Sunday, August 03, 2008

Missouri River

Recently my son Aki and I went on a tour of Western rivers. A highlight of our trip was a journey through Missouri Breaks National Monument on the Upper Missouri Wild and Scenic River. Congress designated the Wild and Scenic river in 1976 and President Clinton established the National Monument in 2001. Lewis and Clark followed the Missouri River on their journey west and it is about the only long section left that has not been extensively developed or inundated by reservoirs.

Aki and I on the banks of the Missouri River. We spent three days on the Upper Missouri River from Coal Banks Landing (48.0321, -110.2350) to Judith Landing (47.7388, -109.6230).

Entering the White Cliffs section of the Missouri River, one of the most scenic sections of the river at Eagle Creek (47.9128, -110.0580). This is the most popular camping area along the river and the site of Lewis and Clark's camp on May 31, 1805.

The White Cliffs of the Missouri. Over 200 years ago Lewis wrote, "The hills and river Clifts which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance.... The bluffs of the river rise to 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..."

My son Aki yelling up at the cliffs and listening to the echo. This approach did not result in many wildlife viewing opportunities but Aki had announced at the beginning of the trip that he wanted to see a snake, bugs, and fish which we accomplished. We even saw a beaver emerge from his lodge one evening.

A pair of canoes pass beneath the shadow of LeBarge Rock. It is an intrusion of dark igneous shonkinite named for one of the river's steamboat captains.

The hike up Neats Coulee sometimes called "The Narrows" is highly recommended and we had a great time exploring this slot canyon.

This hike takes you right into the Virgelle Sandstone formations along the river.

A butterfly we saw on our hike up the Narrows.

The river flows through open grasslands and one needs to be on guard for rattlesnakes--we came across a large one. Once harvested as fuel for steamboats on the river, the cottonwoods have come back in beautiful groves along the river.

Grand National Wall is a vertical shonkinite dike that intruded into the sandstone which has eroded away. I highly recommend Schumacher and Woodward's book Magnificent Journey which chronicles the geology of the Missouri Breaks.

The river flows through rangeland so as is characteristic of many rivers across the west you see a fair number of cattle along the way.

Dark Butte is another shonkinite plug that rises up through the sandstone.

The Citadel, captured in a well known illustration by Swiss artist Karl Bodmer in his early explorations of the river.

A canoe traveling down the river. The tranquil pace evokes images and feelings that one has entered a George Bingham painting. There are few places that one can directly experience the landscapes of the American West captured in 19th century American Art but the Missouri Breaks is one of those places.

Passing beneath the cliffs as we make our way down to the confluence with the Judith River.

Aki enjoyed the warm waters of the Missouri River and hopped out of the canoe a couple times to just float along with the current.

Sunset over the Missouri River.

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