KAYAKING the UPPER MISSOURI RIVER — 6 days, 120 miles, from Coal Banks Landing to Kipp Recreation Area

OR — The Kayaking Adventures of Beatrice Marx

"I traveled 6 days in my Explorer Kayak with no worries. I pulled it over gravel, paddled through heavy current, mud, went through 2 storms, and rapids. I loved it!"

“I traveled 6 days in my Explorer Kayak with no worries. I pulled it over gravel, paddled through heavy current, mud, went through 2 storms, and rapids. I loved it!”

We spoke recently with Beatrice Marx of Kingston, Washington who told us of her recent six-day, six-night, 120-mile kayaking trip in a Sea Eagle 380x Explorer Kayak down the Upper Missouri River…solo. And she told us why she prefers to kayak by herself.

“When I go kayaking, I’m communing with Nature. I’d rather listen to the birds and to Nature’s silence. I tried kayaking with groups, and enjoyed it, but people talk too much.”

Because nothing else matters

Beatrice Marx doesn't just fool around when she goes adventuring. She packed hundreds of pounds of supplies, planned her route, and took an emergency rescue course before setting out.

Beatrice Marx doesn’t just fool around when she goes adventuring. She packed hundreds of pounds of supplies, planned her route, and took an emergency rescue course before setting out.

Those who’ve never gone on an extended kayaking trip by themselves may never know the deep attraction this kind of adventuring has, but Beatrice does. “I kayak solo because nothing else matters when I’m on the water and I’m completely connected to my surroundings. I’m simply soaked in the silence of Nature.”

Beatrice did her homework long before casting off. She went rafting in The Grand Canyon. Then, “I started with a hard-hull kayak several years ago,” she says. “I took kayaking classes but felt frustrated because I was afraid I’d fall out of the hard hull kayak and not be able to get back in. I was losing the pleasure of being in Nature because I had to think about falling out. I wanted the experience without the worry.”

Sample of hull material cinched it

So she did what any resourceful adventurer would do. “I did a lot of research on kayaks online. I found Sea Eagle’s site, read your blog, and watched all the videos on your site. I wanted something safe and stable so I could go without being afraid.”

“Because of everything I saw on your site,” she said, “I thought Sea Eagle would be cool. Everything I read was really good. I got Sea Eagle’s free information packet with a sample of hull material and saw it was good quality. I thought, OK, go for it. From then it’s been just a love story – me and my 380 Explorer Kayak I named Meriweather.”

Flatwater to Class III rapids

She chose the 380x Explorer Kayak because, “Other Sea Eagles were too big or were geared to having a motor,” she said. “The Explorer has valves you can open or close so it’s good for flatwater or Class II or III whitewater kayaking.” And she got the EZ Cart to simplify getting her Sea Eagle across the beach and into a nearby bay where she has easy access to Puget Sound.

Then Beatrice tapped people in high places for advice. “I called the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to ask if the Sea Eagle was OK for the rivers I wanted to go on. They said yes.”

She did her homework

How would YOU deal with boating solo for days on end, or camping in the pitch black night, alone, miles from nowhere? “I was prepared,” Beatrice said. And she was. “I took 12 gallons of water with me, plus my tent, food, stove, folding chair, sleeping bag, pad, and more.” She estimates that, “between me and my gear, the Explorer Kayak carried 300 lbs. easily.”

“I took a 40-hour course, Wilderness First Responder Training. I talked to BLM people, bought river guides, read books, and looked at possible problems.”

Seeing history

A program manager in computer science at a Washington university, Beatrice is a history buff, too, so her choice of traveling down the Upper Missouri was an easy choice. “I went from Coal Banks Landing to Kipp Recreation Area in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument,” she told us. “Louis and Clark went through there. I had a book on their explorations with me and I made stops where they did. I followed their steps.” Alone on the river, Beatrice says, “I could imagine people crossing the river where I was. This is where Chief Joseph crossed.”

(Editor’s note: As above, Beatrice named her kayak Meriweather after Meriweather Lewis of  Lewis and Clark fame. We told you she’s a history buff!) 

