MISSOURI BREAKSBy: Chris Chapman • chrischapmanphotography.net
Family canoe camping in the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument in Montana.
There are few things I like better than putting on the river and none of them come to mind right now. We've been taking our kids down the Upper Missouri since the younger of the two was three years old. Excepting for occasional horrendous weather the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument, or UMBNM, is pretty ideal for introducing people of all ages to canoe camping.
The monument, beginning in Fort Benton, flows 149 miles and is class 1 the entire length. The UMBNM is split into three sections with the middle section being the most popular. Our last trip we spent 10 days on the river staying in a couple of the nicer camps for a few days each. Canoe camping can be a little like car camping. Adopting a "why suffer?" attitude, we launch heavy with firewood, a cooler of drinks, a frozen cooler of good food, tent, shelter, chairs, water, camping stuff and camera gear. As the week wears on the load gets a good bit lighter.
I love this float for a number of reasons. The history is remarkable. It's a narrow glimpse at the past. Yes, the wildlife described by Lewis and Clark is gone. This was native land until it was opened up to homesteading and marks of their culture can be seen along the river from teepee rings to petroglyphs. It's vast farmland now just above the river corridor. You can't drink the water even when filtered. What remains here when the crowd moves on downstream is a quiet and stillness that once experienced is all you look forward to. Dark skies and a little perspective of where we are in the universe persist.
It's this perspective and experience I hope my kids carry with them as they get older. A small flame they can tend on their own as they grow up... hopefully, with their old man along the Missouri.