Five Months on the Missouri River

Paddling a Dugout Canoe

Thomas J. Elpel

Thomas J. Elpel had the rare opportunity to carve a dugout canoe with Churchill Clark, the great-great-great-great grandson of Captain Clark. Together they whittled a 10,000 lb. Douglas fir log down to a 500+ lb. canoe.

      Enlisting friends with additional canoes to join the adventure, Tom led a five-month "Missouri River Corps of Rediscovery" expedition, paddling the 2,341-mile Missouri River segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail from Montana to St. Louis. It was an archetypal story of adventure – to carve and paddle a dugout canoe like the famed explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

Scott caught a monster northern pike.      Instead of merely racing to the finish line, Tom and friends paddled the Missouri River as a conduit for exploring the land and meeting its inhabitants. Every campsite offered a new opportunity to hike and explore the geographical landscape and geology, identify plants, and forage for wild foods. They enjoyed a leisurely pace paddling through the heart of America while diving into Lewis and Clark history and the history of Native American tribes along the route. They were assisted by many River Angels along the way, meeting some of the nicest people on the planet.

Gates of the Mountains Pictographs.      Throughout the journey, Tom wrote a weekly column that was published in newspapers in Montana and across the Midwest. He fleshed out the story for the book, filling in additional details and whole new essays, accompanied by seven hundred stunning color photos from the adventure. The finished book is both an uplifting adventure story and a coffee table book, making an easy read and an inspiring page turner. Five Months on the Missouri River is tantalizing in its imagery, and anyone who picks up the book to look at the pictures will quickly be captivated by the story, following the expedition from the beginning until its conclusion.

300 pages, paperback, 11 x 8.5
ISBN 978-1-892784-50-6

HOPS Press


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  • Regular price $36.00