Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument, Montana

I had been fantasizing about this canoe trip for some time. I do not know where the idea came from, but the paddle is an 8 to 9-day float down the Missouri River from Coal Banks Landing to Kipp Recreation Area in Montana for a total of 105 miles.

When I drove from Roxbury NY to Santa Cruz CA at the beginning of the May I brought my canoe with me, it is a 2003 17ft, Wenonah Voyager Graphite Ultra-Light (30 lbs) Performance Touring single seat glider.

Graphite Ultra-light 33lbs. $3,249 USD

Ultra-light hulls are stiff and incredibly light. They are ideal for speed and distance paddling and for all people or conditions that demand the lightest gear. In our Ultra-light construction a structural-foam core and ribs are laminated into the hull and sides. We also add extra fabric layers to strengthen specific targeted areas. Aluminum plates are strategically laminated into the hull. Seats, footbraces, and all hardware is then riveted into these plates. This gives a very secure connection and eliminates rivet heads on the exterior. A Graphite Ultra-light canoe is made the same way as an Ultra-light with Kevlar®, but with Graphite as the outer layer. It’s ideal for paddlers desiring more stiffness in their composite canoe. Graphite transfers energy better than any of our other materials, which makes these the most crisp paddling canoes. The aesthetic appeal of a black Graphite canoe is also undeniable.

Graphite Ultra-light canoe shown with Standard Options, may not be the Voyager.
Standard Options –
Black Aluminum Trim (Std)
Natural (skin-coat) finish
Premium Options –
Wood Gunwales (solo) Blk. Alum. Trim – $325 USD
All Wood Trim (solo) – $350 USD
This car rules the road. New York to Santa Cruz CA 3X


I have had many serene days in it on the Pepacton Reservoir last summer and the one before, I just could not leave it behind.

Me on the Pepacton Reservoir in NY.

Here is the canoe song;

Bruce Cockburn, Arrows Of Light

untitled-9 copy

Same after the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument.


Here is the packing list that I used as a template from a guide found in Backpacker, or was it REI?

Planning a paddle-camping vacation by canoe? Our comprehensive checklist includes required and optional gear, clothing, accessories and more.
Canoe Basics
Paddle (1 per paddler)
Extra paddle
Personal flotation device (1 per paddler)
Extra PFD (nope)
Knee pads (do not need)
Yoke (with pads)(do not need)
Dry bags (for gear organization)
Spray covers (do not need)
Weather/VHF radio (do not need)
Signaling devices (whistle)
Float bags (nope)
Core Gear
Matches/lighter/fire starter in a waterproof container
Knife or multitool
Two-way radios (do not need as I am alone)
Cell phone in a protective bag
iPad in its own bag
Mini Speaker
Headlamp or flashlight (with extra batteries)
First-aid supplies (see our First-Aid Checklist)
Sunglasses and reading glasses
Lip balm
Water bottles (filled) 8 gallons of water
Water treatment method  (backup) bringing my own water but I will also take a filter)
Energy food (bars, gels, trail mix)
Beverages or powdered drinks, lots of instant coffee, Splenda, and creamer
Camping Tent and tarp
Sleeping bag and liner
Sleeping pad
Meals and snacks
Stove and fuel
Cookset and utensils
Dishes, bowls and cups
Insect repellent (plus head net, if needed)
Toilet paper and Restop Solid and Liquid Waste Bag
Hand sanitizer
iPhone Binoculars
Trip itinerary left with friend + under car seat
Paddling gloves or pogies
Sun-shielding hat
Bandana or buff
Wool/synthetic cap or balaclava
Moisture-wicking T-shirt
Moisture-wicking underwear
Shorts or convertible pants
Sun-shielding shirt (long sleeves) and pants
Rainwear (jacket and pants)
Synthetic vest or jacket (for insulation)
Repair-Kit Options
Sealant (such as Aquaseal)
Bailing wire (copper, small roll)
Nylon cord (or bungee cords)
Replacement nuts/bolts
Repair/duct tape

The trip was fantastic! I finished canoeing from Coal Banks to Kipp Landing in 7 days with 2 layover days at Gist Bottom. Up until Gist Bottom I did not see a single person, it was a truly amazing wilderness trip. The paddling was not difficult until the last day and a half when the river widened and the current slacked off. The wind was blowing hard and usually started at 10 or 11 in the morning. Today there was a head wind coming from the east and it did make for difficulty paddling but the canoe was loaded and the extra weight made it easier to keep the boat on track.

I saw 2 herds of Bighorn Sheep – Ovis canadensis along the banks but did not get pictures of them and there were more Bald Eagles – Haliaeetus leucocephalus and Golden Eagles – Aquila chrysaetos than I could count. I paddled alongside a little Swift Fox – Vulpes velox, who ignored me completely and acted as if I was not there. There were lots of American White Pelican – Pelecanus erythrorhynchos. There are what I remembered and can identify but there was so much more to be seen. The Eastern Cottonwood – Populus deltoides were seeding and at times it was as if it were snowing.

I did not plan well for the food and meals, my diet was very simple, I had oatmeal for breakfast, tuna and more tuna for lunch, ramen, and prepared camping meals for dinner when I had the energy to cook.


2 responses to “Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument, Montana”

  1. Hello Peter G,
    Will Davey here thanking you for a great day on the Big Hole River. Enjoying hot dogs, stories and beautiful weather. Hope you have safe travel and good luck in Africa in September. I have told so many people of your travels and your story. Tight lines sir.

    Will Davey and his not so friendly dog Maverick

    1. Peter Geoghan Avatar
      Peter Geoghan

      Thank you Will, I am now in sunny and expensive California.

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