Due to an outbreak of COVID on the Ft. Belknap Reservation in north-central Montana earlier this fall, Hays-Lodge Pole High School has been exclusively online since late September. As a result, I have been teaching remotely from my home in Helena for the past several weeks. Prep work, grading, staff meetings, teaching – they’re all online! 😦 So, my after-work hikes up Mt. Helena or Mt. Ascension have been more important than ever – not super-exciting but VERY therapeutic. However, my two best therapy sessions of November took place on the Missouri River north of Helena.
Helena’s back yard.
On the first trip (11/1/20), a couple friends and I kayaked the 16-mile stretch from Upper Holter Lake (20 miles north of Helena) to Lower Holter Lake near the small town of Wolf Creek. My second visit to the river (11/22/20) was a solo out-and-back kayak trip (6 miles round-trip), with stops along the way to enjoy a couple short hikes. Both outings started at Upper Holter Lake 20 miles north of Helena – the same place where the Gates of the Mountains Boat Tours start and finish.
Easy on the eyes.
On the longer trip with my buddies (Jim and Jerry), we started paddling at 8:30 am and finished at 3:30 pm. It was chilly as we kayaked through the shade of the beautiful limestone canyon but once the Sun rose high enough, our comfort level improved significantly. This 6-mile long canyon is one of the most scenic stretches of the entire Missouri River, which starts 65 miles south of here, and dumps into the Mississippi at St. Louis. So, despite the cool temperatures, paddling below the impressive limestone walls was still enjoyable.
Rollin’ on the river.
Once through the canyon, there was no shortage of sunlight to warm our backs, and plenty of time to enjoy the landscape. Highlights included passing by Mann Gulch and Rescue Gulch, drifting along cut banks made of silt deposited at the bottom of ancient Glacial Lake Great Falls, and paddling below the rugged mass of rock that comprises the head of the Sleeping Giant – a famous Helena landmark. We took a couple breaks along the way before rounding Oxbow Bend and crossing the southern edge of Lower Holter Lake. My son Keith was there to shuttle us home.
I started my second (solo) trip later in the morning (10:45 am) to make sure the Sun would be shining on me as I paddled through the canyon. Also, I wanted to get some good drone shots with the Sun shining on both sides of the canyon. My strategy worked – but don’t take my word for it. Take a look through the Photo Tour, which includes photos from both trips.
- Photo Tour of the two kayak trips.
Includes several drone photos.
- Map of the area.
Zoom in or out, scroll around.
Below: This map marks hikes that have been featured on bigskywalker.com so far, including several in Glacier Park – Select full screen to expand, zoom in for more detail, or click on a marker for a link to the post.