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Canoeing in the Wild and Scenic Upper Missouri River Wilderness (5-nights)

Program Number: 19801RJ
Start and End Dates:
8/4/2013 - 8/9/2013;
Duration: 5 nights
Location: Fort Benton, Montana
Price starting at: $1,475.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Water Sports Activity Level: t (see description)
Meals: 14; 5 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

Journey back in time as you explore by canoe 41 miles of the pristine wilderness where Lewis and Clark were awed by the beautiful White Cliffs stretch of the Missouri River. Professional educators challenge your mind and body with canoeing and hiking by day and a chef replenishes them with a gourmet dinner each night.


• Canoe the Upper Missouri River and discover its White Cliffs that are inaccessible except by canoe, camping at one of the exact sites as the Lewis & Clark Expedition.
• Miles from civilization, savor the silence, view abundant wildlife and bask under a canopy of a million stars.
• In this designated Wild and Scenic area, hike into a slot canyon and view Native American pictographs.

Activity Particulars

Canoe four hours a day on flat water, with the current, in a two-person canoe with three seats. No prior experience required. Hiking up to 2.5 miles, some climbing over rocks.

All canoeing and camping supplies provided. An extended 7-night version of this program is also available: 20626. For details, see or call toll free at (877) 426-8056.

Itinerary Summary

Arrival Fort Benton, Mont., 1 night; coach to Missouri River, camping, 3 nights; coach to Fort Benton, 1 night; departure.

Coordinated by Road Scholar.

Fort Benton

Originally the last fur trading post on the Upper Missouri River, Fort Benton was once an important hub for steamboats carrying goods, merchants, miners and settlers from New Orleans, Memphis and St. Louis. The town’s National Historic Landmark District was established in 1961 and today explorers of the Upper Missouri use Fort Benton as their base.

Missouri River

 This unspoiled land of Montana’s Missouri River country is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts with a spirit of adventure. Antelope, whitetail and mule deer, elk, turkey and other game abound. It’s also a historic place where you can follow the trail of Lewis & Clark and maybe even stumble upon a world-class dinosaur fossil.

First and last nights at historic Grand Union Hotel; Camping in double-occupancy, two-person tents with cots. Single upgrade for hotel nights only.
Meals and Lodgings
   Grand Union Hotel
  Fort Benton, Montana 1 night
   Camping along the Missouri River
  Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River 3 nights
   Grand Union Hotel
  Fort Benton, Montana 1 night
 Grand Union Hotel
Type: Boutique Hotel
  Description: The Grand Union Hotel's history began in 1882, just 36 years after Fort Benton was founded and 7 years before Montana became a state, and was built at the height of Fort Benton's prosperity and the steamboat era on the Upper Missouri River. It ran continuously for over 100 years, then remained empty for over a decade until it was elegantly restored to its original splendor in 1999.

The Grand Union Hotel provides 26 exquisitely restored rooms, many of which enjoy a view of the Missouri River and park. Guestrooms are accessed by either the original black walnut grand staircase or by elevator. The hotel has a riverside restaurant with seasonal outdoor dining, a lively brewpub and a unique gift shop. Due to its award winning restoration, the Grand Union Hotel has preserved the historical character of Montana's oldest operating hotel and one of its most famous landmarks.

  Contact info: 1 Grand Union Square
Fort Benton, MT 59442 USA
phone: 888-838-1882
  Room amenities: Each room has a deluxe private bath, direct dial phone with voice mail, auto wake-up, wireless internet, cable television, writing desk, and individually controlled heating and air conditioning.
  Facility amenities: The hotel has a riverside restaurant with seasonal outdoor dining, a lively brewpub and a unique gift shop.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: contact hotel for current rate Additional nights are available pre and post trip; contact hotel for information
  Check in time: 4:00 PM
  Additional nights after: contact hotel for current rate Additional nights are available pre and post trip; contact hotel for information
  Check out time: 11:00 AM

