Best boat for paddling up the Missouri?

Next summer I plan to follow the Lewis and Clark route from St. Louis to the Pacific. I’ll hike from St. Louis to Yankton, SD, then paddle upstream from there to Three Forks or Twin Bridges, hike over the mountains and then relaunch for the downstream journey to the ocean.

The boats I own are too slow. I need something new. Two experts have suggested a Sea Wind but I don’t think I can get one in time. I’ve looked at the Hobie Revolution 16. The option of peddling in the long reservoir lakes and sailing at times really appeals to me. I’m concerned that it might not work so well when I’m hugging the shore in faster current, fighting my way upstream.

So what boat would you select for a long trip like this, and why? There are perhaps 800 miles of lakes and 800 miles of upstream paddling on the Missouri if I start at Yankton.


Hi Bruce, saw your post over on
Facebook as well. I paddled the Missouri source to sea in 2015, using a 18 1/2 foot fiberglass kayak. Held up very well over the trip so plastic boats aren’t the only choice. The length great on the big lakes for speed and handled the chops and waves very well. I didn’t have many days where a sail would have been helpful. I’ve tried to use sails on other kayak trips but found they usually just become dead weight. Sail could help on the big lakes but once you get to Williston, you will need to be paddling to make progress against the current. Thats likely going to collapse the sail even if you have a bit of tailwind. Boat length will be important for good speed on the lakes. I think any well built fiberglass kayak, 16 to 17 feet long would work well going up the river. It would be a good performer on the big lakes yet still do okay in the current. A 15 foot boat still could work but remember you have to haul freshwater as well as a reasonable amount of food between resupply points so load capacity is an issue. A nice kevlar boat would be good too for the lighter weight going against the current. Filtering lake water is a pain so plan to be carrying quite a bit of water. Just my thoughts. Great people all along the river waiting to give a hand if needed. Allen

Thank you Allen
That was one of the best responses I’ve gotten so far.

I checked out your epic trip. Very cool. Congratulations! I asked Hobie about boat selection and got this surprising response: “A Revo 16 would be the best choice, but I would warn against thinking that you’re going to be paddling this boat – it’s best while using the Mirage Drive.”

I am thinking about this kayak or something similar

Maybe I’ll reconsider the sail.

Hobies are great boats but like all boat
they aren’t perfect in all conditions. I’ve not paddled or peddled a Revo16 but from the specs, it doesn’t strike me as a great upriver boat. Peddling the lakes could work well but once you hit the river, conditions change significantly. Granted, a good paddler can make an average boat perform well but for a trip you are doing, a well-suited boat is preferred. The Stellar kayak you linked to has some very nice spec’s and with a short glance would seem to be a good choice for the trip. Boat weight and load capacity appear good. The 16foot length and the beam should do well in the faster water and river bends that you will encounter. One other aspect of the trip will be the dam portages and how you would like to address them. There seems to be plenty of great support from river angels for haul arounds of all the dams. If you plan to self-portage, a good boat cart will be needed.

I’m planning on doing all my own portages, and have been shopping around for a heavy duty, stow-able cart.

Planning the Great Falls portage and picking a boat have been my biggest planning challenges so far. I’m sure planning will be the easy part, though!

Check Water Tribe
for info and possibly boats:

It looks like the Sea Winds are sold but there is an Epic 18X Sport at a reasonable price. People on that board know a lot about carts as well.

I used the Wheel-eze cart with the foam
filled wheels. It was new at the start of the trip and survived all of the portages, including the Great Falls route. Bearings would have made the cart much better so if you have time to retrofit those onto the wheels, you will definitely benefit due to the uphill portaging that you will be doing. There will be less wear on the axles as well. The cart itself did well carrying a loaded boat over all of the distances. Several routes to choose from around the Great Falls dams. You can pull out at Widows Coulee and do Rod Wellingtons portage in reverse but thats going to be grueling. Lining a boat up to Morony Dam is doable at some water levels. In any case, it will be an arduous endeavor. Certainly are pros and cons whichever way you choose to go. But water flow will be one of the determiners. At high releases from Morony, it likely won’t be possible to make it all the way to the dam. Try to plan for some options once you get to Fort Benton and can determine what the river flow is doing. Getting out at Morony leaves you with about a 3-4 mile climb up to the hill. I think it was about 400 feet gain. I never measured exactly how many miles it was for my portage, maybe around 15, I really didn’t need to know. Probably in the top 5 of most grueling efforts in my life. I kept to the maintenance roads within the park that borders the river, which eliminated the car traffic issue if you go all the way out to the highway. The downside is that most of the road is gravel.

Portage, cart, boat
What do you guys think, is the Epic 18X Sport a good choice for this trip?

Allen, I’m going to email you a screen capture of the portage route I planned on Google Earth. I’ve kicked around a bunch of options but I was planning to take out near Sulphur (Sacagawea) Springs a few miles below Morony and cart up the gravel/dirt road to the first road that runs along the top to Great Falls.

The “Paddlelogic trail trekker treker? kayak” cart looks pretty good:

Bearings, 12" wheels, tubeless tires, collapsible, floats, good reviews.

Check your facebook, Bruce, sent you
comments about the map. I’ve never paddled the Epic 18x sport but here is an opinion. Looks like it could be good for the lakes but not so sure how it will handle on the river in the current. 18 feet is going to be a really long boat to manage in the faster parts of the river. Kyle Patry, in the MRP facebook group, paddled an Epic down to Fort Peck dam but had to quit due to bad weather. You might want to shoot him a message about how it did. I know he had some mechanical issues. The boat cart looks good. You will have many dams under your belt before you get to Great Falls so all the portage kinks should be worked out by them. Just make sure you can handle a cart failure and make sure its all working while in Fort Benton. That will be the last place for parts.

Maybe a high volume boat
Like a Q500 from QCC.

Or better yet, one with a motor.

Agree about QCC’s
The QCC’s are good boats w lots of room.

Have you seen the info on the Katy Trail across Missouri. That will make hiking easier, you could eve bike it if desired.

You may want to try going up shallow riffles with a short pole instead of a paddle. We encountered riffles where we would bump the bottom below the White Cliffs area, a paddle my not work well there.

Good Luck


I’ll check out the QCC boat
thanks for the suggestion.

Katy Trail…
…good suggestion, the Katy Trail is the initial part of my hiking route. As far as poling, my plan is to paddle until I’m running out of water and then walk the boat upstream, but I’ll have to see how it goes.


– Last Updated: Jan-28-16 3:26 AM EST –

The QCC is a nice boat if you can find one. I don't think they are made anymore Wenonah bought them out a a few years back I think.

They were gone for a while, looks like Wenonah has brought them back, it was rumored that they'd do that eventually.

Bill H.