Monday, September 27, 2010

Wild and Scenic Missouri River: Part 3

As we paddled into "The Breaks" region of the upper Missouri, white bluffs of sandstone began to appear separated by slot canyons called coulées. Perhaps the most famous of them all due to the shear beauty and classic slot canyon-like shape is Neat's Coulée. Because we had camped nearby, we got to Neat's in good time and headed up the chilly depths of the canyon still very deep in mornings shade. Much of the time the walls were within arms reach on both sides and towered almost vertical upwards of a 100 feet tall. Several times, the curves and narrowness of the walls prevented us from seeing the sky altogether.

As we got closer to the head of Neat's Coulee, we could scramble out to the bench and see a section of dark shonkinite that intruded into some ancient crack of the sandstone long ago and now remains long after the surrounding sandstone has been eroded away. In places, you could see this vertical line of rock marching for miles in either direction sometimes ending in a dramatic vertical face on one side of the river and starting again in similar dramatic fashion on the other side.

I found myself constantly drawn to the dramatic contrast in colors with the browns and greens against the bone white sandstone. I have half a tray of slides full of similar pictures to the one below.

Our ultimate goal was to hike up Neat's Coulée until we reached a natural arch in the sandstone. For those who didn't know, a natural arch if formed by wind erosion and a natural bridge is formed by water erosion. We did find it but evidently I never took just a picture of the arch without my ugly mug or those of the ones I was with somewhere in the middle. We did hang out for a bit until the heat of the sun drove us back into the cool confines of the coulee and perhaps a nap or two before we made our way to the boats and a quick paddle back to our camp. I did take a picture of the view from the natural arch.


sage said...

Looks beautiful--I've explored many red rock slot canyons--but the white rock is different. Sounds like a nice trip.

R. Sherman said...

I'm off to start planning my trip as soon as I get done with this. I'm wondering if the weather will hold out long enough for me to go in 2010.


Ed said...

Sage - Although I have done a few red rock slot canyons, I haven't done nearly enough.

R. Sherman - You better get a move on. I'm guessing they get early freezes up in northern Montana.

Vince said...

Lovely photos.

TC said...

The white is staggaring. Wow. Seems so different to me than the reds and oranges and browns of the canyons.