 Camping along the Missouri River
Type: Tents
  Description: The nights camping will be spent alongside the river. Each tent will house two people. The tents are Springbar Outfitter 3. Each night the group will be camping at a different location. See itinerary for additional information.
  Contact info: N/A
phone: 999-999-9999
  Room amenities: Please note that the first and last nights of the program are at the lovely Grand Union Hotel, and the nights in between will be camping along the Upper Missouri River. Double or single occupancy can be booked for hotel nights but camping nights are double occupancy only (in two-person tents).
  Smoking allowed: No
  Bathroom: The outfitters carry a portable folding toilet and privacy tent. However, the camp sites we’re staying at have vaulted toilet sites maintained be the BLM. Campgrounds do not have showers. There will be opportunities to rinse off in the river.

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
Hotel check in and program registration begins at 4:00 PM. Program orientation begins at 5:30 PM. You will be staying at Grand Union Hotel that night.
  End of Program:
After breakfast. Shuttle to Great Falls departs at 9:00 AM. You will be staying at Grand Union Hotel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required. The Missouri River Outfitters requires a signed waiver for each participant. Please return this form to the Road Scholar office in advance of the program. We will turn in completed forms as a group.
  Parking availability:
Parking is free at the hotel, however, if parked for more than two nights, a ticket may be issued. There is a town parking lot a short distance down river from the hotel. We suggest you leave your car there while the group is away from the hotel.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Fort Benton, Montana
  Nearest city or town:  Fort Benton
  Nearest highway: Highway 87
  Nearest airport:  Great Falls, Montana
  From End of Program
  Location: Fort Benton, Montana
    (Additional transportation information same as above)
Travel Details

Fort Benton from Great Falls


From Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Missouri River Outfitters
phone: 866-282-3295
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


$25 one way, per person
Prices are subject to change.




45 miles


Please contact Missouri River Outfitters BEFORE making your flight arrangements. The best arrival time is most likely between 12:00 and 2:00 PM.


Fort Benton to Great Falls


To Airport




Commercial Van/Shuttle
Missouri River Outfitters
phone: 866-282-3295
Advanced Reservations Required


Per Person/One Way:


$25 one way, per person
Prices are subject to change.




45 miles


The shuttle will depart the hotel at 9:00 AM the last day of the program. Please book flights out of Great Falls no earlier than 1:00 PM. Contact Missouri River Outfitters in advance to reserve your spot.

Driving Directions
  Grand Union Hotel (Fort Benton, MT) from Great Falls Airport Head southeast on Airport Ave B toward Airport Dr (85 ft) Take the 1st right onto Airport Dr (0.5 mi) Turn left to merge onto I-15 N (0.9 mi) Take exit 278 to merge onto I-15 BUS/MT-200 E/US-89 S/Country Club Blvd toward 10th Ave S Continue to follow MT-200 E/US-89 S (3.3 mi) Turn left at US-87 N/15th St S Continue to follow US-87 N (38.6 mi) Turn right at State Hwy 386 (1.4 mi) Continue onto St Charles St (0.2 mi) Turn right at 14th St (0.3 mi) Continue onto Grand Union Square Hotel will be on the right (82 ft)
Equipment Requirements: All river equipment (canoes, paddles, life vests, tents, cots, sleeping bags, dry bags, pillows) is provided by outfitter. Participants will need to bring only the clothing preferred for hikes, swimming, canoeing and sleeping.
The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Orientation/Missouri River Historical Presentation
(Sunday, August 4)
 Afternoon: Check-in & Registration at the lovely historic Grand Union Hotel begin at 4:00 PM, followed by program orientation with our group leader and Mike and Meredith Gregston of the Missouri River Outfitters at 5:30 PM.

Our outfitters have been lauded by famed Lewis and Clark scholar, Stephen Ambrose, who even mentioned them in his work "Undaunted Courage," saying "The White Cliffs can be seen only from small boat or canoe. Put in at Fort Benton and take out three or four days later at Judith Landing. Missouri River Outfitters...rents canoes or provides a guided tour...of all the historic and/or scenic sights we have visited in the world, this is number one. We have made the trip ten times."

