The White Cliffs: Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River - MT
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member CerealBoxMonsters
N 47° 54.867 W 110° 03.466
12T E 570401 N 5307221
The Upper Missouri River is one of the premier float trips in the Unites States; running for 149 miles through a spectacular prairie canyon of north-central Montana. The White Cliffs were visited by Lewis & Clark on 31 May, 1805.
Waymark Code: WM6TXQ
Location: Montana, United States
Date Posted: 07/20/2009
Published By:Groundspeak Charter Member BruceS
Views: 11

The White Cliffs begin roughly were Eagle Creek enters into the Upper Missouri River. The Lewis & Clark expedition made an encampment here on 31 May, 1805. Lewis wrote in his journal about the cliffs,
"The hills and river Clifts which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance. The bluffs of the river rise to the hight of from 2 to 300 feet and in most places nearly perpendicular; they are formed of remarkable white sandstone which is sufficiently soft to give way readily to the impression of water . . ."
Today, Eagle Creek is usually the first over night camping stop for floaters who have put-in upstream at either Fort Benton, Virgelle, or Coal Banks Landing. Up to this point, the first 40 miles of this Wild & Scenic River follows gently sloping canyon walls, which meet the river usually from private land. From this point on, however, the canyon walls turn to sheer white cliffs, and the land to either side of the river is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Enjoy and explore the land - just be careful were you step, as there are loose rocks, cacti and rattlesnakes.
The designated Wild & Scenic portion of the Upper Missouri River begins at Fort Benton (N 47 49.224 W 110 39.802) and ends at Robinson Bridge (N 47 37.607 W 108 40.948), with numerous locations to both enter and exit the river along the way.
The Upper Missouri is a wilderness float trip with the river being broken into three segments, each of which can be paddled individually or all in combination. All trips require overnight camping on the river. Camping on the river is permitted on all public lands, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management - the managing agency, does maintain a number of established camp areas which contain amenities such as fire rings and latrines.
Permits are not required to canoe the Upper Missouri, so you can simply show up and launch.
The climate of Central Montana is classified as continental semi-arid, with low annual precipitation (13.5 inches), hot summers, and cold winters. There is typically a large variation between day and night temperatures. The vegetation is mostly grassland, but includes desert plants such as yucca and cactus. Along the Upper Missouri, the riverbank ecosystem supports groves of towering cottonwood trees.
During the main paddling season, the weather is typically hot and sunny; temperatures in the 90’s are common, but fortunately humidity is very low. Evening temperatures are normally in the 40’s and 50’s. Spectacular afternoon thunderstorms - sometimes quite violent with strong, gusty winds - are fairly common, but are usually short-lived. If a major weather disturbance moves in, temperatures could drop to the 30’s and 40’s and be accompanied by extended rain, however this is not common. Good quality rain gear and a warm layer of clothing should be carried by all, even if it's hot and sunny on the day of your departure.
Spring and Fall are considered by some to be the most beautiful times to float the Upper Missouri; the hot days of summer are replaced by cooler temperatures and changes can be more extreme. Although not common, paddlers in mid-May and early October could see snow. The primary adjustment to equipment is adding warmer clothing, including gloves, warm hat, wool sox, and additional insulating layers. A weather disturbance could bring either rain or snow. Preparedness is always the best option.
Important historic sites exist around almost every bend of the Upper Missouri.
Evidence of native American inhabitants is still evidenced by petroglyphs and tipi rings.
There are 13 Lewis and Clark campsites in the 149 mile "wild and scenic" stretch, many of which are utilized by floaters as overnight camps. Most notable of these is probably their camp at the confluence with the Marias River, where the expedition took 10 days deciding which river was the true Missouri River.
The sites of several important fur trade posts exist on the Upper Missouri, most notably the American Fur Company’s Fort MacKenzie.
Many abandoned homestead buildings from the turn of the century are still standing and are a favorite for floaters to explore.
Steamboat landing sites and gravel bars which were a major obstacle for the big boats look much the same as they did over one hundred years ago.
The wilderness character of the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River provides good wildlife viewing opportunities. During the summer the river is alive with waterfowl, including ducks, geese, and the majestic pelican. Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles are not an uncommon sight. Many other birds can be seen in the riparian areas along the banks. Whitetail and Mule Deer are frequently seen along the banks, and elk inhabit badlands along the lower stretch of the river, which is also an excellent place to look for bands of Bighorn Sheep, Bighorn Ram which are commonly seen.
Other unusual and interesting animal inhabitants are lizards, snakes, turtles, toads, frogs, bats, squirrels, and fox.
It is not uncommon to hear the wail of coyotes in the distance at night, or the hoot of an owl perched overhead in the limb of a towering cottonwood tree as it searches for prey.
Beaver are commonly seen swimming in the river, and they slap their tails and dive as canoes approach; these beaver are not dam builders, instead inhabiting cavities dug into the mud of the river's banks.
Fishing is spectaular along the Missouri River, but keep in mind that Montana requiers anglers to purchase the appropriate fishing licenses before fishing.
WILD: yes

Number of WILD miles: 64.0


Number of SCENIC miles: 26.0


Number of RECREATIONAL miles: 59.0

River Link: [Web Link]

Support documentation: Not listed

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