Canoeing in the Wild and Scenic Upper Missouri River Wilderness
Canoe and hike in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark as you explore preserved wilderness, discover Native American pictographs, learn about local wildlife and camp out under the stars.
Program No. 20626RJ
8 days
Starts at
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8 days
7 nights
20 meals
7 B 6 L 7 D
Getting There
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Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner, Program Overview
Fort Benton, Montana
Grand Union Hotel

Activity note: Hotel check in from 4:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Hotel Check-in: Begins at 4:00PM at the lovely historic Grand Union Hotel. Program Check-in: After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table to check-in with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule, and other important information. If your arrival is delayed, please ask for your packet when you check in at the hotel. Orientation: 5:30 p.m. The Group Leader, Keith Edgerton, will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. We will canoe between 15-20 miles each day, depending on the distance necessary to reach our camp site. We will participate in setting up and breaking down camp at each stop along our river journey. Before dinner each evening, we’ll have a “happy hour” with appetizers and drinks (wine or beer). Camp meals will be prepared by a trained gourmet chef, and will typically include a variety of delectable items with a focus on local fare. Please be aware that program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

Dinner: In a meeting room at the hotel, we’ll enjoy a delightful welcome dinner with plated meals including entrée, salad, side dish, vegetables, dessert, and beverage options of lemonade, soda, coffee, tea, water; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Our expert Group Leader, Dr. Keith Edgerton, a Professor of History from the University of Montana/Billings who earned his PhD there, will orient us to our upcoming adventure with a regional and historical overview. We will also meet our outfitter and the guides who will be joining us on the river, who will go over what to expect on the river over the next six days. Continue getting to know your fellow adventurers on the hotel patio, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

Coal Banks Landing, Board Canoes, Lewis & Clark Camp
Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River

Activity note: Van trip from hotel to departure point is about 40 miles, approximately 1.5 hours.

Breakfast: In the hotel dining room, the breakfast buffet includes eggs, breakfast meats, fruit, breads and muffins, jam and butter, an assortment of juices, coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We will load into our air conditioned vans with our team of experts and ride to our departure point, Coal Banks Landing. En route, our Group Leader and our outfitters will provide an overview of area history. Our first stop will be at the junction of the Marias and Missouri Rivers — “Decision Point” for Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery — a beautifully scenic and strategic place where the expedition spent nearly 10 days in 1805 deciding which river fork to take.

Lunch: At Coal Banks Landing, we’ll have sandwiches picnic-style.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll load into the canoes and enter the river. We will be flowing with the current the entire journey. Even if you've never been in a canoe before, our experts will show you the ropes and you'll quickly become comfortable. We will stop at various points to view Native American habitation sites as well as geology overview discussions at key spots. We will arrive and set up camp at Eagle Creek, in the same spot as the Corps of Discovery on May 31, 1805, and experience what Lewis called “scenes of visionary enchantment” facing the famed White Cliffs of the Missouri. This is one of the most beautiful and enchanting spots in the United States.

Dinner: This evening’s delectable dinner will be made even more enjoyable because we dine at our campsite along the river, far away from civilization.

Evening: One has not truly lived until enjoying chilled wine and savory cheese while lounging in a camp chair, ankle deep in the refreshing waters of the Upper Missouri River. We’ll spend plenty of time at night talking, reading, journaling, and reflecting around the campfire.

Eagle Creek Hike, Pictographs, Wildlife, Hole in the Wall
Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River

Activity note: Hiking up to 1 mile roundtrip, uneven dirt path.

Breakfast: To start our day of adventure on the river, we’ll have a tasty breakfast with hot and cold choices, plus coffee, tea, water.

Morning: We’ll spend the morning at Eagle Creek and hike into a natural geological wonder in the small canyons above the campground. We'll do an incredible hike through a slot canyon that runs through a river bottom and into river sandstone abutting the river. During the hike we’ll view fascinating Native American pictographs. On previous programs, even those with knee and hip replacements have had no problem.

Lunch: Along the river at our stop at the Hole in the Wall rock formation.

Afternoon: We'll hike up to the famed Hole in the Wall, a natural feature in which a “window” has been carved through the sandstone over eons. Don't forget to bring your camera! At this stop there are typically abundant wildlife viewing opportunities, including Bald Eagle nesting sights. Every day there will be water birds galore, such as the majestic, ubiquitous Missouri River pelicans. We'll resume canoeing 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 1805 and then again on its return in July 1806.

Dinner: At our Camp Slaughter campsite, we’ll have another delicious meal prepared by our expert chef.

