Here is more information about the Milk River Trip, June 22 to 24. The following plans are subject to negotiation.
Day 1 of the proposed Milk River Trip: First encounter with an incredible landscape.
Bonnie and I will leave Friday morning with our Camper Van and Car (to carry canoe and some of the gear), June 22, for Writing-on-Stone. We will have room for 4 passengers, 6 if 2 want to ride in the space behind the driver’s seat and additional gear. We will set up when we get there and probably take the canoe for a quick trip from above the campground to the beach area below the campground. i will also get a campfire ready if there is not a fire ban. If time, we will also probably take one of the short hikes to see some of the petroglyphs and probably take pictures of the glyphs, deer, flowers, valley, etc.
Other campers will arrive as their circumstances permit. Each will be greeted and helped with set up. Sunset there will be 9:35 pm and it will be fairly dark by about 10:30 pm. Hiking from before till after sunset provides some of the most interesting light for scenic photos.
That evening (shortest night of the year), we will gather around the campfire, discuss plans and preparations for Saturday, visit, probably sing some camp songs, and have a vespers service somewhere in that mix, finishing with smores. The setting sun will leave a shadow that will quickly move up the hills across the river, shifting from pink to orange to purple to gray. Some may want to just camp and hike and some may want to float down the river (about 20 to 40 minutes, depending on the speed of the river.
The campground has a store and a camp office along with maps of the various trails in the park. It is set in typical southern prairie river valley habitat with a mix of cottonwoods and other trees along with a variety of bushes, shrubs and grasses. All or most of the campsites have trees around them.
Day 2 of the Milk River Trip: Options
For non-canoeists, besides helping canoeists as chauffeurs transporting people to their vehicles, there are trails in the valley and on the slopes plus some historic sites which can only by visited as part of a tour group. Some can try floating down the river by the campground or playing at the beach.
For canoeists, the main options I was considering for this day included canoeing part of the river upstream of the Town of Milk River (length depends on canoeists though the two choices offered in a brochure are 20 miles and 64 miles), Milk River to Gold Spring Campground (11 miles and about 2 to 3 hours), Gold Spring to Coffin Bridge (12 miles, about 2 to 3 hours and some challenging rapids) and Milk River to Coffin Bridge (23 miles and about 4 to 6 hours). Another option would be Gold Spring to the Weir Bridge (27 miles and close to 7 or 8 hours).
The Milk River above Milk River is a generally smooth flowing, easy canoeing experience.
At Milk River the river begins its entry into a canoe and has several relatively mild rapids and rock and gravel bar hazards depending on flow rate. The canyon is relatively wide and starts with low walls and there are several places where it is easy to get out of the canoe and walk around and explore. Our daughter and her partner had close to zero canoe skills and managed this part without any incidents other than getting hung up briefly on one gravel bar and going down backwards a few time. The access point at Gold Springs is very easy to use.
At Gold Springs the canyon becomes narrower and deeper; the river speeds up and there are more challenging rapids and rock gardens. I have not canoed this stretch yet. I also do not know how easy it is to use the Coffin Bridge access point.
The stretch between the Coffin Bridge and the Weir Bridge has a few extra challenging rapids and the rock at Poverty Rock (a no service camp site) is apparently a particularly dangerous obstacle. At the Weir Bridge, the access point is a small eddy at the bottom of a short but fairly steep slope on the south side of the river. We used this access point to get onto the river for the trip into Writing On Stone.
From Milk River to Writing on Stone, the walls of the canyon are a mixture of sandstone, usually very vertical and beautiful, and hard clay, grass-covered slopes. The vegetation is mostly grasses, shrubs, and small trees along with flowering plants. The main wildlife I remember are the numerous swallows and ducks along with butterflies and other insects.
Gold Spring Campground has a store, a large pond suitable for practicing canoe and kayak skills, trails and other amenities. We enjoyed the walk along the pond and the view of the cliffs across the river. The cattle occupying the road between the highway and the campground were also interesting.
The Town of Milk River has many amenities as it is a major centre for that area and the first community north of Coutts at the US border. We did our trip on the Canada Day Weekend and we enjoyed the activities hosted by the town that day. The museum there has interesting exhibits.