When you’re thinking of challenging rivers to canoe or kayak, North Dakota is not generally the first state that comes to mind. But there’s a stretch of the Missouri, north from the capitol city of Bismarck to Garrison Dam, that could change your mind about Dakota waters. This stretch is one of the last remaining undeveloped segments of the Missouri. Peppered with sandbars and undertows, and with a remarkably swift current, this run is largely unchanged from the Missouri river the Lewis and Clark expedition followed in 1804. New sandbars, different logs and snags, but the same tricky river!
In addition to the thrill of the water, you’re also in a prime spot to see both bald and golden eagles, beaver and white-tailed deer, and osprey. You may also spot endangered least terns and threatened piping plovers on the sandbars; if you do, don’t disturb them; just take a photo, and paddle on.
If you didn’t bring your own, you can find rental canoes and kayaks in Washburn at the Lewis and Clark Canoe and Kayak rentals, or at the Cross Ranch State Park (worth a visit even if you don’t need a canoe), and at several locations in Bismarck and Mandan.
You’ll want a dry bag to store your camera and other items. Good choices for canoeing footwear are these Columbia Hydrotooth shoes for men, and Columbia’s Bellafly for women. The new Life is Good shorts are great summer styling for guys, and these Patagonia Board Shorts for women in plum make a fashion statement while keeping you comfortable. If the day gets chilly, women may want to bring along these Torrent Pants by Isis. Because it can get cool on the water almost any time from May to October, bring along a jacket, such as a Merrell Storm Jacket for men, and this Marmot PreCip jacket for women.
Another advantage to canoeing the Missouri is that costs in North Dakota tend to be lower than other areas. You can find great deals on food, hotels and canoe rentals in Bismarck, Mandan, and Washburn..