Beatrice says, “It’s just a love story with my boat, I’m just crazy about it. I go places where I couldn’t go otherwise. I talk about it all the time.” And her story has no end in sight. “This summer, I would like to go more than 200 miles on the Teslin River in Canada’s Yukon Territory, between Johnson’s Crossing and Carmacks.”

You have no idea

There might just be a Sea Eagle FastTrack in Beatrice's future.

There might just be a Sea Eagle FastTrack in Beatrice’s future. This picture is from the Sea Eagle website.

What’s off in the future? “First, I want to do the Northern Territories. Then the whole Yukon River, then the Mackensie.” She has her eye on a Sea Eagle FastTrack. “The one with the hard bottom,” she said. “I could carry two people but, honestly, I prefer to be on my own. With a second Sea Eagle, friends could come along in their own boat.”

Before we left her, we asked Beatrice if she had advice for anyone else interested in her kind of adventuring in a Sea Eagle boat. “I think people are worried or afraid” about this kind of adventure. “I can’t possibly fall from this boat, don’t see how it could happen. I never go beyond my capabilities, and this boat is really, really safe.

“Go for it now,” she told us. “You have no idea what you’re missing; you’re going to love it!”

Do YOU have Sea Eagle photos and stories to share? Please email us today!

25 thoughts on “KAYAKING the UPPER MISSOURI RIVER — 6 days, 120 miles, from Coal Banks Landing to Kipp Recreation Area

  1. What an inspiring story! My husband and I just got (literally, it was just on the front porch when I got home a few minutes ago) a Sea Eagle 370, which we plan mostly to use on the local lakes for fishing and birdwatching. I am hoping we will venture into some water trails and I am even thinking, after reading your story, that I might try some solo exploring.

    • HI Mark,
      Any tip on the Yukon and BC paddling places are most welcome. What lakes (or rivers) do you recommend?

  2. Thank you for your comments. It was a wonderful adventure and I really encourage all solo travelers (Aimee and Amy) to go for it. With good preparation, and always within one’s comfort zone (or sometimes beyond it), it is so rewarding. I am getting ready for my next adventure on the Teslin 🙂

  3. I paddled the length of the Missouri River solo in 1995 and that upper section is stunning. For a look at a woman who did a longer solo trip, check out my new book: Fearless: One Woman, One Kayak, One Continent. It’s about Freya Hoffmeister’s 332-day paddle around Australia, alone.

    • Hi Joe, I went to Freya’s slides presentation in Seattle last year and it was amazing to hear her tell her story. Fearless for sure! I would feel comfortable doing a similar trip with my Sea-Eagle but not in a hard hull as she did. I think she is doing the South American continent at this time. Amazing woman indeed.

  4. @Beatrice, we rented an RV in Vancouver and drove north to Whiehorse, every night we setup beside water. So the inflatable was perfect for us. Some the more memorable lakes were Boya Lake in northern BC, crystal clear water, felt like we were floating on air. Kathleen Lake in the Yukon, spectacular views all around, deep and clear. Chilkoot Lake near Haines Alaska, long and narrow, surrounded by mountains, salmon jumping and the fish weir on the outlet river is the best place to see brown bears that we have been to in the north. For years we thought Hyder Alaska was pretty good but after Haines there is no going back to Hyder. We went once in late May and there was still ice on many of the lakes. Now we like to go late August, no ice and fewer people. I understand it can be busy up north in July, I get busy here in Montreal all the time, don’t need more on vacation.
    I have blog posting on here as well, it was done a couple of years ago.
    Cheers, Mark

  5. Hello Beatrice, Love your stories and photos. I’m waiting for my 385 fast track to arrive. My trip will be spending the summer along the shoreline of Lake Superior in Michigan. I’ll have about four months enjoying the largest of the great lakes. I will also do some hikes inland to fish the small streams I find along the way. I have always used hard shell boats, but now there should be no problem with the extra gear I never could fit in other kayaks. I know there will be many days waiting out the huge winds that can pop up on the big lake. But no problem. Hanging out on the beach is not a bad way to spend a few days.Thats where the extra room for more food, hiking boots and a nice big chair will be a blessing!
    I wish you well with your future adventures and soon I’m sure I will have a smile as big as yours.
    Keep the winds on your back, and the sun on your face.

