A busy morning at the Coal Banks Landing boat ramp once the storm left. The ramp was bustling with boats, paddlers, gear, and excitement. Special thanks again to Bub and Tinker Sandy for taking care of all of us wet river rats and opening up the visitor’s center to everyone for the lasts two days. I decided to hang back and wait for everyone to leave before I got ready to go. When I left, there was not a soul in sight. That’s the way I wanted it. I wanted to take it all in without a lot of external distractions. I had been waiting for this nearly a year.
The White Cliffs section of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument evolves as you paddle in to this stretch of river. The anticipation keeps you on the edge of your seat. Will there be cliffs around the next bend? They show themselves gradually. And, before you know it, you are immersed in this fabulous wonderland of rock castles, spires, hoodoos, magnificent walls and lone sentinals.
I arrived at Hole in the Wall thinking that everyone else would stay back at Eagle Creek, which is a popular camping area with great hiking and historical significance. The environment around Hole in the Wall is grandiose and quite spectacular. I was the only one there! I would have a wilderness experience in the midst of incredible beauty!! Well, not exactly. Withing an hour two paddlers arrived. Then, a party of seven or eight men showed up. Oh well, I can share. I will just set my tent off to the side and have my own wilderness experience. I learned something this day. When you meet good-hearted people, nothing else is really more desirable. The benefits are great when you share a part of your lives together. The experience becomes unforgettable. This day I met Klaus and James. I am so happy that I did.
I loved meeting Klaus and James. Klaus came over and invited me to sit around the fire with them that night. They said it wouldn’t be a long fire because firewood was scarce. That sounded good to me. After a couple of hours we gathered for a fire. Klaus had cups and wine and we toasted to my expedition. Then we spent a couple hours just enjoying each others’ company and conversation. THAT beats a solitary wilderness experience, any day. I am thankful for the time we had together.
The next day I met some of the others who had camped in the area. They were all very interesting gentlemen. One was from Bozeman, another from the Seattle area, and one also from San Diego, among others. The Bureau of Land Management officers showed up. They told us stories and were helpful in showing us good camping areas down river. Apparently, James Kipp Recreation Area had opened back up, at least the roads leading into the area. Because of all the rain, though, we could expect a lot of mud downriver. Oh well.
I was excited to hike to the top of Hole in the Wall. I said good by to Klaus and James. They were going to camp at the Wall camping area. I did not know if I would stop there. We took pictures to make sure we didn’t miss out on that opportunity, and we exchanged addresses.
And, off I went to hike to the top of the Hole in the Wall. Wow, what a grand experience!! Unforgettable.
I thoroughly enjoy my hike up to the top of Hole in the Wall. While I was standing up there looking around, I thought, I think I am experiencing breath-taking beauty. I had to stop and calm down I was so excited.
I paddled on and came to Klaus and James’ camp. It was getting late and they invited me over. I was happy to stop there. The camp was one of the best and most peaceful I have experienced thus far. Not to mention my new friends. We had another tremendous night telling stories, jokes, and laughing freely. When it was time for them to shove off the next day, I was truly sad. I’ve got their number. Happy about that.
Live slow ~ Paddle fast
Do what you love and love what you do.
This trip is so fantastic, every day is a new adventure. However, the journey is so broad in scope that even I have to break it down into chunks, or categories, in order to write in my journal. Otherwise, I think to myself, where do I begin??
Some of the areas that this journey embraces are the wildlife, geology, geography, paddling, challenges, and social interactions (the awesome people I meet along the way). Because I want to capture all of the various aspects of each and every bend in the river, I have accumulated numerous photos to help document my experiences. Here is just a taste of this short section of my trip.
On June 1, I took off from Fort Benton after an enjoyable stay. I knew it would be an easy paddle to Coal Banks Landing, a launching point into the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument. As with any day, though, I’m not always sure where will campsite will be for the night.
Tim was surprised, and somewhat startled, to find this, umm, artifact imbedded in the beach.
I have fond memories of this campsite, despite the muddy beach, because of the 70’s music they were playing on the radio. Those were the days when the world open wide, and the anticipation of what could be was scintillating.
Further down I stopped at the Virgelle Ferry. An Indian man visiting America happened to be there and wanted to ride the ferry across and back. He asked me if I wanted to go, so I said, “sure”!
I arrived in Coal Banks after just a few hours the next day. Dominique Liboiron was coming to visit me there, since the location was close to his home in Saskatchewan, Canada. Last year, Dominique paddled from Saskatchewan to New Orleans in honor of his uncle who died of heart disease age the early age of 42. Dom carried his ashes to disperse in New Orleans, a city his uncle fell in love with.
