Missouri River Breaks National Monument - A Spectacular Adventure is Waiting

Missouri River Breaks National Monument - A Spectacular Adventure is Waiting

The Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument is host to a spectacular array of biological, geological and historical enchantment. From Fort Benton downstream into the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, the monument spans 149 miles of the Upper Missouri River, as well as the adjacent Breaks country and parts of Arrow Creek, Antelope Creek and the Judith River. The area is largely unchanged from 200 years ago when Lewis and Clark traveled through on their epic journey. In 1976, Congress designated the river portion of the area as a National Wild and Scenic River resource to be preserved.

Whether you seek a rejuvenating weekend floating the river through “God’s Country,” an intimate relationship with the wild and rugged land while hiking, or a majestic hunting vacation where record size bighorn sheep, elk, antelope and deer are abundant - the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument is waiting to show you the time of your life.

Hunting has long been a prominent historical use of this region, first documented in the Lewis and Clark journals during the Voyage of Discovery. The monument boasts a viable elk herd and one of the premier bighorn sheep herds in the continental United States. In fact, each year, some of the largest bighorn sheep in the world are claimed in the Breaks by archery and rifle hunters.

The Monument also provides essential winter range for sage grouse. Tundra swan, Canada goose and numerous other species of fowl, upland birds such as partridge and pheasant, and migratory dove, snipe and crane (more than 230 bird species) inhabit the lands and skies. Abundant plant life along the River and across the Breaks country supports the vast wildlife. The remote coulees, canyons and prairie provide important habitat for more than 60 types of mammals from cougars to prairie dogs.

Geologically, the Breaks area is a wonderland revealing not only dinosaur bones, but its own geologic bones too, with the interplay of intrusive igneous rock, uplifts, thrust faults and sedimentary layers. The erosive forces of water and weather on the soft sandstone are apparent in the endless variety of spires, arches and hoo-doos.

Perhaps best known for its canoeing and kayaking opportunities, the Upper Missouri River is a place to get away and enjoy a wild river experience. While roads follow most of the nation’s rivers, the Upper Missouri is a notable exception. The remote country should never be taken lightly. It is, however, a people-friendly river with swift but easily paddled water in a spectacular natural setting, beckoning young and old alike.

As for hiking, there are no designated foot trails, but they aren’t needed. This is big, open country calling the hiker to investigate a coulee or amble over the next ridge to see what lies ahead. So take a walk, or settle in at a campsite to watch the colors of the Breaks soften with twilight, while the silver of the river, snaking through a timeless landscape, sparkles beneath a rising moon.

Within the Monument boundaries are private and public lands; therefore visitors are strongly encouraged to get a map from the Bureau of Land Management. For those wanting to hike and explore the Monument, Friends of the Missouri Breaks Monument has published a free, “Hike the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument” map which is available through the Friends’ office, suite 202, The Montana Bldg., 224 W. Main Street, 406-538-8506, as well as at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offices in Lewistown and surrounding communities.

For additional information, maps and photographs, contact the BLM at the Lewistown Field Office, 538-1900.