Category Archives: Paddling

The Penultimate Day on the Missouri

I arrived in Three Forks, MT a little before noon to meet the owner of a storage facility.  Before the meeting, I scoped out the area to find the best way to get the canoe and all of the gear to the water.  The Jefferson River runs just north of the storage facility, but with no public access until further downstream.  The Madison River public access is two miles east of the facility.  Both access points were similar distances.  Do I drop the canoe and gear at one of the rivers, drive to the storage facility, leave the truck and walk the two miles, or is it best to unload at the storage facility and carry the gear the two miles.  This was my dilemma.

When I met the owner of the facility, I was surprised when he said that his land   was adjacent to the Jefferson and he would let me drop the canoe there and then give me a lift from the facility back to the water.  That is exactly what we did, with only minor difficulty.

We drove to his back pasture as close to the water as possible before parking and unloading.  The river was maybe 200 yards from where we parked; through thick, tall grasses, through a gate, and across a deep ditch.  It took four trips to get everything to the river.  I packed way too much stuff, probably not, but it seemed like so much more than I take on the bike. 

Everything stowed, it was time to shove off.

I managed to paddle eight miles that day.  I was on the river for about five hours, so you can do the math.  I could have walked that distance in less time.  I enjoyed the short time on the Jefferson.  The water was only a foot or two deep and clear enough to see all the moss covered stones as I flew by. Along the edge of the river were large carp hiding in the shallow weeds.

Walking the canoe.

I had a couple of hours of sunlight left and intended on going several more miles but the wind had other plans. It was blowing so strong that I couldn’t keep the boat straight in the water and eventually was unable to make forward progress, so I got out and walked. I stopped next to railroad tracks and found a flat place to set up camp. My tent was set up under a tall embankment which I hoped would buffer me from the noise of the trains that came by every two hours.

Dinner consisted of a Gatorade and a bag of vegetable korma. Should’ve known then something was off when I poured most of the dinner in the river. As I sat there adding foam cushioning to the seat I felt a wave of despair pour over my body like it was injected into my bloodstream. My thought was, “How can I feel low while listening to Harry Potter?”, so that is what I did until falling asleep.

Missouri Headwaters

It has been nearly two years since my last post.  Since then, I took the Morgan down the Mississippi transferring to the Atchafalaya and then getting on the ICW.  This landed me in Pensacola, where my engine stopped working.  There we have been, unable to get it running.

I found a teaching job and worked to put money back into the adventure fund, while completing projects on the boat and trying to figure out the engine.  It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I got the engine pulled out and to a mechanic, who informed me that I needed a new one.  So, it is time for a vacation.

On my bucket list was to float the Arkansas River.  Having seen the headwaters of the Arkansas, I knew that meant many miles of walking in dry river beds.  When I set out on the Morgan, I had considered taking a smaller boat from Lake Ouachita, following the Ouachita River to the Gulf of Mexico.  I considered that again, but wanted to go bigger.  That is when I learned about the Milk River in northern Montana. 

The Milk River meanders its way North across the Canadian border, following the border West for a couple hundred miles before going South.  It feeds into the Missouri and empties into the Gulf.  For the past few months I have been gearing up and outfitting a canoe that could comfortably make the three to four month journey.

Up until a few days ago, the plan was to drive across the border, drop the canoe and gear, drive back across the border, leave the truck in storage, walk back across the border and have a local guide drive me to the river where the canoe would be stashed.  I made it to Kansas before realizing I had left my passport at home (Arkansas).  Options were to drive back and get it, have it mailed to Montana, start south of the border, or choose a completely different river. I chose a completely different river. I am now in Bozeman, MT and the plan is to drop the truck at a storage facility in Three Forks, MT, which is only 0.9 miles from the Jefferson River. The Jefferson River, Madison River, and Gallatin River are the three forks that merge to form the Missouri River. I will now be floating the Missouri headwaters, which so many people advised me to do in the beginning.