It poured rain while he was there. He stayed two nights. One day we worked on a plan to get his canoe in Canada so he could paddle with me in the Breaks. Unfortunately, logistics proved to be too complicated, especially since James Kipp Recreation Area closed down due to flooding. So we went to Virgelle Landing and Fort Benton to have fun.
Once we determined that it was too difficult to organize a shuttle for Dominique, we decided to play tourist in Fort Benton. Dominique has wanted to go there for many years and, well, I was happy just to go with Dominique. He is such great company. We had a blast!
We stoped for lunch at the Palace Bar, where we met Sandy bartending. I dropped Dave Miller’s name,(the author of The Complete Paddler) and she remembered him, and apparently took good care of him. “I let him take a shower at my house.” When I mentioned that I hadn’t had a shower in a week, she insisted I go to her house and take one. Thank you, Sandy! I will never forget your sweet heart.
After I went to Sandy’s house and took a shower, we stopped at the Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center. Unfortunately, they closed in five minutes, but I think we made the best of the situation.
The senior Boy Scouts had come to camp during the rainstorm. The camp hosts, Bub and Tinker Sandy were incredibly accommodating for all of us, letting the boy scouts stay in the visitor’s center, and letting Dominique set up his tent on the porch. By the time the weather let up and we all were ready to launch, we had become friends. Finally, it was time to enter the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, a moment for which I had been waiting a long time.
Onward to the White Cliffs on June 4. I will try and have something posted in the next few days. I have a White Cliffs photo album posted on my Facebook Expedition page, if you want to check that out now.
I apologize for the delay in posts. I’m paddling a 178-mile lake right now, Lake Sakakawea, and a 230-mile lake coming up, Lake Oahe. I am currently at Dakota Waters Resort campground taking a refresh day (shower and laundry), and should be at the dam tomorrow or the next day. Hurray!
Please see my Facebook page, LoveYourBigMuddy Expedition, for current photos and updates. You do not need to have an account to view the page, it is accessible to the public. I can upload straight from my iPhone and it is much easier, however, this blog helps to organize and document the journey. I have not forgotten you!
Live slow ~ Paddle fast
Do what you love, and love what you do.
You CAN do it!
Janet (July 7, 2013)
I arrived at Fort Benton the same day that I left Great Falls. The paddle only took a few hours from Carter Ferry. I knew rain was forecasted, so I planned on staying in Fort Benton for a least a couple of days, which I would have done anyway. This post is a photo story post. I hope you enjoy it.
Carter Ferry is one of only six cable ferries in existence. Another cable ferry is in Virgelle, between Fort Benton and Coal Banks Landing. There are also two others in the area, making four out of the six ferries that are functioning located here in northern Montana.
It began raining again on June 2, the afternoon of the day I arrived at Coal Banks Landing. I have some interesting photos of the paddle down to Coal Banks, the paddlers laying over at Coal Banks, the proprietors of the Virgelle Mercantile Store, and my second visit to Fort Benton when I came with Dominique Liboiron, who came to visit me from Saskatchewan during this next rain delay before starting into the Breaks. Dominique paddled from Saskatchewan, Canada, to New Orleans last summer and winter, arriving just before Mardi Gras. We instantly became friends when he stopped over at Cooper’s Landing, my river hangout in Columbia, Missouri. My next post will share with you our visit together and some additional interesting things we discovered in Fort Benton.
Do what you love, and love what you do!
Live slow ~ Paddle fast (notice that is switching around a little. No, a lot.) 🙂
Yesterday, I passed out some expedition stickers to my 8th grade science students. Well, they are not mine literally, but I spent an entire semester at Jefferson Junior High School with many of them, ten weeks as a student teacher of 8th-grade social studies, and six weeks of 8th-grade science. I kind of consider them mine, at least figuratively.
I was substitute teaching yesterday for my science students and we watched a marvelous Planet Earth video called “Fresh Water.” I watched the movie five times as I had five classes to teach. Never was I bored with it, but with each viewing became totally immersed in the photography of the wildlife and the waterways highlighted in the movie.
One river highlighted was the Amazon River in South America. The Amazon carries more water than the next top-ten biggest rivers combined. It empties into the Atlantic Ocean after meandering 4,000 miles eastward from its source in the Peruvian Andes.
The students enjoyed the video, too. We saw grizzly bears feeding on salmon in British Columbia, a team of smooth-coated otters harassing a 13-foot crocodile in an Indian River, eight-foot fresh water dolphins, Botos,
navigating by sonar in the murky waters of the Amazon River, the falling waters of Venezuela’s Angel Falls, the highest in the world, mating lake flies producing smoke-like columns extending hundreds of yards up in the sky on one of the world’s largest lakes in the East African Rift Valley, and a red-bellied piranha feeding frenzy in the underwater forests of Brazil’s Pantanal – the world’s largest wetland.
