Trip Planning and Distances

A special attraction of the Missouri River is its remote setting. However this means a paddler must plan carefully and be prepared to be self-reliant. The current on the river is typically around 3-5 mph, and this can help your craft to travel down the river.  However, even a slight upriver wind can slow down your boat dramatically and negate the boost the current is providing.  Given ideal conditions, an experienced paddler who keeps the paddle moving and does not stop too long at any point could cover 15-30 miles in a day. However, a better trip is perhaps 5-15 miles, which allows a group to loaf around on the sandbars and let the current do most the work. Keep in mind that night on the river is for expert paddlers only, so plan your trip accordingly.

Picture of a canoer on the Missouri RiverWith experience you will begin to find what distance is right for you.  A good strategy is to start with small trips and work your way up.  Many expedition paddlers, traveling long sections of the river, will routinely paddle over 40 miles in a day with favorable conditions. However, keep in mind that there are often no practical ways to cut a trip short.  Access points can be over 10 or more miles apart and most of the river bottomlands are agricultural lands or are undeveloped.  A trip on the Missouri River involves a certain amount of commitment.

Camping Along the River

While camping is allowed on many of the access points, in the majority of situations this is without any provision of specific services or designated camp sites.  Camping at these sites requires a low impact “back packer” ethic and in many cases is simply a boat ramp and associated parking area.