    • Hi Paul,
      I am sure you are going to have a wonderful time. I wish I could live paddling from river to river month after month. 4 months in a row is wonderful! I will look for your blog in a few months.

  6. Hi Beatrice,
    I live just south of Spokane and have a Paddleski. I was thinking that the best fish and chips are at a little place in Astoria, OR. and with the price of diesel so high, the best way to get them would be to go down the Snake River from Lewiston, ID down the Columbia to Astoria. It’s only 465 miles and I could stop in Vancouver and see my sister. I could continue on up to Aberdeen, WA and have my daughter pick me up. I’m thinking I might ask my brother if he would like to go since my wife thinks I’m crazy. We will see what happens.

    • Hi Lloyd,

      I would totally go for it! That would be an awesome trip. A lot of wind and current on the way but well prepared and with plenty of time, all is possible!

      • Talked to my brother, he is all for it. Seems he has wanted to do this for years. If we are able to pull this off, it probably won’t be until late spring.
        Do have any more tips?

  7. Beatrice—Hi read your story…nice to see other gals paddling solo. Come on over to Facebook ‘Missouri River Paddlers” group….lots of good Mo paddlers and stories/blogs and photos! If you are planning a big NWT trip I recommend the Athabasca, Slave and Mackenzie rivers to Tuktoyaktuk. I did this 2000-mile trip solo in 1998..about two months totally self supported. If you need any info…just get ahold of me.
    norm miller
    livingston, montana

    • Hello Cindy, If you plan on doing more whitewater than flatwater the Explorer is the better choice. The Explorer has 16 drain valves to get water out fast- while the FastTrack has the keel to limit the yaw keeping you going straight for flatwater.

      Hope that answers your question.

      • I already bought the Explorer and am only going to be doing flatwater. It’s working fine so I’m really just suffering from “is the grass greener on the other side of the kayak” and would I be happier with the FastTrack. We use it tandem. I don’t see much difference in the two other than the keel (could I buy a keel and glue it on? I think they sell them). I do feel awfully safe in the Explorer just knowing it can take the rapids that I will probably never be on (but who knows!). I made up for the fact you sit down lower by putting the lifesaver cushion under my hardback seat which is super comfy anyway. The yaw doesn’t seem bad to me but now I’m wondering if I’m missing out on a much better boat for flatwater by not getting the FastTrack instead. I’m still in my timeframe to return the Explorer.

      • Honestly, I would keep the explorer. I use mine several days a week in the Bay off the Puget Sound and on rivers as often as I can and it is just a pure pleasure. No regret. I love to sit lower, it feels like a hard hull kayak, yet super comfy and safe. I wouldn’t trade my Explorer for anything!

  8. Dear B: I did the Mississippi in ’90 after the AT9. I used a Sevylor (I don’t know if the Sea Eagle existed back then). I caught up to bunch in a voyageur canoe (trying to raise funds for a paddlewheeler to raise the alarm about river pollution with singer Larry Long) & rode that down the St. Cloud rapids, as my Acadienne ancestors probably did in the 18th century on the way down to New Orleans (most of em were killed on the way back north by natives). My cheap Sevylor was holed by a nail beaching above Minneapolis. Strangely enough, someone stole my holed boat but left all my camping gear & food on the dock at St. Paul. I then had to buy a hard shelled 9′ kayak & took it all the way to Eads village on the middle passage. I would like to do the whole Mighty Mo so thanks for your inspiration. My German friend the “German Tourist” did most of the Yukon last year til her Swiss companion bailed a few hundred miles short of the Arctic. The current was insane & they did such huge mileage per day that she missed my resupply package that sat in Anchorage waiting days for a mailplane (ended up taking over 2 weeks from TX). sincerely, David the Rivergumby

  9. Pingback: Six Day Kayak Trip On The Missouri River | Inflatable Kayak Blog

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