Honestly, I had not planned to give away my stickers and tell them about my expedition, but the opportunity presented itself perfectly after watching “Fresh Water.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen (the line I use to get their attention), I don’t know when I will be back in this classroom, so I have a small announcement to make: I have been planning an expedition since last June. I will be leaving in 2 ½ months, on April 14th, to solo kayak the entire length of the Missouri River, which starts in Montana. The Missouri River is the longest river in North America and the fourth longest in the world, and flows about 2600 miles from its ‘source’ in the Centennial Mountains to St. Louis.”
WHAT are you doing? What’s a kayak? Where are you going to sleep? What will you do for food? Who is going with you? How long will it take you? You’ll have a motor, won’t you? Won’t you be scared? The river is dangerous. That’s crazy. I could never do that! Good luck.
“This is one of my objectives: I want you, and kids like you, to know that “you can do anything”, if you have the desire, a positive attitude, and support to help you. I want to model that for you by doing this trip.”
Now, I would like to add:
So listen up: chase negatives away, just like the smooth-coated otters did with the crocodile, and “Make It Happen,” no matter what the “It” may be. Got it, guys?
Teach Your Children Well
Check out The COPPERMINE EXPEDITION 2012. I can see a ton of parallels to my vision, which is on a smaller scale but same big idea:
Statement of Objectives
The proposed expedition will take six participants from Yellowknife, N.W.T. to Kugluktuk, NU, by canoe and develop educational materials to bring the journey to Canadian classrooms. In pursuing this opportunity, expedition members wish to further develop their careers as educators in combination with a passion for outdoor and experiential education. In doing so, we hope to be able to contribute in a positive manner to the understanding and appreciation of Canadian history and geography through various forms of media. Our objective is to expand the geographic appreciation, and knowledge of this remote region of the Canadian wilderness, encouraging thoughtful debate and discussion on both environmental and
In support of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s mandate to make Canada better known to Canadians and to the world, while on the expedition, we will be creating a series of interactive lesson plans for classrooms. We will be submitting these to the Canadian Council for Geographic Education, and upon completion of the trip, these lesson plans will be made available through this website. Students and teachers will be able to explore the route and find a range of materials appropriate to their grade level.
From Canoe and Kayak Magazine:
An ambitious 1,000-mile odyssey across the Canadian North
Why is it important that young Canadians learn about this part of their country?
Stef Superina: Canada’s north, its rich history and diverse geography, are all too commonly skipped in our history textbooks. As a country that derives much of its wealth from natural resources, the Canadian north will play an important role in our country’s growth. Engaging our youth in discussion on economic and environmental themes is integral to the sustainable development of our country’s resource base, as they will ultimately become the decision makers of the future.
I think I said somewhere: The Missouri River, its rich history and diverse geography, is all too commonly skipped in our history textbooks. Well, maybe not those exact words, but in similar concept.
How cool it would be to have support from a geographical society!? But then, I’d need a crew. Then, it would no longer be a solo trek. Then, it would be an occupation, and I’d never make it to the classroom with the children. Being in the classroom with the children is important, too. I will just have to make do with less support, and more creativity, resourcefulness, and energy. And, perhaps, a Coppermine will help. (…and a really good camera!)
The most wonderful thing happened to me at the Missouri Environmental Education Association (MEEA) mini-conference yesterday. I walked away from the event with the most amazing book; it is a compilation of educational lessons and activities about the Upper Mississippi River. Erin Hilligoss-Volkmann of the Army Corps of Engineers gave a presentation, and I was one of the lucky ones to receive one of three copies she brought along. I asked her if I could post some things about the book on my blog, and she said, “Yes.”
This book is the manifestation in the physical realm of what I have been envisioning in my mind as it relates the Missouri River. Only it goes way beyond what I imagined possible. It is complete, thorough, comprehensive, beautifully illustrated, and bursting with amazing science and social studies lessons and activities. I’d say the book is somewhat like a dream-come-true, and gives my trip a rich new perspective.
Well deserved kudos go out to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Navigation and Ecosystem Sustainability Program (NESP) Cultural Resources and Stewardship Mitigation Team in La Crosse, WI, and design team led by Formations.