 Dinner: A delightful welcome dinner at the Grand Union Hotel
 Evening: Our group leader and history professor from the University of Billings, Dr. Keith Edgerton, will orient us to our upcoming adventure with a regional and historical overview this evening.

Then relax, and get to know your fellow adventurers on the patio at the Grand Union.

Accommodations: Grand Union Hotel
Meals Included: Dinner

Day 2: On the River/View Native American Habitation/Geology Overview/Coal Banks Landing/Camp Where Lewis & Clark Camped
(Monday, August 5)
 Breakfast: Enjoy a hearty breakfast to set us off right on our adventure!
 Morning: Load vans/school bus for travel to Coal Banks Landing, the departure point, a trip of about 40 miles. History overview along the way includes stopping at the junction of the Marias and Missouri Rivers (Lewis and Clark “Decision Point”) a beautiful, scenic and strategic place where the expedition spent nearly 10 days in 1805 determining which river fork to take.

Even if you've never been in a canoe before, our expert guides will show you the ropes and you'll be comfortable by noon!

Our expert team of guides includes Professor Keith Edgerton, with a PhD in History from the University of Montana-Billings, Renee Macdonald, with an MA in teaching; and Nicole Warren, an educator.

 Lunch: Lunch at Coal Banks Landing
 Afternoon: After our delightful lunch, load canoes and depart on the river. We will be flowing with the current the entire journey. Along the way we will stop and view Native American habitation sites and we will have geology overview discussions at several key spots.
 Dinner: Gourmet dinner provided by Meredith, one of our outfitters and former gourmet chef.
 Evening: Camp at Eagle Creek in the precise spot that the expedition camped, May 31, 1805, facing the famed White Cliffs of the Missouri, and experience what Lewis called “scenes of visionary enchantment.” We’ll spend plenty of time talking, reading, journaling and reflecting around the campfire at night. It is one of the most beautiful and enchanting spots in America enhanced considerably by the care and attention provided by the Missouri River Outfitters. One has not truly lived until they’ve been served fresh brie and chilled chardonnay while lounging in a camp chair, ankle deep in the refreshing waters of the Upper Missouri River.
Accommodations: Camping along the Missouri River
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Eagle Creek Hike/Native American Pictographs/Wildlife Viewing/Bald Eagle Nesting/Hole in the Wall
(Tuesday, August 6)
 Breakfast: Full delightful breakfast to start our day of adventure on the river.
 Morning: Spend the morning at Eagle Creek including hiking into several natural geological wonders in the small canyons above the campground. Also view some fascinating Native American pictographs.

We'll do an incredible hike through a slot canyon behind our campsite of about 2.5 miles round trip....up and over several small rocks, that require us to "scramble" and help each other.

Although it's always optional, everyone wants to take this hike which runs through river bottom and into the river sandstone that abuts the river. (Even those with knee and hip replacements find no problem on this hike!)

