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Day: July 16, 2016

Nearing Great Falls

July 14, Day 113

It was a luxury, drinking coffee, reading, touching up my shoe repair, and letting my tent dry a bit before packing up.

There were several stretches of river where I could make good progress paddling, others where I had to sprint through the fast current around rocky points, and many where the water was so swift or shallow I had to get out and pull.

The Carter Ferry had just landed on the south bank just ahead of me. The operator kept his back to me, talking to the car driver, so I paddled around. 

Finally he said “Where are you headed?”

“The Pacific. I’m doing the Lewis and Clark Trail.”

“Upstream?” He said, with what struck me as studied indifference. 


“Do you know there are falls and dams 17 miles ahead of you? You’ll have to get a ride.” 

I FELT like saying. “Really? I hope there aren’t any mountains!” Instead I told him I knew about the portage. 

Finally I said “Have a good day.” If he heard, I heard no reply, so I just paddled away. 

The winds were fairly neutral today, mixed directions and not too strong. The current was unusually fast again though. 
There were numerous Pelicans as there has been for much of a thousand miles. 

In the last two days at least two big fish have thumped my kayak, and I bumped into one snoozing just beneath the surface. 

Cooking Lunch

I saw another dead hawk. This one dead at least a week. It looked like another young drowned bird. 

It was another day of pulling for considerable distances, getting in and out of the kayak over and over. I was reminded more than once to make sure the bow was square into the current before launching or the river would quickly swing me around as I paddled madly on the right side, being quickly swept downstream, stomping full left rudder until I was straightened out again. 

Pulling through shallow, fast water

It was a very unusual day in that I stayed on river right, my left, all day. 

True, I started late and only paddled until about 6 pm, but I’m still amazed I made only 11 miles. That was the plan though, today and tomorrow would be short so I could start the Great Falls portage early in the morning of Day 3. 

When I walked down to the river to pick up my solar charger and phone I looked up and was suddenly struck by a nostalgia for what still is but what is destined to become a memory: the sun glinting off the rushing Missouri River, birds singing and the gurgling of the rapids, summer clouds in a blue sky, wind rustling the willows and cottonwoods, the scent of the river and wildflowers, the contours of the rugged bluffs in the low evening sun, the end of another day on a big adventure. Colter

NOTE: This is my second post of the day. 

Clark: June 14th Friday 1805 a fine morning, the Indian woman complaining all night & excessively bad this morning—her case is Somewhat dangerous—two men with the Tooth ake 2 with Turners, & one man with a Tumor & Slight fever passed the Camp Capt. Lewis made the 1st night at which place he had left part of two bear their skins &c three men with Turners went on shore and Staycd out all night one of them killed 2 buffalow, a part of which we made use of for brackfast, the Current excesevely rapid more So as we assend we find great difficuelty in getting the Perogue & Canoes up in Safety, Canoes take in water frequently, at 4 oClock this evening Jo. Fields returned from Capt. Lewis with a letter for me, Capt Lewis dates his letter from the Great falls of the Missouri, which Fields informs me is about 20 miles in advance & about 10 miles above the place I left the river the time I was up last week Capt. L. informs that those falls; in part answer the discription given of them by the Indians, much higher the Eagles nest which they describe is there, from those Signs he is Convinced of this being the river the Indians call the Missouri, he intends examineing the river above untill my arrival at a point from which we can make a portage, which he is apprehensive will be at least 5 miles & both above & below there is Several Small pitches, & Swift troubled water we made only 10 miles to day and Camped on the Lard Side, much hard Slate in the Clifts & but a Small quantity of timber.

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

Hawks and Eagles

July 13, Day 112

A calf was loudly bawling nearby, long before dawn.

A mule deer buck watched from the edge of the willows as I rounded the first bend.

At first the current was fairly mild, but then it became more consistently strong, and I spent more and more time out of the kayak pulling upstream.

Something was floating in the water. Some dark foam? No, a young hawk, so freshly drowned I wondered if he might revive when I pulled him out. Just ahead were some high, dark bluffs. He likely died attempting his first flight.

Missouri River Bluffs

Four eagles, and some lurking magpies, fed on something at the edge of the water. They were reluctant to fly. It was a mule deer fawn.

Eagles feeding on fawn

I took a chance paddling up a side channel, enjoying an escape from the current. After a half mile it dead-ended completely. I got out to scout but there was no easy portage as I’d hoped. I retreated and had to fight my way up that same half mile in the main channel.

During breaks I’d check my progress and be surprised at how few miles I’d made, the result of the strong current, including passing some rapids, but also of a more relaxed pace.

I saw some fossils today, and some large thin slabs of slate.

Several thunder cells moved through. Most missed me but at least two didn’t. One pounded me with hard rain. I’d just put on my rain jacket and watched the driving rain bounce off the river. I thought about the photos I’ve been taking. I’m much more likely to take shots of reflections in calm water rather than dragging my kayak through tough current, or of s sunny day rather than s stormy day, mostly due to ease of photography.

It will be something like 31 miles from Fort Benton to the start of my portage, normally two easy days. It was clear, though, that it would be tough to make half of distance today, and the toughest miles of all would be the rapids just below Morony Dam. I’d want to start the long portage fairly refreshed and early in the day, so I’d shoot for three shorter days instead of two tough ones. Despite nearly 12 hours on the river, I only made about 14 miles.

I made camp next to the river and used my alcohol stove to cook up a hot meal of “Steak and Fajita” flavored rice.

Clark: June 13th Thursday 1805 a fair morning, Some dew this morning the Indian woman Verry sick I gave her a doste of Salts. … numbers of gees & goslings, the gees cannot fly at this Season—goose berries are ripe and in great abundance, the yellow Current is also Common, not yet ripe Killed a buffalow & Campd on the Lard Side near an old Indian fortified campy one man Sick & 3 with Swellings, the Indian woman verry Sick. Killed a goat & fraser 2 Buffalow The river verry rapid maney Sholes great nos of large Stones passed Some bluffs or low cliffts of Slate to day

Trip overview and route map with position updates:

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