Preparation is Key
Weather that changes at the drop of a hat, strong currents, and long distances between launch sites make traversing the Missouri River a challenge that requires a healthy amount of preparation. Whether setting out for an extended trip, or just a couple of hours, there are a few essentials that you’ll want to make sure you have:
Adequate watercraft – Some rivers provide a perfect leisurely float, but the Missouri River isn’t one of them. Stay away from anything inflatable, even for just brief moments of your trip. The river has obstructions just beneath the surface that can easily tear any inflatable device. Stick to hard-shell canoes and kayaks only. If you don’t have one, you’ll find places along the way where you can rent, so don’t let owning adequate watercraft hold you back.
Appropriate clothing, footwear and products for a variety of conditions – Conditions range from rain to intense sun during any given day on the water. Make sure you bring at least a long sleeve shirt and long pants, a full change of clothes, a hat, sunglasses, and a rain jacket along for the ride. In addition to clothing and footwear, you’ll want to bring along pretty much anything you’d take with you camping – things like insect repellent, sunscreen, a First-Aid kit, flashlight, matches, and trash bags to name a few. You should include a tent and sleeping bag even if you’re only planning a daytrip. Getting stranded due to weather conditions is a real possibility.
Plenty of water and healthy snacks – You’ll want to be hydrated and energized for the excursion. As experienced canoeists and kayakers know, paddling for hours is no easy feat. Granola, dried fruit, nuts, dark chocolate, peanut butter, energy bars and gels are good options because they’ll keep you fueled and they're also highly portable. However, pretty much anything you’d bring with you on a hike or backpacking trip will work for this epic river trip. Bring enough for at least a few days in case bad weather gets you stranded.
Lifejackets/PFDs – Not only do you need them for every person in your party, but you’ll need to actually wear them at all times. While it’s tempting to forego them as an experienced paddler, the Mighty Mo’ is unforgiving and demands respect. You’ll also want to make sure that your swimming skills are up to par, too, just in case.