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Missouri 340

Best American Adventures: Paddle 340 Miles of the Mighty Missouri—Nonstop

We've just updated our popular America's
Best Adventures
feature with 50 new trips, bringing our grand total to 100 iconic escapes (see the map, state-by-state list, and photo gallery, too). So no matter what your pleasure—hiking,
heli-skiing, surfing, climbing, biking, or paddling—we've got the perfect adventure
for you. Check in each day for a new, out-the-backdoor adventure highlighted here on our blog.

By Robert Earle Howells; Photograph by Michelle M. Peltier

The huge upside of Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River, nexus of
an environmental battle lost a generation ago, is the emergence of its
progeny, Lake Powell, as a supreme freshwater kayaking destination. The
lake’s green-water tentacles extend from the main 185-mile
(300-kilometer) watercourse into 96 side canyons, where kayakers can
paddle free of tides, waves, currents, and motorboats. A reverential
hush inevitably descends upon a group of kayakers when they proceed
into slots of Navajo sandstone towering 500 feet (150 meters) overhead
that constrict to barely the length of a paddle.

The size and
complexity of the lake convey both challenge and mystery to the
experience. Kayakers wanting to go the DIY route might need two full
days to get to the best kayaking—and even then they can find themselves
paddling into inviting slots that turn out to be blank walls.
Outfitters provide a motor assist and the local beta for five-day trips
that get you into canyons like Cascade, Driftwood, and Rainbow, beneath
the numinous presence of Navajo Mountain (10,388 feet, or 3,166 meters)
and the Kaiparowits Plateau. Rainbow Canyon is the gateway to the
massive natural arch of Rainbow Bridge.

The typical routine is to
paddle eight to ten miles (13 to 16 kilometers) a day, venture into a
slot, cross the channel, paddle another, proceed afoot when the canyon
closes in entirely, and paddle back out to camp on the main channel
where sunset, stars, and sunrise are players in the drama.

Spring
and fall are the best times to paddle free of the swarms of speedboats
and personal watercraft that plague the lake in summer. Warm water
lingers right into fall.

Need to Know: No fees or permits are required to enjoy Lake Powell. Get general info at www.nps.gov/glca. Outfitters and rentals: Kayak Powell (www.kayakpowell.com) provides shuttles, tours, and rentals. A five-day tour starts at $895.