Evening: While camping at Slaughter River, there will be opportunities for swimming, reading, writing, reflecting — complete with happy hour and appetizers, socializing, and even singing! In the evening, as is the case every evening, we'll talk around the campfire about regional history, geology, and Native American perspectives of the land that surrounds us.

Judith Landing, Camp at McGarry Bar
Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River

Breakfast: Another hearty breakfast by our chef.

Morning: After breaking camp, we’ll canoe to Judith Landing, named for Captain Clark's future wife, Ms. Julia Hancock. Learn about the fascinating steamboat era as we travel today.

Lunch: Midway through our journey today, we’ll stop and have a tasty lunch.

Afternoon: As we proceed on our journey along the less travelled lower river, the scenery will begin to change to even more wild, scenic, and dramatic landscapes. We camp tonight at McGarry Bar, following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark.

Dinner: Happy hour and appetizers precede our repast.

Evening: History takes on a new perspective as our expert regales us with stories about the expedition from the very location where they camped overnight in May of 1805. Time for discussion, journaling, and surveying our surroundings, where Bighorn sheep have been known to graze along the riverbanks.

Missouri Breaks, Bighorn Sheep, Gist Bottom
Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River

Breakfast: On the banks of the Missouri.

Morning: We’ll break camp and canoe through the famed “Missouri Breaks” where the river has seemingly broken through the rough country. Spectacular scenery throughout the day, possibility of Bighorn sheep sightings.

Lunch: We'll pull out at a suitable spot for lunch on the riverbank.

Afternoon: Back on the river, pass through a number of islands in the river and visit an old abandoned homestead or two as we continue through the stunning scenery. We’ll camp at Gist Bottom, the site of an abandoned homestead.

Dinner: The delicious fare may make you forget this is a canoeing experience in the near wilderness.

Evening: We’ll have a delightful evening of relaxation under the stars with time for discussion, personal reflection, conviviality, campfire songs, and readings from the Lewis and Clark journals.

Hike, Chief Joseph History, Woodhawk Campground
Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River

Breakfast: Another great breakfast to get us off right this morning.

Morning: We’ll hike up to a point above the river where William Clark first beheld what he mistakenly thought were the Rocky Mountains in 1805. Enjoy stunning views of the river and surrounding prairie lands. We'll also see a “diatreme” — a type of volcanic formations in which most of the world's diamonds are found.

Lunch: At Gist Bottom.

Afternoon: After lunch, we’ll continue canoeing on the river past Cow Island. This is where the famed Chief Joseph and his band of Nez Perce crossed the Missouri in 1877 while attempting to flee to Canada from the U.S. Army. We’ll then settle in at Woodhawk Campground, where Lewis camped on his return trip in 1806.

Dinner: Delicious food, fine wine, and the great outdoors.

Evening: As always, the campfire will be stoked and stories will abound on our last night on the river.

Missouri Breaks Natl. Monument, Wildlife Refuge, Grand Union
Fort Benton, Montana
Grand Union Hotel

Breakfast: At our campsite.

Morning: We’ll break camp and canoe through the last portion of the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument having traveled, all told during our journey, 107 miles. We’ll pass through a portion of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge before we pull out at Kipp State Park Campground, ending the river portion of our journey.

Lunch: At Kipp State Park, we’ll have a tasty picnic lunch.

Afternoon: We’ll load our gear into air conditioned vans and ride back to Fort Benton through scenic prairie lands. There are numerous geological features along our route, including Square and Round Buttes, two volcanic formations that dominate the local landscape. Our educators will paint a historical picture of this beautiful country and its lore as we travel. Checking in at the Grand Union, we’ll have time to freshen up and relax before dinner. Non-river luggage will be delivered to you.

Dinner: At the Grand Union Hotel, our farewell dinner is a perfect end to a great Upper Missouri River canoeing adventure. Share your favorite experiences with new Road Scholar friends.

Evening: Say farewells and prepare for departure in the morning.

Shuttle Back to Great Falls, Program Concludes
Fort Benton, Montana

Activity note: You are welcome to book a transfer and take the shuttle service back to the Great Falls airport ($25 per person). Shuttles will depart Fort Benton about 9:00 a.m. and are excepted to arrive at approximately 11:30 a.m. Plan your airline departures after 1:00 p.m. Hotel check out by 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: In the hotel dining room, the breakfast buffet includes eggs, breakfast meats, fruit, breads and muffins, jam and butter, juices, coffee, tea, water. This concludes our program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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