Upper Missouri River Breaks

Follow the journey of Lewis and Clark on the Missouri River near Virgelle, Mont.

Canoe on the Missouri River, near Virgelle, Mont., image

Canoers paddle past the famed limestone cliffs along the Missouri River.

Nearly 210 years after Lewis and Clark floated through here, the Upper Missouri River Breaks is still undiscovered country. Climb into a canoe near Virgelle, Mont., and you’ll quickly leave the known world.

The river creeps past banks of cottonwoods and sage-covered bluffs too rough for modern enterprise. After a few hours, you reach white, craggy sandstone cliffs weathered to create “seens of visionary inchantment,” as Meriwether Lewis wrote in his journal.

Visitors marvel at the scenery—and the solitude. “A lot of folks tell me it’s almost like a spiritual experience,” says canoe and keelboat outfitter Mike Nottingham. A one-day trip to Eagle Creek campground covers 14 river miles.

Or you could spend three days paddling 48 miles to Judith Landing, camping at primitive sites along the way. Lewis and Clark had a guide, and it’s still a good idea. The Missouri River Canoe Company offers tours May through September. (800) 426-2926, canoemontana.com.

Photography by Chuck Haney

This article was first published in March 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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