 Lunch: Lunch at Eagle Creek
 Afternoon: After breaking camp, we’ll canoe downriver to Hole-in-the-Wall campground; this particular spot offers the best swimming and star-gazing on the upper Missouri. Abundant wildlife viewing opportunities, including numerous bald eagle nesting sights. Every day there will be water birds galore, including the majestic and ubiquitous Missouri River pelicans.
 Dinner: Another sumptuous dinner by our chef extraordinaire.
 Evening: Camp at Hole in the Wall. In the evening around the campfire we’ll talk more of the regional history, the geology, and the Native American perspective on the land that surrounds us.
Accommodations: Camping along the Missouri River
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: Hike to Famed "Hole-in-the-Wall"/Canoe to Lewis & Clark Campsite- Slaughter River; Hike to Abandoned Homestead
(Wednesday, August 7)
 Breakfast: Another hearty breakfast of Chef Meredith's gourmet design!
 Morning: Hike up to the famed "Hole-in-the-Wall," a natural feature in which a window has, over eons, been carved through the sandstone. Don't forget to bring your camera!
 Lunch: Lunch after a nice hike - time to delight your palate!
 Afternoon: Canoe through the seemingly endless white cliffs of the upper Missouri to Slaughter River campground, a place where the Lewis and Clark expedition camped twice on its journey - once on its way to the Pacific in May of 1805 and then again on its return in July of 1806. Our educators and guides have much to say about this spectacular piece of history, viewed from the exact location where these hardy explorers camped.
 Dinner: Dinner preceded by happy hour and appetizers.
 Evening: Take an early evening hike to an abandoned homestead. Then swim, read, write, reflect, socialize and sing on our last night in this pristine wilderness. How exquisite it is to feel like you are a million miles from civilization.
Accommodations: Camping along the Missouri River
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: Canoe to Judith Landing/Journey through Montana Ranch Country by Van/Relax at the Historic Grand Union Hotel
(Thursday, August 8)
 Breakfast: Leisurely breakfast on the banks of the Missouri
 Morning: Break camp and canoe to our take out point at Judith Landing with several stops for historic overviews along the way.
 Lunch: Lunch at Judith Landing
 Afternoon: Load gear on shuttles/bus (air-conditioned) and then travel back to Fort Benton, a trip of about 2 hours, with approximate arrival time of 4:00pm. Along the way we'll journey through authentic Montana ranch country at the base of the beautiful and historic Bears Paw Mountains, near which famed Nez Perce Chief Joseph surrendered to the United States Army in 1877 proclaiming, "I shall fight no more forever." Our educators will paint a historical picture of this beautiful country and its lore as we travel.
 Dinner: Check in at the Grand Union and grab a nice shower before dinner. Outfitters will deliver non-river luggage to you. Refreshments will precede our dinner on the patio next to the Missouri River.
 Evening: Evening relaxation and time to recall our journey's delights!
Accommodations: Grand Union Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: Farewell/Shuttle Back to Great Falls
(Friday, August 9)
 Breakfast: Sumptuous breakfast at the historic Grand Union.
 Morning: Missouri River Outfitters will provide shuttle service to the Great Falls airport ($25 per person). Plan your airline departure time after 1:00 PM, as shuttles will depart Fort Benton about 9:00 AM. You'll arrive at the airport with ample time to go through the security check.
Meals Included: Breakfast

Free Time Opportunities
  Fort Benton, Montana Fort Benton Chamber of Commerce
Visit the Fort Benton Chamber of Commerce for information on the town history and things to do and see. For additional information, visit
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Suggested Reading List

Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Related Documents

Author: Donald Jackson

Description: All of the other miscellaneous material related to the expedition.

Lewis and Clark Among the Indians

Author: James P. Ronda

Lewis and Clark: Pioneering Naturalists

Author: Paul Russell Cutright

Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery

Author: Dayton Duncan & Ken Burns

Lewis and Clark: Voyage of Discovery

Author: Ambrose

Description: National Geographic coffee table book that serves as a visual companion to Undaunted Courage.

Only One Man Died: The Medical Aspects of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Author: Eldon G. Chuinard

Passage Through the Garden: Lewis and Clark and the Image of the American Northwest

Author: John Logan Allen

Description: A good analysis of geography and cartography before, during and after the expedition.

The Journals of Lewis and Clark

Author: Bernard DeVoto

The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition: Volumes 2 – 11

Author: Gary Moulton

The Journey of the Corps of Discovery (PBS)

Author: Ken Burns

Description: 2 part series on video.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West

Author: Stephen E. Ambrose

Voyages of Discovery: Essays on the Lewis and Clark Expedition

Author: James Ronda

Description: Some recent and classic essays on many different aspects of the expedition.

We Proceeded On

Author: Caroline Patterson ed.

Description: This journal is solely dedicated to aspects of Lewis and Clark.

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