Missouri Breaks Canoe Trip May 19-23 2014

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Missouri Breaks Canoe Trip May 20-23, 2014

Originally we planned a week on the river and to start from Fort Benton MT. But on closer examination the first 40 miles are ranchland. I have seen enough cows and camping on private property doesn’t appeal to me.

We started at Coal Banks Landing which has a campground for organizing the night before. We had arranged to shuttle our car down to James Kipp Recreational area on Monday the 19[SUP]th[/SUP]. We had established a camp at Coal Banks Landing, then drove to Ft. Benton to meet our shuttle driver ( 40 miles the OTHER way) then we caravanned to Kipp some 200 miles away by road. Montana is surely BIG wide open spaces with very few roads! The driver brought us back to our camp at Coal Banks. The whole process took a whole day.
Very few people had been on the river since the floods of March 2014.. We were two of the first. Damage was huge especially below Judith Landing where we found trees ice scored some forty feet up. As a sidenote the facilities at Judith Landing and Kipp are damaged.. No water is available and there is dried mud everywhere.

Here is a Bureau of Land Management Bulletin from this spring
http://www.blm.gov/mt/st/en/info/newsroom/2014/march/flooding_affects_blm.html
We did find Judith Landing open sans water and the same for Kipp where we stayed the last night. I have nothing but good things to say about BLM management and the rangers. More on that later.
Overview of a Missouri Breaks canoe trip.
http://www.uppermissouri.com/segments.htm
On our shuttle the driver ( a retired local teacher ) pointed out that schools used to be placed every ten miles in this part of Montana. Here is one.



Coal Banks Landing campground has a nice visitors center with shaded porch and rockers. We’d come in future days to cherish shade. It was scorching hot. I react to hot by sleeping.




The view from the campsite the morning of launch



Yep there is a large ranch there. And the din from nesting Canada Geese is driving me nuts. The first section is White Cliffs.. we spend two nights and three days passing through. We do 10 mph when paddling..the river is MOVING.
At first there is evidence of ranching



Then none









Hmmmmm literally







Someone used to live here








The Citadel



First camp some 20 odd miles downstream at Hole in the Wall


We really like the shade shelters.. there are two for four parties. There are two vault toilets here too.


Someone burned down the campsite from an out of control campfire about two years ago. So the cottonwoods are gone. BLM has replanted but before their summer crews are out they request help. Here is my hubby watering one of 40 saplings with the supplied bucket. He had to traipse to the river for each refill.



Heres the real Hole in the Wall


Back on the river

Old homestead



Wonderful formations


This one is actually current!

We welcome the next BLM shelter at Slaughter Bottom. This is where I found a prairie Rattlesnake. I had a hiking cane and used it in my old age. I tapped the ground with the cane and the snake rattled back. Repeated... I couldn't see the dam snake so I retreated.





White Pelicans! They breed here too! I still think of pelicans as a southern bird. We are less than 75 miles from the border of Saskatchewan.
 
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Part two... stomping through ruins with the risk of snakebite tomorrow. I really like how you can travel back in time and reflect in history via canoe.

You'd miss all this in a car..

The second leg from Judith Landing to James Kipp Rec Area really showed the effects of this years flood in March.
 
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We have hordes of Pelicans in Manitoba, I have seen them as far north as the Bloodvein. Still really don't believe it since I always thought of them as a southern bird.
 
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You are really getting to see some spectacular stuff! So different from a normal canoe trip up here…I found a huge breeding colony of pelicans (probably around 300) at the North end of Flemming Lake, which is about 50 miles north of me, so there are lots of them in the north. Keep those pictures coming!
 
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For a sec I thought you'd mixed in a Florida pic, but remembered seeing pelicans in Manitoba. Brown or white? I don't recall. That white cliffs formation is tremendous. Your campsite downstream from hole in the wall had an awesome view. Camping at sites once occupied by Lewis and Clark must be a thrill. History (anyones) adds an exciting dimension to places. How do those shelters work? Are they kitchen/sun shelters only, or are they sleeping quarters? I guess you need to bring along potable water? Great looking trip YC. Thanks for sharing.
 
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Part two... stomping through ruins with the risk of snakebite tomorrow. I really like how you can travel back in time and reflect in history via canoe.


The second leg from Judith Landing to James Kipp Rec Area really showed the effects of this years flood in March.

Tomorrow? I not sure I can wait that long dammit. That trip is on the bucket list. Maybe fall would be a better season? (Provided the high water ice damage is rectified).

You'd miss all this in a car.

If perchance you headed back east along Rte 2 you know there are other things you miss in a car. Like gas stations spaced closer then every 200 miles.

That town on the map named Bumfark Corners? It’s an abandoned silo at a dirt crossroad. Keep going. How’s the gas?
 
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You do get to look at a lot of this



I forgot at the outset to mention that a stop at the BLM office in Fort Benton is a must. They have a guidebook for the Coal Banks Landing to Judith Landing section and another for the section between Judith and Kipp. This outlines where campsites ought to be and what facilities are offered. Each book is four bucks. You can camp most anywhere except on private property ( and you can do that if you can get permission from the owner..good luck FINDING the owner). However the prairie rattler is something to consider. I met one and frankly arranging a tent around sagebrush where they are is not my idea of fun. Better to have grassy sites that have been used before.

