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Scenic Missouri River

Missouri River
Missouri River.
Photo courtesy Montana Office of Tourism

Winding Missouri River
Missouri River.
Photo courtesy Montana Office of Tourism

"...so numerous that they appear like the ruins of an ancient city."

- Gass
31 May 1805

On May 30-31, 1805, the explorers traveled through an area now known as the White Cliffs of the Missouri. In one of the journals' most famous passages, Lewis wrote a lengthy description of these fantastic bluffs, noting how water had shaped the rich loam into

"a thousand grotesque figures, pyramids, and lofty, freestone buildings their parapets well-stocked with statuary…so perfect indeed are those walls that I should have thought that nature attempted here to rival the human art of masonry had I not recollected that she had first begun her work."

The shore was studded with flint fragments that pierced the men's moccasins and aggravated their already sore feet. Lewis added that they weren't much better off in the water. The bottom and shoreline were so muddy that they had to shed their moccasins and inch their way along the bottom with the boats in tow over the shallow areas.

The Missouri Breaks became one of the many hideouts used by outlaws and rustlers at the turn of the 20th Century. With the nearest law 400 miles away, rustlers ran cattle to Canada and back with little fear. Lawlessness had a resurgence in the 1920s and 30s when rumrunners made the trip into Canada from places between Havre and Glasgow.