Day One – 6/30/17, Aaron & I left home about 6 pm and drove to Wheatland, WY where we got a room for the night.
Day Two – 7/1/17, We traveled across Wyoming to Billings, MT where we stopped at a Walmart to resupply. We arrived at Ft. Benton at 6 pm, called Mike Nottingham and met him and his wife, Linda in Loma at 7 pm. We set up camp at Wood Bottom [Mile 20], rearranged our gear & settled in for the night.
We paddled 26.5 miles today. We saw Bald eagles, Golden eagles, osprey, northern harriers, many, many mule & whitetail deer, turtles, fish, beaver, fox, pelicans, Canada geese, loons or mergansers, Blue heron, goldfinches, carp and a King Fisher.
At river mile 37.7, we passed an island where Lewis & Clark camped on June 1st, 1805. Before we reached Coal Banks landing we passed under the cables of the Virgelle ferry. We stopped at Coal Banks Landing where we registered and found out we had to pay $4 per day to float the river. We paddled on down to Little Sandy boat camp at mile 46.7 and set up camp about 2 pm. I washed up in the river and felt so much better for it. After the bath and a nap, Aaron caught a painted turtle. We examined it and made some sketches then released him into the river. A family group of 11 landed near us and camped in the next site for the night. Later in the evening we watched a raccoon hunting along the opposite shore across the river.
Day Four – 7/3/17, We paddled 21 miles from Little Sandy to Dark Butte boat camp, mile 68.75. We stopped to visit Jack Munro’s cabin where he lived in the 1870′ & 1880’s, trapping wolves and stealing horses. The movie “The Missouri Breaks” was loosely based on him. We stopped to use the vault toilets at the “hole in the Wall” camp. We met up with another family group of canoers. We had a headwind up until this point in the day. When we made the corner at “Hole in the Wall’ it changed to a tailwind. Upon arriving at camp, we unloaded the canoe, hung up our hammocks and went swimming in the river. Today we saw an oriel, soft shelled turtles, a teal hen with chicks and coyotes hunting the far river bank and calling in the hills above camp. After swimming we took naps in our hammocks. Steamboat rock was above this camp. 2215 miles above St. Louis. It was over 100 degrees today. The swim and the breeze down river felt really good as we rested in the shade of the cottonwood trees. Aaron went on a turtle hunt while I set my tent and studied our maps. We ate a cold supper and turned in early. Day Five – 7/4/17, Independence Day! Today, Tuesday we arose at sunup and made it to Judith Landing by noon. Along the way we heard pheasants crowing and saw some Osprey as we did on Day Three. We saw many crows for the first time, this morning. It was not as hot today and we had a good downstream wind. At Judith Landing, we filled up with water, used the restrooms and paid our river fees. We moved on down the river to Wood Duck boat camp at mile 96. Today was our longest day on the river at 27.25 miles. We had to chase the cows out of camp when we arrived. While we set up camp, a pair of Golden eagles circled us and flew back and forth across the river. We watched a deer on the shore across from us as we had a snack. We jumped in the river to cool off and retired to our hammocks to relax and stay out of the sun. We saw a coyote on the rocks across the river and more deer. We had some freeze-dried lasagna for supper and turned in just before dark. Day Six – 7/5/17, We arose after sunup, made coffee and broke camp. We stopped at the Hagedorn homestead and looked around. It is an amazing site, what with the old building, dishes, bottles and cans. Aaron caught a bull snake that I spotted in one of the sheds. We paddled on down to the McCormick-Stafford ferry and stopped to use the toilets. After only 15.5 miles on the river, we stopped to camp at Two Trees boat camp. While landing, and off-loading our gear, we saw a group of Bighorn sheep ewes and lambs on the far bank. We strung our hammocks and rested through the afternoon heat. After a nap, we went swimming and I found a few rocks to bring home for Mary and many clam shells and even a few live clams. It was very hot today, over 100 degrees, I’m sure. We had a following wind today. The horse flies have been very bad the last two days. I think I have used more insect repellent on this trip than I have in the last two years. We have seen nesting Bald eagles the last two days and have seen more eagles, both Golden and Bald than we can count. Ditto for pelicans, Canada geese, deer and coyotes. I think this trip on the river should be a requirement for AMM membership. This stretch of river from Judith Landing to James Kipp Recreation Area is much the same as it was in the days of Lewis & Clark, Manual Lisa, Kenneth McKenzie, James Kipp, Jim Bridger, Thomas Fitzpatrick, etc., etc. The White Cliffs section is stunning, and similar to the canyons of the Green River, but these Missouri Breaks are the land of the mountain men, the traders and trappers we all try to emulate. To spend a few days here is to educate your soul into the true life of the beaver men. This area is so rich in history as to be overwhelming. Lewis & Clark, the fur trade, mining, steamboats, homesteaders, ranching, rustlers, etc., etc. Day Seven – 7/6/17, we paddled 20 miles today to Lower Woodhawk campground. Upon arrival, we met a couple of BLM workers and visited with them for 30 minutes about the river, the campsites, their maps, etc. After setting up the hammocks I went for a swim. After my swim, I slept in the hammock for a while and Aaron hiked down to the old Nelson Homestead. This site was pretty buggy. In the evening, we had a rain storm which cooled things down quite nicely. It only rained enough to settle the dust and we sat in our hammocks in the rain and enjoyed the cooling effect. We saw a rabbit this evening after the rain and at dark the toads came out of the leaves and we saw several. Aaron caught one of them. Today we saw many deer and Bighorn sheep, crows, King birds and other birds. There were a pair of Northern Harriers teaching their young to fly on the hillside above camp and we watched them for quite some time. There is a large wildfire north of this camp. This morning we could smell the smoke and tonight we can see the plume. We saw at least 4 different groups of sheep today as we paddled along. While traversing a back channel, we startled 3 deer and one of the fawns ran in front of us and jumped into the river and swam across right in front of us. That was pretty cool. There are many willows along the river here and much beaver sign. I saw a buck mule deer in velvet on one of the islands today.
Day Eight – 7/7/17, we paddled 18.25 miles today. We passed the Grand Island on the north side. We arrived at James Kipp Recreation Area a little before 1 pm, loaded our gear on the truck and headed south. Today we saw turkey vultures, many more turtles, deer, crows, geese, ducks, etc.