This book is given to facilitators at a workshop in which they are trained to train teachers to teach students about the upper Mississippi River. Here are the titles to the units:
Unit 1 Introduction to the Upper Mississippi River Watershed
Unit 2 Introduction to Upper Mississippi River Ecosystems
Unit 3 Introduction to Mississippi River History and Culture
Unit 4 Introduction to the Mississippi River at Work
Unit 5 Introduction to A Shared Resource – Our Mississippi River
Here’s a peak at some of the activities:
Content includes activities relating to river habitats, glacial history, plants, animals, and habitats of the Upper Miss, bird migration, endangered species, Mississippi’s ancient civilizations, Native Americans, settlement and transportation, Underground Railroad, watershed occupations, steam power, Mark Twain, Lewis and Clark, floods, locks, dams, water safety, and caring for the river, among many other subjects. The book even includes profiles of people important to the river today, such as Michael Clark and his Big Muddy Adventures.
To be honest, I am quite speechless as I look through this treasure chest of river education tools. Seems reasonable and logical to have a complimentary Missouri River resource such as this, full of riches much finer than gold.
Ahhh, the possibilities!
Every morning of every day I think about my trip with great anticipation and longing to get on the water. I look forward to the solitude and the simplicity, waking in the morning near the water, starting the stove for coffee, searching for whatever wildlife will come my way, taking photos, reading, or writing in a journal. Perhaps I have set up my tent facing the river so when I wake up I can lay in my sleeping bag gazing at the river and dream about the day ahead, or the day behind. I have backpacked alone before. I am comfortable in the wilderness.
In three weeks I will have an education degree in social studies and science. So, this morning I’m thinking about how I can make this trek and this degree work together. I glance over at my NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) monthly newspaper I get in the mail. I see a photo of a man on top of a snow-covered mountain. The caption reads, “Minnesota high school science teacher…uses photographs taken during his world travels to stimulate inquiry in his classes.” Sweet! As I read the article, I learn that his photograph introduces a topic, prompts a story, generates student interest, provokes questions to which the students want answers, initiates a real life connection, brings the mountains into his Minnesota classroom, and creates a teachable moment. BINGO! I can do that! My past experiences can provide lots of material. My upcoming trip will create a file full of opportunities.
As an example, on all of his experiences this teacher records basic weather data (temperature, precipitation, cloud coverage, wind speed and direction) which provides a transition into graphing and analyzing data. Great idea! Now I am thinking, hmmm, the ecology aspect of being on the river and the exposure to wildlife and, of course, environmental stewardship are teachable opportunities. And the dams, the many dams, can provide ample high-powered subject matter. How about the geology and geography between Montana and Missouri? And, oooh, the moon phases and constellations? Hey, what about bringing into the classroom the sights and scenery experienced by Lewis and Clark and their crew, and the Native Americans with whom they came in contact? My head is spinning with possibilities!
So much food for thought! If I am not able to have an outdoor classroom, I will strive to bring the outdoor classroom inside.
Yes, I look forward to the solitude, but the simplicity may be more multifaceted than I thought.
If you are reading this, and you have some teachable moment ideas for me to think about on my trip, I encourage you to comment. Thanks!
Live fast ~ paddle slow
I better get back to my homework. 🙂
Dave and Amy are on a three year kayak/canoe/dog-sledding expedition around North America, bringing the wilderness into the classrooms of 65,000 school children and 1900 teachers.
Currently delayed on their North American Odyssey, which they began on Earth Day in 2010, they were scheduled to present at the New Jersey Kayak shop right before Hurricane Sandy hit. They presented to a small audience, and then got outta there. The shop suffered damage, but their kayaks were waiting for them, tied up in front, when they returned from evacuation. They are staying in New Jersey for awhile to assist with the hurricane relief before heading down the east coast to Key West.
Very cool. Enjoy!
Big Muddy Adventures, Proprietor
“Big Muddy” Mike Clark is one of the most accomplished canoeists and guides in America. He has over 10,000 miles of big river experience and has led thousands of people in large and small groups on guided river trips since 2001. He has completed entire navigations of the Mississippi River (2001), Missouri River (2002, 2005-2006), Yellowstone River (2006), and Sunflower River (2004, 2005, 2007, 2008). He is the founder of Big Muddy Adventures. Michael is also a veteran elementary and middle school teacher and currently teaches computers, science and history part time at St. Ann Catholic School in Normandy, MO.
Annually, Mike leads a live learning adventure expedition for school children across North America — connecting our youth with our rivers. Mike Clark is a youth leader and truly a Steward and Champion of America’s Rivers. He has won a number of awards, including the Pekatanoui Award for non-motorized River Cleanups and in March 2012 was recognized as a “Hero of the New South” by Southern Living Magazine for his work as a river steward and river guide.
I love what Big Muddy Adventures is all about. You can learn more here.