Because cattle use the river too and there are pesticides and mining runoff, drinking river water is not recommended. We carried water. You are required to carry a toilet too. ( with all the cattle this does not make sense to me..and the geese ought to have to use toilets too). Wag bags to the rescue with the five gallon bucket with toilet lid. It worked just fine.

Some sites do have enclosed vault toilets. Very nice.
 
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What happens to the wag bags? Do you carry them along with you or dispose of them some way along the route?
 
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Judith Landing to James Kipp Rec area.

Judith Landing to James Kipp Rec area.

Of course the Missouri was important to Lewis and Clark. Along the way campsites occasionally jibe with the Corps of Discovery campsites. There are markers like this.

One of the books we took for history is titled "Montana's Wild and Scenic Upper Missouri River". It documents the history of the river at various places. I was amazed at the work the Corps of Discovery had to do.. going upriver.. Also discusses Native American history.

http://www.amazon.com/Montanas-Scenic-Upper-Missouri-River/dp/0971121400




The old general store at Judith Landing. Nothing for sale now.





Old homestead, Log and Milled lumber addition. This section of the river is full of old abandoned homesteads and its called the Badlands. Note the canyon walls..







Yes I did want this stove!




Hagedon Homestead . On the National Register of Historic places.. but the floor is iffy!



No I would NOT want to sleep in that bed!





I wonder if the coffee is still good? MJB Brand..





Two holer but I did not try it..



Spectacular campsite at McGarry Bar



Many many greens.. Not so many flowers as in the desert!



Another homestead. I read most of the homesteaders were single men.. they had a hard time persuading gals to live in this country. Some of the homesteads were quite recent.. I wasn't aware that the peak homesteading boom was in the 1920s.




The Gist homestead.. lots of buildings here.. This is just one

Thats at mile 123.. we should have camped there.. and didn't Then we ran into erosion problems.. mud and steep banks.



I suspect the fall would be a fine time to float though from what I read there can be boat dragging then. We just had high water and we could see lots of snow in the Montana mountains. Yellowstone was still packed in snow. This year the flood was the largest they have ever had. Ice scarred trunks twenty feet up.


Here is the outfitter we used for shuttle.. and a description of the various segments

http://www.uppermissouri.com/segments.htm
 
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What happens to the wag bags? Do you carry them along with you or dispose of them some way along the route?


Dispose of them as you would dirty diapers. They are double bagged and don't leak. I didn't carry them 2000 miles home. For a closer to home trip, I would just put them in household trash... Or recycle way in the woods.
 
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Absolutely great report and pics.
Here's the Co. that my we used about ten years ago. http://www.canoemontana.com/faq.htm
Very personalized service with a B&B + fully resored homestead cabins to stay in before or after a trip. The place is right on the river, high enough to not be harmed by floods, and not in a town setting. They gave use a wealth of local info, we just parked our car on their property and they came and picked up us up from our agreed upon pick up point in their van, saving us many miles of dirt road travel at trip end.
The best part was we just called a few days before and they supplied everything food, frozen gal jugs of water, etc.
 
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Yeah Virgelle is right next to Coal Banks and we would use them next time. We didn't mind the camping at Coal Banks and Kipps though. The last day we easily did 46 miles on the river. Most folks don't want to move that fast but the temp was close to 100 off river.

There were no bugs on our trip at all. Just be mindful of snakes.
 
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I enjoyed your pictures and report, I didn't know much about the river and found your pictures told an interesting story. Thanks for sharing it.
 
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Enjoyed your report. Different type of country than most of us are used to. I guess that's what makes it attractive.
 
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I liked the Missouri Breaks but it did not grab me as a northern trip or Florida or the Green River did.. Glad we did it as part of a package.
 
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I forgot to include the beer issue. We had two six packs of Moose Drool. We had planned on a week out. So how to keep it cold especially when I neglected to buy ice? The area has low humidity. High near 90 at day and in the forties at night.

We had a little cooler. During the day the beer was wrapped in wet towels in the cooler. On arrival at camp I opened the cooler and put it with the beer in it still wrapped in towels in the shade. At night we left the top off the cooler too. Rewet the towels in the morning as much evaporation doesn't happen at night.

Evaporative cooling works really well in an arid climate. The Moose Drool was not cold but cellar temperature.

http://www.beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/751/2296/
 
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I liked the Missouri Breaks but it did not grab me as a northern trip or Florida or the Green River did.. Glad we did it as part of a package.

I got that sense from your trip report and find myself struggling with the dilemma of incomparables; coming off 6 weeks in the desert southwest and 3 weeks on the Green and trying to decide where to go next that won’t be something of a letdown.

I may resolve that by heading for someplace that holds more in the way of mind blowing memories than mind blowing scenery.

How about a report/photos of your Green River trip?
 
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It will be a while. Three weeks of canoeing events. Starting tomorrow. I have lots and lots of pics...some need some editing. I would like to see some others trips too.

With the new format its not easy for me to find what is currently active. Todays Posts dont capture activity. Not till I get to the dam message center and the dam subscriptions can I find what people are replying to.

It seems activity is WAY down.
 
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What an amazing variety of paddling options we have. Yet all it takes is a canoe and some time, and we can all enjoy it. Thanks for the report.
 
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