8 and 11 miles the first day and arrive at camp around 4:30 PM. After you carry your personal gear to the tent of your choice, enjoy free time for swimming, hiking, reading or just relaxing. Hors d'oeuvres are served around 6:00 followed by dinner around 7:30. After dinner a campfire is lit and an evening of laughter and sharing begins.
Day 2 - We wake you around 7:00 AM with the smell of fresh-brewed coffee. Breakfast is served around 7:30 and while we clean up the kitchen you pack up your personal gear. The canoes and cargo raft are loaded and we depart from camp about 9:30 for an adventure-packed day of canoeing, great Western scenery and fun. Soon we arrive at Eagle Creek where Lewis and Clark camped on the night of May 31, 1805. We spend several hours hiking in the vicinity of Eagle Creek and Neat Coulee. After lunch we paddle downstream passing Citadel Rock, a massive igneous intrusion immortalized by German Prince Maximilian's artist Karl Bodmer in 1833. We arrive in camp by 4:00 PM with plenty of time to hike to the "Hole-in-the-Wall," swim and relax. After dinner and the evening campfire, watch for a glorious star-studded sky.
Day 3 - We proceed on the mighty Missouri, at times paddling and others just drifting with the gentle current. The impressive landmarks of Steamboat Rock and Dark Butte loom on the horizon. We pass the May 30, 1805 camp of Lewis and Clark. They stopped here after a miserable, rainy day on which they only made 5.4 miles. We stop at one or two pioneer homesteads and imagine life 100 years ago. Eagles soar overhead. In the late afternoon we pass Slaughter River where Lewis and Clark camped on both their upstream and downstream journeys. It's a satisfying day of history, paddling and nature. Tonight's camp is within walking distance of a prairie dog town and with binoculars and a spotting scope we can observe their antics and social behavior. Enjoy another night of camaraderie and sharing.
Day 4 - As we float today we hear the remarkable Indian legend about Arrow River. The river canyon widens and we float through the Judith Basin where the first military post, Camp Cooke, existed from 1866-1870. The Judith Basin was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 because of its rich history. Within a few miles we enter the Missouri River Breaks and a completely new landscape. Tonight's camp features a superb mud bath, excellent hiking opportunities and is our last night on the river.
Day 5 - You may hike downstream a mile, or float, to the Hagadone Homestead where we explore old horse-drawn farm implements, the original homestead cabin and pioneer life. After a few more miles we stop for lunch then continue to our take-out point at the Stafford/McClelland Ferry, arriving around 2:00 PM. We carry personal gear to the waiting bus and climb aboard for a three-hour drive back to Great Falls. Enjoy a hot shower and change of cloths and then meet your guides for ROW's hosted dinner at a local restaurant around 7:00 PM.
Day 6 - If you drove to Great Falls your car is patiently waiting for you. If you are flying, take the hotel shuttle 10 minutes to the Great Falls airport.
Permits & Licenses:
ROW Inc., doing business as ROW Adventures, is proud to be an Equal Opportunity recreation service provider under permit from the Bureau of Land Management. Our Upper Missouri River trips are operated under permit from the Judith Resource Area of the BLM. All our operations and facilities are operated on a non-discriminatory basis.
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