Sign me up!
The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument is a very special part of northcentral Montana that lies along a 149-mile stretch of the river between Fort Benton and Robinson Bridge. I’ve paddled from monument mile #41.5 at Coal Banks to mile #149 at Robinson Bridge during various multi-day canoe or kayak trips. My favorite stretch by far is the White Cliffs portion (between miles 41.5 – 88.5), which makes for a fantastic three-day trip (see previous blog post). Naturally, I’ve been curious about the first 41.5 miles of the monument, so when I saw that the Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument was hosting a canoe/kayak race from Ft. Benton (mile #0) to Wood Bottom (mile #20.3) I was eager to participate.

Friends for 20 years.
The Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument is non-profit (est. 2001) that works to preserve and support this Montana treasure. They put on the race to raise money, generate interest in the monument, and celebrate their twentieth year as an organization. Despite the extreme heat, haze from distant wildfires, and low flow, we participants enjoyed a wonderful day on the river. Thanks goes out to Mikayla Moss (executive director), Nora Harper (intern), and the many volunteers for putting on such a unique and fun event. Incidentally, Nora was student in my freshman Earth Science class at Helena High several years ago – It was great to see her doing such good work. (photo tour)

Dark-thirty Saturday morning.
My wife (Mardi) and I left Helena at 5:30 am and made the 140-mile drive to the Fort Benton Canoe Launch, which served at the staging area. There, participants were organized into 5 waves (groups). Starting at 10 am, waves of 5-6 boats (some tandem, mostly solos), were sent off every few minutes and instructed to stay together for the first mile to the walking bridge in Fort Benton. Then as each wave passed beneath the bridge, their race time started. Prizes were awarded to the top three finishers in both the pairs and solo categories. The winners in both categories finished the 20-mile race under 2:25 – I came in at 3:09.

Count it as a date?
After getting me squared away, Mardi went out for breakfast, watched my group pass beneath the bridge, and then drove to the finish area near Loma where she sat in the shade and read. After finishing the race, I enjoyed a couple free beers, took a swim, and snapped some photos before we headed back to Ft. Benton to meet friends and enjoy the festivities – live music, food vendors, more beer. A good time was had by all!

Below: This map marks hikes that have been featured on 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.