July 10, Day 109

When I rounded the very first river bend I could see a bluff, probably the one above the Marias confluence. Was that side channel actually the Marias River? I drifted back 75 yards and checked my GPS. This is it! I would have paddled right past it if I didn’t know it was here.

Under current conditions the Marias looked slow and rather silty, a much smaller river than the Missouri in appearance.

I paddled up the Marias a hundred yards, tied up the kayak and headed through the willows to the bluff. Right away I hit a path that led to a gravel road which I followed to the bluff, then climbed the very steep 100 foot hill.

Here it was, Decision Point, where Lewis and Clark tried to determine which was the Missouri. It took many days with scouting for the Captains to make an educated and correct guess, despite the crew thinking the Marias was the right fork. It was on top of this bluff that I saw the Rockies for the first time on this trip.

Decision Point

Overall the wind wasn’t bad today but I had to get out and pull the boat many times due to strong current and/or shallowness.
It started to rain, one of the first soaking, daytime rains in my two months of paddling. I spotted a few buffalo bones and an ancient elk antler. When I reached for it, cold water cascaded up my sleeve and down my ribs. I was soaked from the waist down by rain and wading.

There were carp feeding on foam again today. I took this shot:

Carp Slurping Foam

Deer are plentiful, nearly all mule deer. I saw twin fawns again today. During one break I heard splashing and stood up to see a deer behind the willows, wading into the river and then swimming to an island, trotting down a gravel bar and wading all the way to an opposite shore.

I spooked the thousandth family of ducks. As they scattered a bald eagle swooped down and made a grab, but missed. He was way too slow.

There has been so much interesting wildlife, and nature being what it is I’ve seen some sad things, too, animals in their last hours. There was another case like that today.

I passed the site of Fort McKenzie. The fort was run by the American Fur Company in hostile Blackfeet country for about 10 years.

My paddl started splashing, a sign mud is stuck to it, but this time I found the end of the paddles were delaminating. Bummer.From beating on rocks for hundreds of miles I guess. I cut off the worst parts and duct taped the edges, a temporary measure that finished my supply of tape.

It rained all the rest of the day, including while I set up camp on an island about 4 miles short of Fort Benton. I look forward to a real hot shower and hot food. Colter

Lewis: June 2ed 1805…the bear was very near catching Drewyer; it also pursued Charbono who fired his gun in the air as he ran but fortunately eluded the vigilence of the bear by secreting himself very securely in the bushes untill Drewyer finally killed it by a shot in the head; the shot indeed that will conquer the farocity of those tremendious anamals…

Lewis: June 3rd 1805 This morning early we passed over and formed a camp on the point formed by the junction of the two large rivers… which of these rivers was the Missouri… two months of the traveling season having now elapsed, and to ascend such stream to the rocky Mountain or perhaps much further before we could inform ourselves whether it did approach the Columbia or not, and then be obliged to return and take the other stream would not only loose us the whole of this season but would probably so dishearten the party that it might defeat the expedition altogether.


Lewis: June 8th 1805... The whole of my party to a man except myself were fully peswaided that this river was the Missouri, but being fully of opinion that it was neither the main stream or that which it would be advisable for us to take, I determined to give it a name and in honour of Miss Maria W-d. called it Maria’s River.

Trip overview and route map with position updates: