Canoeing Little Missouri river....N. Dakota

This will be my first post so bear with me on this format.
This river isn’t exactly “wilderness tripping” as the catagory suggests but I wanted anyway to ask folks about the river and what to prepare for or expect.
We would like to canoe the stretch from the southern Teddy RNP to the norther TRNP in June. I understand water levels could be a concern as well as unexpected thunderstorms re water levels.
I also read about barb wire across the river and such.
If anyone has taken a canoe down this river, I would appreciate any feedback or suggestions that would help us better prepare.

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Some rivers have little information available. You can ask around, but most people that live on rivers that don’t paddle exaggerate the challenges.

Start with a good map with contour lines. That country is pretty flat. Look for knick points, ledges, and obstructions that can cause rapids. Sometimes you can scout from dirt roads. Bring binoculars. Find a high point. Borrow a drone.

On unknown rivers one of the biggest challenges are low head dams and diversion structures for irrigation. Your only clue from upstream is a straight water horizon line. Be willing to go ashore and scout everything before you try it. Good luck.

Never been on the river but there are several flow gauges on the USGS site:

In the Go Paddle map there is one trip report:

Missouri River in North Dakota |

The person that posted it did not give much detail and since they posted as a guest you cannot contact them directly.

If you have not already, you should visit the National Park systems page:

Theodore Roosevelt National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (

It has some basic maps and information about canoeing in the park’s 3 sections.

For preplanning you can use Google maps set to aerial/satellite for a flyover to spot any obstructions etc. You can usually spot low head dams and other structures if you zoom in enough. It can take a while to cover the whole route, but it is a good investment. If you have Google earth you can determine the date the photos were taken and compare the water level to the historical data from the USGS streamflow site. Here is a link to the gauge just upstream of the southern unit of TRNP:


Have fun and please post a detailed trip report to Go Paddle so others can learn from your experience.

Thanks for the useful tips.


Had not thought of using google. I’ll check it out. I have read that if you put in at flows that are below recommended levels, you could get stranded! Never considered getting stranded on a river.

You are never really stranded, you are out of your canoe and dragging it behind you.

I once succumbed to cabin fever after a long dry spell in which no river canoeing seemed possible and went anyway. My wife and i now refer to that outing as the time we should have left the canoe at home.



I’ve been on more than a few trips that could be considered “Boat Assisted Hiking”. Still (mostly) a good time.

Considering the stretch is around 100 miles long and the upper half is theoretically the shallowest, if you can’t proceed through the upper half, then dragging the loaded canoe upstream to the put-in or drag on downstream “hoping” the water will get deeper doesn’t sound appealing either way. If I were Meriwether Lewis with a dozen or so men, it would be different as he was in his 20’s-30’s, I’m in my 70’s. Anyway, if the flows are not up to recommendation, we just won’t do it.
Thanks for the input.

I like the name.

Watching. I’m not far away, in southern Saskatchewan. Please report back if you end up giving it a go - I’d love to hear how it went. (I’d kayak, not canoe, but still interested.)

Will do. I have been having mixed feelings about it but I really want to see the country and I think it is the best way (kayak or canoe). All depends of course on how much water there will be. This year doesn’t look too promising as drought conditions seem to be throughout the west, but not sure about the mid-west.